Summary (Ethics (Ready Reference series))
If the Bible (TaNaK) is the cornerstone of Judaism, then the Talmud is its magnificent edifice. Its bricks and mortar are shaped by the revelation of the written Torah as represented, understood, and lived by the sages who molded Israel’s salvific apparatus from the ruins of the Second Temple (destroyed by the Romans in 70 c.e.) until the beginning of the Middle Ages. Their accomplishment, the Mishnah, and its commentary, the Gemarah, which together form the Talmud, became the dominant structure of Judaism.
The Talmud is not easily classified in any literary genre. This is because of its encyclopedic range of topics, including law, legend, philosophy, science, and some history; its pragmatic treatment of everyday life issues alongside flights into abstract and ethereal problems; its multiple and varied methodologies, equally logical and fanciful; its terse writing style, which is reminiscent of note taking; and the meticulous final editing of pedantic redactions, themselves based on free-flowing ideas composed centuries earlier.
More a library than a single book, the Talmud is an anthology of national expression responding to the Roman catastrophe of the first and second centuries, and it is more meaningful when it is learned and studied than it is when it is read. The association between one idea and another, a rabbi in Galilee and another in Babylon, the first century and the fifth century, is tenuous at first, but persistent...
(The entire section is 1618 words.)
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