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On the Jewish Question and the Talmud



  תַּלְמוּד Talmud  


Or better expressed the Talmudim, in the plural, as two such compilations of oral religious law and commentaries emerged:   יְרוּשָׁלְמִי-- תַּלְמוּד Talmud Yerushalmi the Jerusalem Talmud compiled c. 300 to 350 A.D.
Or more accurately the Palestinian Talmud or Talmud de-Eretz Yisrael – of the Land of Israel, as it was primarily the work of the academies of Tiberias and Caesarea.
      בבלי-- תַּלְמוּד Talmud Bavli the Babylonian Talmud compiled c. 450 to 500 A.D.
More complete, and also more independent, that is, more reflective of actual Jewish belief, as by 350 A.D. Jerusalem and the Levant were under the control of the increasingly Christian Byzantine Roman Empire, while the Christian influence in Babylon was much less pronounced and widespread during the compilation of the Babylonian Gemara.


  זכאי בן יוחנן Johanan ben Zakkai (30 BCE – 90 CE)  




It is possible — and for some it is quite obviously mightily tempting — to overstate the significance of the Talmud, more so still of a few score obscure and cryptic passages within the Talmud, to the actual attitudes and worldview and religious beliefs, if any, of people in the 21st Century who self-identify as Jews. Passages within the Talmud dealing with, or possibly dealing with, Jesus, Mary, Christianity and Christians are difficult for learned specialists to decipher. It is impossible for the general, even if generally learned, reader to do so without recourse to external resources and interpretative guides, the academic integrity, that is, the accuracy of which such readers must then accept a priori. All this being the case, it is difficult, really impossible, to hazard a guess as to what percentage of Jews either in our own times or in centuries gone by are or were even aware of the passages in question, much less to weigh to what extent they are or ever were influenced by these rabbinic reflections.

Well, perhaps Christian charity and intellectual integrity and various manner of gentlemanly considerations require such a disclaimer.

In truth it is difficult to overstate the importance of the Talmud, and its fragmentary progenitors, to Jewish thought and religious belief over the past two millennia and more. The Six Orders, Sixty-Three Tractates and Six-Thousand Two-Hundred large pages of the Talmud, taken together, constitute the chief text of Rabbinic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism, in turn, may be said to constitute all of Judaism since the codification of the Babylonian Talmud near the end of the 6th century A.D. (what the Jews rather label CE, short for Common Era), except only a tiny remnant of followers of Karaite Judaism or Karaism — now less than one half of one percent of all "Jews" — who reject the so-called Oral Torah, that is, the Talmud and the Midrash (more on what are the Midrash will follow).

As a curious footnote, these comparatively insular Karaites — in addition to their obvious spiritual superiority to the leaders and followers of Rabbinic Judaism in holding only to the Tanakh, i.e., the Masoretic Text–Hebrew Bible–Old Testament, while rejecting the repulsive or ridiculous interpolations and extrapolations of the Talmud and the Midrash — are far more likely to actually be Israelites, in that, to Jews, all important sense of being genetic descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Jacob having been renamed Israel), or at least to have a greater Israelite admixture in the balance, than are Rabbinic Jews (or atheist Jews). But "Jewish" genetics is dealt with elsewhere.





  Organization of the Talmud, as also the Mishnah + the Tosefta  
  The Six Orders (sedarim), containing a total of Sixty-Three Tractates (masekhot )  
Seder Zeraim – Order of Seeds   Seder Moed – Order of Festivals   Seder Nashim – Order of Women   Seder Nezikin – Order of Damages   Seder Kodashim
Order of Holy Things
  Seder Tohorot – Order of Purities
Tractate Berakhot –   Tractate Shabbat – Sabbath   Tractate Yebamoth –   Tractate Bava Kamma –   Tractate Zevachim –   Tractate Keilim –
Tractate Pe'ah –   Tractate Eruvin – Mixtures
(really carrying and travel)
  Tractate Ketubot –   Tractate Bava Metzia –   Tractate Menachot –   Tractate Oholot –
Tractate Demai –   Tractate Pesahim – Passover   Tractate Nedarim –   Tractate Bava Batra –   Tractate Chullin –   Tractate Nega'im –
Tractate Kil'ayim –   Tractate Shekalim – Shekels
(Temple expenses and expenditure,
though there had not been a
Temple since 70 A.D. (CE))
  Tractate Nazir –   Tractate Sanhedrin –   Tractate Bekhorot –   Tractate Parah –
Tractate Shevi'it –   Tractate Yoma – Day of Atonement
(the prescriptions Yom Kippur)
  Tractate Sotah –   Tractate Makkot –   Tractate Arachin –   Tractate Tohorot –
Tractate Terumot –   Tractate Sukkah – Booth
(the Festival of Sukkot)
  Tractate Gittin –   Tractate Shevu'ot –   Tractate Temurah –   Tractate Mikva'ot –
Tractate Ma'aserot –   Tractate Beitza – Egg   Tractate Kiddushin –   Tractate Eduyot –   Tractate Keritot –   Tractate Niddah –
Tractate Ma'aser Sheni –   Tractate Rosh Hashanah –
New Year
      Tractate Avodah Zarah –   Tractate Me'ilah –   Tractate Makhshirin –
Tractate Hallah –   Tractate Ta'anit – Fasting       Tractate Avot –   Tractate Tamid –   Tractate Zavim –
Tractate Orlah –   Tractate Megillah – Scroll       Tractate Horayot –   Tractate Middot –   Tractate Tevul Yom –
Tractate Bikkurim –   Tractate Mo'ed Katan –
Little Festival
          Tractate Kinnim –   Tractate Yadayim –
    Tractate Hagigah – Festival Offering
(of Three Pilgrimage Festivals:
Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot)
              Tractate Uktzim –


  תַּלְמוּד Talmud   "instruction, learning, study"    


Up to late 2nd century A.D.   "study by repetition"   מִשְׁנָה Mishnah  
  The core of the "Oral Torah," a redaction of the Jewish oral traditions as such stood by the close of the 2nd century A.D.  



From the late 2nd century A.D.   "supplement or addition"   תוספתא Tosefta  
  Interpolated into the same six orders and sixty-three tractates as the Mishnah  



    "to complete"   גמרא Gemara (or Gemarah or Gemora)  
  A series of running commentaries, discussions and debates on the Mishnah and the Tosefta by rabbis now called Amoraim, purportedly elucidating the Mishnah (and Tosefta) and elaborating the statements and opinions of the Tannaim as recorded therein.  



  So what are the     מדרש Midrash  


    It was taught: R. Simeon b. Yohai stated: A proselyte who is under the age of three years and one day is permitted to marry a priest, for it is said, But all the women children that have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves, and Phinehas surely was with them. And the Rabbis? — [These were kept alive] as bondmen and bondwomen. If so, a proselyte whose age is three years and one day should also be permitted! — [The prohibition is to be explained] in accordance with R. Huna. For R. Huna pointed out a contradiction: It is written, Kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him, but if she hath not known, save her alive; from this it may be inferred that children are to be kept alive whether they have known or have not known [a man]; and, on the other hand, it is also written, But all the women children, that have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves, but do not spare them if they have known. Consequently it must be said that Scripture speaks of one who is fit for cohabitation ...
... from the Babylonian Talmud, Third Order or Order Nashim , Tractate Yevamot, Folio 60b



Children of Goyim are animals
... from the Babylonian Talmud, Third Order or Order Nashim , Tractate Yevamot, Folio 98a




Raba said, It means this: When a grown-up man has intercourse with a little girl it is nothing, for when the girl is [less than three years and one day old], it is as if one puts the finger into the eye...
... from the Babylonian Talmud, Third Order or Order Nashim , Tractate Ketubot, Folio 11b
(Note, this section deals with fines that a man must pay to the female. Mentality and practices are nonetheless elucidated.)



    Come and hear: If one finds therein a lost object, then if the majority are Israelites it has to be announced, but if the majority are heathens it has not to be announced...
(In other words, if the likely owner is a "heathen," a goy, the finder may keep quiet and just keep the item found.)
... from the Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin, Tractate Bava Metzia, Folio 24a



    '[H]e that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife' excludes the wife of a heathen..."
... from the Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin, Tractate Sanhedrin, Folio 52b



Murder goy, no death penalty
... from the Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin, Tractate Sanhedrin, Folio 57a




What a Jew steals from goy he may just keep.
... from the Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin, Tractate Sanhedrin, Folio 57a





R. Hanina said: If a heathen smites a Jew, he is worthy of death, for it is written, And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian. R. Hanina also said: He who smites an Israelite on the jaw, is as though he had thus assaulted the Divine Presence; for it is written, one who smiteth man [i.e. an Israelite] attacketh the Holy One.
... from the Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin, Tractate Sanhedrin, Folio 58b
(Though note, some commentators indicated that "is worthy of death" is meant figuratively.)





"Raba said: If one bound his neighbour and he died of starvation, he is not liable to execution. Raba also said: If he bound him in the sun, and he died, or in a place of intense cold and he died, he is liable; but if the sun was yet to
appear, or the cold to make itself felt, he is not ..."
... from the Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin, Tractate Sanhedrin, Folio 77a (and see also 77b)



Selected Bibliography