Temple Isaiah classes for adults exploring Jewish life, history, and practice.

Posts tagged ‘Gemara’

Rabbinic Judaism

page du Talmud Source : scanner illustration l...

A Page of Talmud (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Sunday we took a quick look at Rabbinic Judaism. We talked about the 2nd Temple Period, with its ferment of disagreement in the Jewish community.  The rabbis were one group within many in Judaism of the period: there were also Sadducees, Essenes, early Christians, followers of John the Baptist, Zealots, and others. Most of those groups ceased to exist during or soon after the wars with Rome, and Rabbinic Judaism eventually became the dominant form of Judaism, as it is today.

We learned about the Mishnah, a collection of discussions among the rabbis who were attempting to flesh out what exactly it means to live a life of Torah:  what does it mean, to “keep Shabbat?” How large is the “corner of the field?” Rabbi Judah ha Nasi closed the Mishnah in 200 CE, and it was “frozen” at that point.

Discussions continued, and we call the record of those discussions “Gemara.”  In the rabbinic academies of Eretz Israel, Mishnah and Gemara were collected into the Jerusalem Talmud.  In the Babylonian academies, they collected Mishnah and their Gemara into the Babylonian Talmud.  A generation of rabbis called the Sevoraim (Aramaic for “reasoners”) redacted the Babylonian Talmud into the form we have today.

Our handouts this week:  Rabbinic Literature and Rabbinic Timeline.  We also did a brief text study on Peah, the corners of the field. (If you would like a copy of that text study, please contact me directly.)

Next week:  medieval Judaism and the Codes.  Yes, I know we are going fast!  Jewish history is vast!

— Rabbi Adar



Mishnah + Gemara = Talmud

The first page of the tractate

The headline above is a summary of what we covered in class this week.  We began looking at rabbinic literature, and at the process of  living Torah. As the fellow who wrote The Year of Living Biblically found out, Torah without interpretation is a pretty unworkable guide to daily life.  Torah is a living process, leading us towards holiness; it is not just a set of rules.

We also talked about the fact that there’s a pattern in Jewish texts:  texts were not set down in writing until the historical situation demanded it.  The Mishnah was set down in writing in 200 CE because Rabbi Judah the Prince, the leader of the community, saw that this knowledge might be lost if it were not written down, because the political situation in Eretz Yisrael was so unsettled.  The same thing happened with the Gemara, in about 400 in Israel and somewhat later in Mesopotamia.

Next week we’re going to look at the Middle Ages, up until Emancipation.  What’s that?  Come to class and find out!

— Rabbi Adar