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