What is the Talmud?

Coffee Shop Rabbi

„Talmud“ is one of those words that mystifies many non-Jews. Anyone with knowledge of Western Civilization has a frame of reference for „the Bible,“ even though our Bible is slightly different from the Christian Bible, but „Talmud“ – what is that?

Here’s the simplest answer I can give you: Talmud is a record of discussions that took place over roughly 500 years. The subject of those discussions was „How To Live a Life of Torah.“ It includes not only majority opinions but minority opinions and lengthy digressions. 

These lengthy discussions were necessary because the Torah itself comes to us without operating instructions. For instance: the Torah says „Keep the Sabbath“ and „Remember the Sabbath.“ How do we keep the Sabbath? What does it mean to remember it? Something that seems straightforward („An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth“) turns out to be complex: „What about the case of the one-eyed offender…

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