Over five days (including today, albeit late), I will be talking about something quite random: the Talmud.
In my undergraduate studies, my focus was on Judaism (specifically, Second Temple Judaism and a few centuries thereafter). I also studied contemporary Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism (particularly the more chassidic forms thereof). I knew that in order to understand Judaism the best, I would need to study the Talmud. It seemed so daunting, I never did it. And I was afraid that if I liked it, it would be an expensive habit. But I finally bit the bullet, as it were, and bought a volume of the Talmud. Studying it is fun as well as instructive! So, I found a well-priced set and bought it.
The Talmud is the core sacred text of Rabbinic Judaism. Jewish writers refer to it and quote it constantly. Most of halakhah (religious law) is based on the Talmud, as well as a lot of aggadah (traditions, stories). In order to become a rabbi, or be considered an expert in Judaism, one has to be very familiar with the Talmud. (More details about the composition of the Talmud will come tomorrow.) In fact, in certain ultra-Orthodox circles, rabbinic ordination or credentials are not used: the standard of leadership is Talmud knowledge.
The Talmud is fascinating and quite different. I look forward to boring you all about it.