Talmud: III of V

October 16, 2008 at 12:30 am (Judaism)

So, what is studying the Talmud?

When an Orthodox Jew says he’s studying the Torah, that’s pretty vague. “Torah” could refer to many things: the Five Books of Moses, the entire Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, or the vast library of commentaries (primarily the midrashim, particularly sifrei Midrash Rabbah). Usually, he means the Talmud.

This is quite unique to Judaism. For, notwithstanding the fact that it contains stories and accounts, it is essential a repository of Jewish law and legal discussions. The Rabbis are constantly going back and forth on what seem to be quite trivial matters. And yet, this is what Jewish men study every day, laymen as well as rabbis and scholars. Everyone studies the Talmud.

In contrast, only Muslim experts and jurists study shari’ah, and only canon lawyers study Catholic canon law. Lay people do not study religious law, except in Judaism.

And it isn’t just the Talmud either. Other texts, such as Shulchan Aruch and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, which are compilations of laws relating to Jewish practice, are studied daily.

It’s quite different and facinating.

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