By D. Mizrachi
The Talmud—the massive, comprehensive work studied and expounded on by traditional Jews for nearly 2,000 years—is the core of rabbinic Judaism. It records discussions by thousands of rabbis over hundreds of years on Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs, lore, and history. Unlike other Talmudic dictionaries, Find It in the Talmud is written especially for the English speaker not fluent in the original Hebrew and Aramaic. Calling itself “an encyclopedia of Jewish ethics and conduct,” it is also a concordance, using the traditional citation system of tractate and page number. More than 6,000 concepts and terms are listed alphabetically in English with the location, and (usually) the original translation. Many entries include a definition, explanation, or allegory. Examples include “Be accurate: R. Gamliel said: ‘Do not estimate, do not guess, but be accurate.’ (Avot 1:16)”; and “Yavne: There were four people in Yavne who could speak seventy languages. (Sanhedrin 17b).” The introduction and later sections provide overviews of the order and development of the Talmud and its major personalities, expressions, and abbreviations. Judovits, a retired businessman and long-time Talmud student, includes endorsements for his work from local rabbis and scholars.
Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers.
This review appears in the January 2015 issue of CHOICE Magazine
by Dov Peretz Elkins
Sages of the Talmud is a collection of biographical information about the authors of the Talmud. Itcontains about four hundred entries and hundreds of anecdotes about the sages, all as recorded in the Talmud itself. An indispensable book for the student of the Talmud, it is not only an excellent practical reference guide, but also a text of general interest that may be read for enjoyment. This reference work cites the source of each quotation in the Talmud. The fascinating anecdotes and stories give readers an idea of the kind of social environment in which the sage lived. The work also includes an appendix with the corresponding general history of the time so that the reader can understand the contemporary political climate.
In the Talmud, several sages share the same name. This can be confusing to students, who wonder which rabbi made a particular statement. The author removes this confusion by linking each story and citation to the correct talmudic sage. Although the names of the sages sometimes appear close to one another in the Talmud, they did not necessarily live in the same time period – some lived hundreds of years apart. The book clarifies important questions, including the period of time in which the sages lived, who their teachers or significant colleagues were, and the house of study or city associated with them.
Find It in the Talmud is a reference book and all-encompassing encyclopedia on the Babylonian Talmud. With over 6,000 entries, Find It in the Talmud is a pathfinder for students and a useful tool for scholars searching for subjects discussed in the Talmud.
Continue reading “Two Excellent Reference Books on Talmud”
by Rabbi Ari Enkin
Sages of the Talmud is an encyclopedic work on 400 Talmudic sages that are found on the pages of the Talmud. The various sages are listed in alphabetical order. After the sages’ name, it is noted in which century he lived and whether he was a Tanna, Amora, Babylonian or Palestinian. The listing continues with stories and anecdotes which help the reader understand the sage’s personality and the social environment in which he lived. Their rulings, ethical teachings, and famous sayings are cited, as well. In some cases bibliographical information is also included, especially regarding the lesser-known sages.
For example, the entry on Pinhas ben Yair states:
“Rabbi Pinchas was a son-in-law of Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai and his student for many years. He lived in southern Israel, not far from Ashkelon, and was active in the mitzva of redeeming prisoners…It is said of Rabbi Pinhas that never in his life did he eat bread that was not his own…R. Pinhas b. Yair said, “Zeal leads to cleanliness, and cleanliness leads to purity. Purity leads to self-restraint, and self-restraint leads to sanctity.”
The Talmudic sources for all such stories and sayings are cited. Entries range from a single paragraph up to several pages, depending on the prominence of the sage and his frequency of appearance on the pages of the Talmud.
Most people do not know when each of the sages of the Talmud lived and what the outside world looked like at that time. Many don’t even realize that there were hundreds of years between the earliest and latest sages of the Talmud. This is true even regarding different sages who are found on the same page of Talmud! And so, what is exceptionally unique in this work is that at the end of every entry, not only are the dates when each sage lived included, but readers are directed to an appendix at the back of the book which lists the historic highlights of regional events that took place during that time. For example, at the conclusion of the entry on Rava, we are told he lived between 250 and 350 CE. Turning to the pages that discuss these years at the back of the book one will find historical tidbits such as:
• Gallus became Roman emperor in 251 and was assassinated in 253
• Valerian attempted to recover the territories lost to King Shapur of Persia, but was captured by Shapur in 259 and held captive until his death ten years later, in 269
• Aurelian was assassinated in 275
• In 325, several hundred bishops led by Constantine attended the Continue reading “Sages of the Talmud: A Review”
Audio for this YU Seforim Sale panel with Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, Rabbi Michael Rosensweig, Dr. David Shatz and Rabbi Reuven Ziegler, conducted on February 5, 2012 can be found here at www.yutorah.org