Volumes of the Talmud

A daf - a page of Talmud


What if someone told you that there was a body of knowledge as old and as far-reaching as the fabled Library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt? What if they told you it still existed, and was just waiting for you to explore it? Wouldn't you rush to delve into this treasure of wisdom? Well, it does exist and it is waiting for you. It is called the Talmud.

In Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses are called the Torah, which means "The Teaching". The Torah is filled with many challenges: enigmas and codes, and other parts that seem to be gaps or contradictions. Over the centuries, the greatest minds in the ancient Jewish world wrestled with these mental and spiritual challenges. Their discussions, which spread out further and further to eventually encompass all of human behavior and existence, became the foundation of the Talmud, which literally means "The Study".

Since the Talmud was developed over many generations, each adding its own layer of analysis and interpretation, it naturally became a non-linear, multi-layered way of thinking. It is the basis of what modern scholars call "critical analysis" and "deconstructionism". The act of studying Talmud, also called simply "learning", is the true goal of the Talmud scholar - and not just the amount of knowledge acquired. In other words, in Talmud learning, the journey itself is the destination.

True Talmud study develops your thinking and perception in a completely different way: opening your mind, making it much more flexible, and conditioning you to see everything on several levels simultaneously and from every possible angle. This is the great attraction that the Talmud offered to the greatest minds and talents of the Renaissance - including Michelangelo Buonarroti of Florence - even while the Inquisition was trying to wipe it off the face of the Earth.

The Talmud is one of the greatest gifts of the Jews to the entire world. Its vast treasurehouse of knowledge is open to everyone, not only religious Jewish males. There is a danger, however - it is NOT to be studied alone, without a proper teacher and study partnership. There is an ancient saying: "The one who studies Talmud alone is a fool." The Talmud is so incredibly profound that one of its nicknames is "The Sea".   People trying to swim in it without the proper guidance can become lost, overwhelmed or misled by misconceptions. Indeed, any random internet search can bring up many disgusting anti-Jewish hate sites filled with completely distorted and falsified "interpretations" of the Talmud. The Talmud is the polar opposite of ignorance, hatred and fear - but you must enter it with respect and with the right intellectual and spiritual companionship.

To get started on your personal path to the Talmud, you can check out the article on Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talmud or read from a vast assortment of primers and introductory books. To see what a page of Talmud looks like, you can see the award-winning website A Page of Talmud at: http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/TalmudPage.html where all the various components are explained. When learning a page of Talmud, you start at the core, the central column, and gradually spiral out and out, taking part in a grand discussion that rebounds across time and space and knows no limits.   It is a metaphor for Life itself. When you truly study Talmud, you become part of this vast chain - in fact, you become part of the Talmud while the Talmud becomes a part of you.

Enjoy your journey!