Talmud | babylonian and jerusalem

Babylonian and Jerusalem

The process of "Gemara" proceeded in what were then the two major centers of Jewish scholarship, Galilee and Babylonia. Correspondingly, two bodies of analysis developed, and two works of Talmud were created. The older compilation is called the Jerusalem Talmud or the Talmud Yerushalmi. It was compiled in the 4th century in Galilee. The Babylonian Talmud was compiled about the year 500, although it continued to be edited later. The word "Talmud", when used without qualification, usually refers to the Babylonian Talmud.

While the editors of Jerusalem Talmud and Babylonian Talmud each mention the other community, most scholars believe these documents were written independently; Louis Jacobs writes, "If the editors of either had had access to an actual text of the other, it is inconceivable that they would not have mentioned this. Here the argument from silence is very convincing."[8]

Jerusalem Talmud

A page of a medieval Jerusalem Talmud manuscript, from the Cairo Geniza

The Jerusalem Talmud, also known as the Palestinian Talmud, or Talmuda de-Eretz Yisrael (Talmud of the Land of Israel), was one of the two compilations of Jewish religious teachings and commentary that was transmitted orally for centuries prior to its compilation by Jewish scholars in the Land of Israel.[9] It is a compilation of teachings of the schools of Tiberias, Sepphoris, and Caesarea. It is written largely in Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, a Western Aramaic language that differs from its Babylonian counterpart.[citation needed]

This Talmud is a synopsis of the analysis of the Mishnah that was developed over the course of nearly 200 years by the Academies in Galilee (principally those of Tiberias and Caesarea.) Because of their location, the sages of these Academies devoted considerable attention to analysis of the agricultural laws of the Land of Israel. Traditionally, this Talmud was thought to have been redacted in about the year 350 by Rav Muna and Rav Yossi in the Land of Israel. It is traditionally known as the Talmud Yerushalmi ("Jerusalem Talmud"), but the name is a misnomer, as it was not prepared in Jerusalem. It has more accurately been called "The Talmud of the Land of Israel".[10]

Its final redaction probably belongs to the end of the 4th century, but the individual scholars who brought it to its present form cannot be fixed with assurance. By this time Christianity had become the state religion of the Roman Empire and Jerusalem the holy city of Christendom. In 325 Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, said "let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd."[11] This policy made a Jew an outcast and pauper. The compilers of the Jerusalem Talmud consequently lacked the time to produce a work of the quality they had intended. The text is evidently incomplete and is not easy to follow.

The apparent cessation of work on the Jerusalem Talmud in the 5th century has been associated with the decision of Theodosius II in 425 to suppress the Patriarchate and put an end to the practice of semikhah, formal scholarly ordination. Some modern scholars have questioned this connection.

Despite its incomplete state, the Jerusalem Talmud remains an indispensable source of knowledge of the development of the Jewish Law in the Holy Land. It was also an important resource in the study of the Babylonian Talmud by the Kairouan school of Chananel ben Chushiel and Nissim ben Jacob, with the result that opinions ultimately based on the Jerusalem Talmud found their way into both the Tosafot and the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides.

Following the formation of the modern state of Israel there is some interest in restoring Eretz Yisrael traditions. For example, rabbi David Bar-Hayim of the Makhon Shilo institute has issued a siddur reflecting Eretz Yisrael practice as found in the Jerusalem Talmud and other sources.

Babylonian Talmud

A full set of the Babylonian Talmud

The Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli) consists of documents compiled over the period of late antiquity (3rd to 6th centuries).[12] During this time, the most important of the Jewish centres in Mesopotamia, a region called "Babylonia" in Jewish sources and later known as Iraq, were Nehardea, Nisibis (modern Nusaybin), Mahoza (al-Mada'in, just to the south of what is now Baghdad), Pumbedita (near present-day al Anbar Governorate), and the Sura Academy, probably located about 60 km (37 mi) south of Baghdad.[13]

The Babylonian Talmud comprises the Mishnah and the Babylonian Gemara, the latter representing the culmination of more than 300 years of analysis of the Mishnah in the Talmudic Academies in Babylonia. The foundations of this process of analysis were laid by Abba Arika (175–247), a disciple of Judah ha-Nasi. Tradition ascribes the compilation of the Babylonian Talmud in its present form to two Babylonian sages, Rav Ashi and Ravina II.[14] Rav Ashi was president of the Sura Academy from 375–427. The work begun by Rav Ashi was completed by Ravina, who is traditionally regarded as the final Amoraic expounder. Accordingly, traditionalists argue that Ravina's death in 475[15] is the latest possible date for the completion of the redaction of the Talmud. However, even on the most traditional view a few passages are regarded as the work of a group of rabbis who edited the Talmud after the end of the Amoraic period, known as the Savoraim or Rabbanan Savora'e (meaning "reasoners" or "considerers").

Comparison of style and subject matter

There are significant differences between the two Talmud compilations. The language of the Jerusalem Talmud is a western Aramaic dialect, which differs from the form of Aramaic in the Babylonian Talmud. The Talmud Yerushalmi is often fragmentary and difficult to read, even for experienced Talmudists. The redaction of the Talmud Bavli, on the other hand, is more careful and precise. The law as laid down in the two compilations is basically similar, except in emphasis and in minor details. The Jerusalem Talmud has not received much attention from commentators, and such traditional commentaries as exist are mostly concerned with comparing its teachings to those of the Talmud Bavli.

Neither the Jerusalem nor the Babylonian Talmud covers the entire Mishnah: for example, a Babylonian Gemara exists only for 37 out of the 63 tractates of the Mishnah. In particular:

  • The Jerusalem Talmud covers all the tractates of Zeraim, while the Babylonian Talmud covers only tractate Berachot. The reason might be that most laws from the Order Zeraim (agricultural laws limited to the Land of Israel) had little practical relevance in Babylonia and were therefore not included.[16] The Jerusalem Talmud has a greater focus on the Land of Israel and the Torah's agricultural laws pertaining to the land because it was written in the Land of Israel where the laws applied.
  • The Jerusalem Talmud does not cover the Mishnaic order of Kodashim, which deals with sacrificial rites and laws pertaining to the Temple, while the Babylonian Talmud does cover it. It is not clear why this is, as the laws were not directly applicable in either country following the Temple's destruction in year 70.
  • In both Talmuds, only one tractate of Tohorot (ritual purity laws) is examined, that of the menstrual laws, Niddah.

The Babylonian Talmud records the opinions of the rabbis of the Ma'arava (the West, meaning Israel/Palestine) as well as of those of Babylonia, while the Jerusalem Talmud only seldom cites the Babylonian rabbis. The Babylonian version also contains the opinions of more generations because of its later date of completion. For both these reasons it is regarded as a more comprehensive collection of the opinions available. On the other hand, because of the centuries of redaction between the composition of the Jerusalem and the Babylonian Talmud, the opinions of early amoraim might be closer to their original form in the Jerusalem Talmud.

The influence of the Babylonian Talmud has been far greater than that of the Yerushalmi. In the main, this is because the influence and prestige of the Jewish community of Israel steadily declined in contrast with the Babylonian community in the years after the redaction of the Talmud and continuing until the Gaonic era. Furthermore, the editing of the Babylonian Talmud was superior to that of the Jerusalem version, making it more accessible and readily usable. According to Maimonides (whose life began almost a hundred years after the end of the Gaonic era), all Jewish communities during the Gaonic era formally accepted the Babylonian Talmud as binding upon themselves, and modern Jewish practice follows the Babylonian Talmud's conclusions on all areas in which the two Talmuds conflict.

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