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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Torah and Halachic Authority (3/12)

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               Frequently Asked Questions on Soc.Culture.Jewish
                    Part 3: Torah and Halachic Authority
         [Last Change: $Date: 1996/06/17 19:14:31 $ $Revision: 1.3 $]
                    [Last Post: Tue Mar 30 11:07:24 US/Pacific 2004]

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Subject: ORGANIZATION This portion of the FAQ contains answers to the following questions: Section 3. Torah 1. [8]What is the Written Law? 2. [9]What are the books of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh)? 3. [10]Why, in the Tanakh, does G-d have so many Names? 4. [11]Who wrote the Torah? 5. [12]What is the Oral Law? 6. [13]How was the Oral and Written Law passed down to us? 7. [14]What is the Great Assembly (Anshe Knessest HaGedolah)? 8. [15]Who are the Zugot (pairs)? 9. [16]What is the Mishna? 10. [17]What is the relationship between the Mishna and the Torah? 11. [18]What are the Orders of the Mishna? 12. [19]What is the Tosefta? 13. [20]What is the relationship between the Tosefta and the Mishna? 14. [21]What is the Gemara and what is the Talmud? 15. [22]What is the Talmud? 16. [23]What is Talmud Yerushalmi? 17. [24]What is Talmud Bavli? 18. [25]What is Rashi's commentary on the Talmud? 19. [26]What is the Tosafot? 20. [27]Who wrote the Tosafot? 21. [28]What is the relationship of the Tosefta to the Talmuds? 22. [29]What are Baraitot? 23. [30]What are the extra-canonical (minor) tractates? 24. [31]What is a Midrash? 25. [32]What are Halakhic (or Tannaitic) Midrashim? 26. [33]What are the main Halakhic Midrashim? 27. [34]What are the main Exegetical Midrashim? 28. [35]What are the main Homiletic Midrashim? 29. [36]What are the Midrashim on the Five Megillot (aka The So-Called Rabbot)? 30. [37]What are some other important Haggadic works? 31. [38]What is the Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Creation)? 32. [39]What is Sefer haBahir, The Bahir (The Book of Illumination)? 33. [40]What is The Zohar? 34. [41]What are the Major Codes of Jewish Law? 35. [42]What is the Rif (Hilkhot of Rav Alfassi)? 36. [43]What is the Mishneh Torah (Yad Ha-Hazaqah , Sefer Mehoqeq)? 37. [44]What is the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (The Semag)? 38. [45]What is the Arba'ah Turim (The Tur , The Four Rows)? 39. [46]What is the Shulkhan Arukh? 40. [47]What is the Hamappah of Rabbi Moshe Isserles? 41. [48]What is the Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh? 42. [49]What is the Mishnah Berurah? 43. [50]What Other Codes of Jewish Law Are Used by Non-Orthodox Jewish Movements? 44. [51]What is the Meaning of 'All is Futile' from the beginning of Ecclesiastes? 45. [52]What does it mean in the psalm of Habakkuk when it says that G-d hides His power? 46. [53]What is meant by G-d's throne and the Serphim worshiping him in Isaiah 6:1-6? 47. [54]Why is G-d referred to in the plural in the book of Genesis? 48. [55]What is the Mekhilta on Deuteronomy? Section 4. Halachic Authority 1. [8]What is "Halacha"? How is it determined? 2. [9]Traditionally, what are the levels of halacha? 3. [10]Traditionally, what are the different rabbinic eras? 4. [11]How can differing halachic rulings all be considered valid? 5. [12]How does the Conservative movement deal with Halachic questions? 6. [13]What is the difference between two Orthodox rabbis who disagree and an Orthodox and a Reform who disagree? 7. [14]Who is RAMBAM that is mentioned and what are his 13 principles? 8. [15]Who was Rashi? 9. [16]Who was the Ramban? 10. [17]What is Kabbalah and how can I learn about it? 11. [18]Who is allowed to study Kabbalah? 12. [19]Who was Rabbeinu Tam? 13. [20]What are she'elot u'teshuvot? 14. [21]What is the midrash halachah and the midrash agadah?
Subject: Question 3.1: What is the Written Law? Answer: The Written Law consists of the books of the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh. It should be noted that the term "Bible" is more commonly used by non-Jews, as are the terms "Old Testament" and "New Testament". The appropriate term for Jews to use for the Hebrew Bible is "Tanakh". Tanakh is an acronym for Torah, Nevi'im, and Ketuvim. The Torah is also known as the Chumash, Pentateuch, or Five Books of Moses. The word 'Torah' has the following meanings: 1. A scroll made from kosher animal parchment, with the entire text of the Five Books of Moses written in it by a sofer [ritual scribe]. This is the most limited definition. 2. More often, this term means the text of the Five Books of Moses, written in any format, whether Torah scroll, paper back book, CD-ROM, sky-writing or any other media. Any printed version of the Torah (with or without commentary) can be called a Chumash or Pentateuch. However, one never refers to a Torah Scroll as a Chumash! 3. The term 'Torah' can mean the entire corpus of Jewish law! This includes the Written and the Oral Law, which includes the Mishna, the Midrash, the Talmud, and even later day legal commentaries. This definition of Torah is probably the most common among Orthodox Jews. Usually you can figure out which definition is being used by the context.
Subject: Question 3.2: What are the books of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh)? Answer: First, note that the Bible isn't the entire corpus of what we call "Torah"; in fact, it's the smaller piece. In traditional Jewish thought, the Torah (in the limited sense) is "merely" lecture notes -- the minimum needed to remember or rebuild the larger body of knowledge. The non-written part we call Oral Torah (Torah shebi'al peh). The word Torah in the narrower sense refers to the five books of Moses, or to a scroll that contains those books. However, this is only because we believe that the entire Torah -- using the word in its broadest sense -- is implied by the words of its text. That includes not only the ideas in the Oral Torah, but also the ideas in the prophetic and inspired works that compose the rest of the Jewish Bible. The prophets wrote down their words to increase their impact, not because these were innovative ideas. Tradition has it that the text of the Torah can be simultaneously understood on 4 levels: the simple meaning (p'shat), as mnemonics based on extra or missing letters, gematria, acrostics, etc... (remez), through scriptural hermeneutics (d'rash), and on a philosophical and kabbalistic level (sowd). The acronym of these four levels is "pardeis" (orchard) and is associated with the concept of Paradise. Also, note that the word "Bible" is more commonly used by non-Jews, as are the terms "old testament" and "new testament", although "scripture" is a synonym used by both Jews and non-Jews. The appropriate term to use is Tanakh. This word is derived from the Hebrew letters of the three parts that make it up: Torah: Books of Genesis (B'reishis), Exodus (Sh'mos), Leviticus (Vayikra), Numbers(Bamidbar), and Deuteronomy (D'varim). N'viim (Prophets): Books of Joshua, Judges, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habukkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. (The last twelve are sometimes grouped together as "Trei Asar." ["Twelve"]) K'Tuvim (Writings): Books of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel (although not all that is included in the Christian Canon), Ezra and Nehemiah, I Chronicles, and II Chronicles. It should be noted that the breaking of Samuel (Shmuel), Kings (Melachim), and Chronicles (Divrei hayamim) into two parts is strictly an artifact of the Christian printers who first issued the books. They were too big to be issued as single volumes. Because every one followed these de facto standards, the titles of Volume 1 and Volume 2 were attached to the names. The division of the Tanach into chapters was also done by medieval Christians, and only later adopted by Jews. Many Christian Bibles have expanded versions of several of these books (Esther, Ezra, Daniel, Jeremiah and Chronicles) including extra material that is not accepted as canonical in Judaism. This extra material was part of the ancient Greek translation of the Tanakh, but was never a part of the official Hebrew Tanakh. Jews regard this extra material as apocryphal. Among Christians, there is a difference of opinion. Catholics regard this material as canonical, while many Protestant sects regard this material as Apocrypha. What is and is not regarded as Apocrypha varies among the many Christian sects. Some of the most famous Apocryphal stories are closely associated with the book of Daniel, and indeed are printed as part of that book in some Christian Bibles. These stories include: Susan and the Elders, The Song of the Three Children, and Bel and the Dragon. There are other books mentioned in Torah. For example, Joshua 10:13 refers to a book of "Jasher". Are such books part of the Jewish canon? No. Do they exist? There are many books on the web that claim to be such lost books. However, there are many sites (such as [5] that points out that many of them are hoaxes.
Subject: Question 3.3: Why, in the Tanakh, does G-d have so many Names? Answer: Traditional Jews answer that each name represents a different aspect of G-d, similar (l'havdil) to the way the U.S. President is known as "President," "Commander-in-Chief," "Chief Executive," or "Mr. So-and-so" depending upon the role he's playing at the moment. ("L'havdil" denotes that the writer acknowledges a distinction between the sacred and the secular.)
Subject: Question 3.4: Who wrote the Torah? Answer: Ah, yet another easy question. :-) The traditional view is that G-d gave the Jewish people the entire Torah; hence the Torah is the word of G-d. As described above, the Torah consists of a written and an oral portion (although much of the oral portion is now written down). Of the written portion: * The first five books (Pentateuch, Chumash) were dictated by G-d to Moses, while Moses was in a conscious and aware state. * N'viim (the Prophetic writings) were transmitted by G-d to the prophets by various means (such as by a dream or vision) and transcribed by the prophet in his (or her) own style and wording. G-d communicated with all prophets (except Moses) through dreams or visions. These writings are considered a level "below" that of Moses. Specific laws are not derived from the Prophets, except through examples of how a mitzvah was actually performed. There were many more prophets in the history of Israel than are recorded in the Neviim. See Section 12.11 [5]"Who were the prophets?" * K'Tuvim (Sacred Writings) were the result of "Ruach HaKodesh" (roughly: "Divine Inspiration"), which is one level below "prophecy". Visions from the writings are more mystical and may be complete allegory. Unlike prophecy, they do not have to come true. The Rambam defines a number of different "levels" of prophecy (based on the method through which the prophet received the message and the clarity with which he/she received it) and points out that they do not have to function on the same level at all times. For example, many people include Daniel among the prophets while his book is in K'Tuvim. Other examples are King David and Tehillim or Jeremiah and Eichah (Lamentations). The Liberal movements hold less with the notion of the Torah being the actual word of G-d, and more with the notion of the Torah being of divine inspiration, written in the language and context of its time: * Conservative. The Conservative movement teaches that the Torah is not one long quote from G-d, but rather is a human document that was written in response G-d's revelation of himself to us at Mount Sinai. Within the Conservative movement are basically two schools of thought with regards to the content of Revelation: + Rabbi Solomon Schechter is a good example of the traditionalists, who explicitly taught that G-d not only revealed his existence, but G-d also presented Israel with specific ideas and commandments, although the form in which these were given is something beyond what language can describe. Whether or not 'words' were used to convey ideas is irrelevant: What is relevant is that meaning was conveyed. Thus, the text of our Torah is a record of a human response to the Divine commandments. + Rabbi Elliot Dorf is a good example of the modernists, who explicitly teach that G-d did not reveal specific ideas or commandments in any propositional form. Rather, G-d revealed his existence, but did not impart any propositional content to Moses or the later Prophets. Instead, the Torah is a literary document that was produced as a result of Israel's encounter with the Divine. Thus, any laws contained within it can only be considered as semi-Divine in origin, as they do not express G-d's will, but rather express our best attempt at understanding what G-d wants of us. * Reform. Reform Judaism uses the idea of progressive relevation. The Torah may be the product of divine inspiration, but it was written in the language and context of its time, and must be continually reinterpreted into today's language and context. * Reconstructionist. Reconstructionist Jews believe that the Torah was not inspired by G-d in any way and is more the folklore of the Jewish people, albeit a folklore that is of the greatest importance. However, they do claim that the traditional mitzvot in the Oral and Written law are more or less binding, but for reasons of cultural significance only. It should be noted that some of today's new Reconstructionist rabbis are publicly questioning this theology, and our adopting a more traditional stance, although this trend has not yet made any real inroads among its laity.
Subject: Question 3.5: What is the Oral Law? Answer: The Torah makes it clear that it was being transmitted side by side with an oral tradition. Many terms and definitions used in the written law are totally undefined. Many fundamental concepts such as shekhita (slaughtering of animals in a kosher fashion), divorce and the rights of the firstborn are all assumed as common knowledge by text, and are not elaborated. Some specific examples: * In describing the proper way to slaughter animals for food, the Torah writes "If the place which G-d your L-rd has chosen to place His name there will be too far from you, then you shall kill of your herd and of your flock which G-d Lord has given you, as I have commanded you." (Deut 12). However, the Torah doesn't record that earlier commandment anywhere. * When it comes to divorce -- the bible never discusses the laws outright, they are assumed in passing in a discussion about when remarriage would be allowed. (Deut 24:1-4) * There is a reliance on sages for interpreting the law in Exod 18:36 and in Deut 17:8-3. Another story related to this: R' Akiva was 40 years old before he took an interest in Torah study. He joined a class of little children studying the Hebrew alphabet. On the first day, the teacher taught that such was an alef, and such was a beis, etc... On the second day, the teacher went through the alphabet backwards -- starting with tav and working down to aleph. R' Akiva asked the teacher, "But didn't you teach it the other way yesterday?" "And how do you know that that was the right way and not this one?" There's an alternate version, perhaps of the same story. This one is told about a non-Jew who came to Shammai and said that he wanted to convert on condition that he would accept only the Written Law. Shammai, realizing that the non-Jew was mocking him, chased him away. The non-Jew then went to Hillel with the same condition. The first day, Hillel taught him alef, bais, gimel, dalet. The second day, he began by calling the same characters tav, shin, raish, kuf. The non-Jew objected, "But didn't you tell me yesterday that these were alef, bais, gimel, dalet?" Hillel responded, "You see that even the names and sounds of the letters can only be understood by an oral teaching. How much more must the Torah itself be understood only through the Oral Law." The non-Jew then began studying completely and honestly. And an experimental proof: There were numerous movements that tried to follow the written Torah alone: Baithusians, Saducees, Karaites, etc... Each, without fail, eventually evolved its own tradition about how to understand the text. Pure fundamentalism about the verses, letting each man interpret for his/herself, has yet to provide a consistant structure. The Torah requires more information than it gives in the text alone. [Note that even Reform uses traditional interpretations of the verse; it is not the interpretation of the verse that is subject to individual choice in Reform, it is whether to incorporate the practice]. There are a number of examples in the rest of Jewish scriptures that show consistancy with conclusions contained in the Oral Torah based on the Pentateuch. In other words, things the prophets assumed about Jewish law that aren't in the text: * Zacharia 7:2 and 8:13 refer to the Rabbinically enacted fasts to commemorate the fall of the first Temple. * Nechemia 13 notes the Rabbinic prohibition against buying or selling things on the Sabbath. * The book of Ruth only works with the Oral Torah that limits the prohibition of Deut 23:3 to remarrying Moabite men. Otherwise, how could Boaz marry Ruth -- a Moabite convert. Ruth also relies on Oral Torah laws on kinsman redeemers and the conversion ritual. The term "oral law" thus reflects the knowledge about how to fulfill the laws and regulations of Torah that was transmitted orally, from generation to generation. The Oral Law can be thought of as a body of jurisprudence and procedure that accompanies the statutes of the Written Law. It is believed to have been passed down from the time of Moses, restored after the first exile by Ezra and Nehemiah, and finally written down by the academies at Yavne and in the Galilee in the two generations following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. It consists of specific interpretations and elaborations of the Written Law, and some commentary on the principles by which the Written Law can be expounded. There are Jews called Karaites, recognized by the state of Israel as 100% Jewish but heretical, who reject the Oral Law, as did the Sadducees of the time of the Second Temple. One objection to their `purism' is that they have been forced by practical necessity to develop interpretations and methods of textual analysis of their own---you simply cannot have law without jurisprudence. This being the case, most traditional Jews accept the authority of the Oral Law that has come down to us as (at the very least) the closest we can come to Torah from Mount Sinai.
Subject: Question 3.6: How was the Oral and Written Law passed down to us? Answer: The traditional view is the the Written Law was given to Moses at Sinai, and has remained unchanged since that time. At the same time, according to the traditional view, the Oral Law was dictated but not written down, in order to provide clarifications of Torah. To some extent, this is necessarily the case; the Written Torah mentions some core laws (e.g., the identities of kosher and non-kosher species, shechita [slaughtering], the kinds of activities prohibited on Shabbat, how Yom Kippur is observed, how the shofar is blown, what t'fillin [phylacteries] are, what is a sukkah, marriage and divorce) only briefly, without any of the requisite details. In many such instances, the Oral Torah has special status, and is referred to as "halakha l'Moshe mi'Sinai" (literally, Law to Moses at Sinai), and has the same immutable status as the Written Torah itself. Another factor "forcing" the recognition of the Oral Torah was the need for the basic halakhic principles of the Written Torah to extend and adapt (within limits) to societal changes; cultural and social changes demanded halakhic decisions, and these halakhic decisions had to be transmitted across generations. Deut 17:8-9 tells the people to "go the the judge who shall be in those days;" the rabbinic tradition thus explicitly commands adherence to the Oral Torah and to rabbinic authority. We do not know much of the early history of the Oral Torah, but much of it (e.g., the basic structure of the Amidah liturgy, and the basic principles of halakhic exegesis) is ascribed to the Men of the Great Assembly (539-332 BCE, the era of the Second Temple and Persian rule). Subsequent development of the Oral Law took place in the era of the Zugot ("pairs" of scholars who served as spiritual and intellectual leaders of the Jewish community under political domination of the Greeks and Hasmoneans; it was in that period that the Sadducees, who substantially rejected the authority of the Oral Torah, arose. But the varieties of modern Judaism derive from the Talmud, in which the essential principles of rabbinic Judaism were more fully discussed and developed. If the Oral Torah was indeed given to the Jews at Sinai at the same time as the Written Torah, how does one explain the talmudic disputes? There are at least three possibilities, and they are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps the Oral Torah was transmitted inaccurately, and the task of the rabbis was to reconstruct it. Alternatively, the halakhic principles of the Oral Torah were used by the rabbis to derive new laws, and to apply old laws to novel situations. The third possibility is that the Oral Law gave the rabbis the right (perhaps the responsibility) to legislate. Non-traditional movements have different positions on the origin. Some hold with the "documentary theory", which has four authors. Some hold with divine inspiration. Others believe in divine inspiration, written in the language and context of its time. However, all agree that the Written and Oral Torah contain eternal truths that apply as well today as when the documents were committed to parchment, and that study of both is critical.
Subject: Question 3.7: What is the Great Assembly (Anshe Knessest HaGedolah)? Answer: According to traditional Jewish historiography, this was an assembly of 120 rabbis that ruled in the period after the time of the prophets up to the time of the development of rabbinic Judaism in 70 CE. They bridge a period of about 2 centuries. The tradition teaches that they redacted the books of Ezekiel, the twelve minor prophets (The Trei Asar), and the books of Daniel and Esther. They also composed the Shemonah Esrah, the standing prayer (Amidah) of 18, later 19, prayers that is still recited by Jews today. They canonized the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). Most importantly, they enacted a democratization of Jewish education, making the Torah the possession of all, instead of just the priestly class. Historically, the Great Assembly described in Nehemiah 8-10 was a public assembly of Jews who returned to Israel after the exile in Babylonia. In this gathering the leaders and people of Israel rededicated themselves to the Torah as their inheritance and code of law.
Subject: Question 3.8: Who are the Zugot (Pairs)? Answer: After the relative calmness of the period of Persian rule, the Greek occupied Eretz Yisrael. For over a century the land was the battlefield for warring armies of the Ptolemies and Seleucids. As a result, the Jewish homeland was politically, economically, and spiritually torn apart. During these times, Jewish leadership was in the hands of the Zugot. The term 'Zugot' refers to the two heads of the Sanhedrin (Great Assembly). The Sanhedrin was the successor to the Great Assembly, and it functioned as the legislative body of the Jewish people. At the head of the Sanhedrin was the Nasi (President) and second to him was the Av Bet Din (Father of the Assembly). For a period of about two hundred years, these Zugot were the spiritual guides of Jewish life and the transmitters of the Oral Law. These Zugot were: * Yose ben Yoezer of Sereda, Yose ben Yohanan * Yehoshua ben Perahyah, Mattai (or Nittai) or Arbel * Yehudah ben Tabbai, Simeon ben Shetah * Shemayah, Abtalion * Hillel the Elder, Shammai
Subject: Question 3.9: What is the Mishna? Answer: The Hebrew verb 'shanah' literally means 'to repeat [what one was taught] and is used to mean 'to learn'. The term 'Mishna' basically means the entire body of Jewish religious law that was passed down and developed before 200 CE, when it was finally redacted by Rabbi Yehudah haNasi (Judah the Prince). He is usually simply referred to as 'Rabbi'. Prior to the time of Rabbi, all Jewish Law was transmitted orally; It was expressly forbidden to write and publish the Oral Law, as any writing would be incomplete and subject to misinterpretation and abuse. However, after great debate, this restriction was lifted when it became apparent that it was the only way to insure that the law could be preserved. To prevent the material from being lost, Rabbi took up the redaction of the Mishna. He did not do this at his own discretion, but rather examined the tradition all the way back to the Great Assembly. Some of tractates preceded him; these he merely supplemented. During this time period (around 200 CE) the Mishna, as such, was never published. Instead the main study of Jewish law was conducted in memorized form, except for private letters and notes. The Mishna consists of six orders (sedarim). This explains the traditional name for the Talmud as 'Shas'. 'Shas' is simply an abbreviation of shishah sedarim, six orders'. Each of the six orders contains between 7 and 12 tractates, called 'masekhot'. Each masekhot is divided into smaller units called 'mishnayot'.
Subject: Question 3.10: What is the relationship between the Mishna and the Torah? Answer: The Mishna contains the detailed instructions necessary for following the rules that were merely outlined in the Torah. Which is a subset of which? Consider that although the basic laws of Judaism were revealed/developed simultaneously, only the basic mitzvot (without instructions on how to fulfill them) were originally written down. Although the Mishna was written centuries later, they are both of equal stature. However, because the Mishna includes most the laws of the Torah--and presents additional information--one could say that for practical purposes the Torah is a subset of the Mishna. Note that the Mishna does not quite cover all the laws in the Torah. Omissions include the laws of Mezuzot and the Priestly benedictions. When one gets to the Talmud, one sees that the Mishna is a subset of the Talmud, as the Talmud includes practically all of the Mishna as well as additional information.
Subject: Question 3.11: What are the Orders of the Mishna? Answer: The orders of the Mishna are as follows: 1. First Order: Zeraim (Seeds). 11 tractates. This order deals with agricultural laws and prayers 2. Second Order: Mo'ed (Festival Days). 12 tractates. This order pertains to the laws of the Sabbath and the Festivals. 3. Third Order: Nashim (Women). 7 tractates. This order concerns marriage and divorce. 4. Fourth Order: Neziqin (Damages). 10 tractates. This order deals with civil and criminal law. 5. Fifth Order: Qodashim (Holy Things). 11 tractates. This order involves sacrificial rites, the Temple, and the dietary laws. 6. Sixth order: Toharot (Purity). 12 tractates. This order pertains to ritual and the laws of ritual purity (including family purity.)
Subject: Question 3.12: What is the Tosefta? Answer: The Mishna is basic compilation of the Oral Law, and was written down around 200 CE. However there is another compilation of Oral Law from that time period--the Tosefta. Rashi (in his commentary on BT Sanhedrin 33a) writes that the Mishna was redacted by Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi in consultation with members of the Academy, while the Tosefta was edited by Rabbis Hiyya and Oshaiah on their own. This gave the Tosefta less authority than the Mishna; today, the Tosefta is treated a supplement to the Mishna. The word 'tosefta' means 'supplement'. The Tosefta is a Halakhic work which corresponds in structure almost exactly to the Mishna, with the same divisions for sedarim (orders) and masekhot (tractates). It is mainly written is Mishnaic Hebrew, with a few Aramaic sentences. The actual writing is called the Tosefot or Tosefos, depending on your Hebrew dialect. Tosefot was produced by a school of French Rabbis of the 12th century. Their thoughts were combined into a commentary on the Babylonian Talmud. Tosefot is found on the outside of each page (on the left of the left page, or the right part of the right one) wrapped around the text. Rashi, who was father and grandfather of a number of the Tosafists appears on the inside, nearer the binding. The thrust of the commentary is to resolve the meaning of the page both when internally difficult and they were dissatisfied with Rashi's understanding, or when there are difficulties understanding the text in light of what is written elsewhere in the Talmud. (Rashi doesn't directly refer to the latter kind of problem.) Professors Agus and Ta-Shma argue that Tosafot set out to explain Ashkenazic practice in light of the Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud had gained exceptance as /the/ snapshot of the Oral Law. However, Ashkenazic rulings and customs had until then been justified based on other sources as well, the halachic medrashic texts, the Jerusalem Talmud, etc... This is because of the number of Ashkenazic Jews who came from Israel (via Italy), not Babylon. Now that the Babylonian Talmud gained prominance, addressing questions of how ideas found in Ashkenaz fit that greater picture became more urgent. They do not overtly refer to this mission, but many of their answers do end up providing such explanations. Also, at the time, the Tosefists were one of two schools of thought. There were also the Chassidei Ashkenaz, who were a pietist movement that had a greater focus on going beyond the letter of the law. There was much friction between the Tosefits and the Chassidim, much like what happened with the current Chassidic movement, when it was founded in the late 18th century.
Subject: Question 3.13: What is the relationship between the Tosefta and the Mishna? Answer: The Tosefta was written shortly after the Mishna was redacted, and seems to act as a supplement to it. It extensively quotes most of the Mishna. The Tosefta offers author's names for laws that are anonymous in the Mishna; It augments the Mishna with additional glosses and discussions. Additionally, it functions as a commentary on unquoted Mishnaic material; It offers additional haggadic and midrashic material, and it sometimes contradicts the Mishna in deciding Halakha, or in declaring in whose name a law was given.
Subject: Question 3.14: What is the Gemara and what is the Talmud? Answer: The term 'gemara' means addition; The gemara is an addition to the Mishna. Interestingly, although there is only one Mishna, there are two gemaras, each developed by many rabbis over a few centuries. One gemara was developed in Israel, and is called the Yerushalmi; the other was developed in Babylonia, and is called the Bavli. You never find the gemara printed by itself. It is always printed along with the Mishna. When you have the Babylonian gemara and the Mishna printed together, it is called Talmud Bavli (The Babylonian Talmud). When you have the Israeli gemara and the Mishna printed together, it is called Talmud Yerushalmi (or the Jerusalem Talmud, or the Palestinian Talmud, or the Talmud of the Land of Israel.) Keep in mind that the gemaras do not stick closely to the text, but offer a huge amount of additional material which is only loosely connected to the Mishna. They supplement the Mishna with haggadic materials and biblical expositions, and are a source for history and legend.
Subject: Question 3.15: What is the Talmud? Answer: The word 'talmud' literally means 'study'. The Talmud is sometimes referred to as the Shas. Shas is a shortened form of the term 'Shisha Sedarim (six orders), a reference to the six orders of the Mishna. There are two distinct works known as Talmud: the Yerushalmi (Jerusalem or Palestinian) Talmud, and the Bavli (Babylonian Talmud). However, the Babylonian Talmud has greater popularity and authority, so the generic term 'Talmud' almost always refers to the Babylonian Talmud. The generic 'gemara' thus refers to the gemara of the Babylonian Talmud. References to the Jerusalem Talmud are explicitly qualified. Traditionally, the Talmud is the supreme sourcebook of Law, as it takes the rules listed in the Torah and describes how to apply them to different circumstances. Although technically not a legal code (other works were created for that purpose), it is the ultimate source material that is used to decide all matters of Halakha (Jewish law). Traditional rabbis study the Talmud in depth; however, they use the actual Talmud very rarely, preferring to accept opinions in later law codes as binding. Study of Talmud for its own sake is considered a great mitzvah. Conservative rabbis also consider Halakha as binding, but do not always accept the most recent and stringent opinions in the latest law codes as absolutely binding; As such they use the Talmud in the same way that rabbis of past eras used to use it. This is theoretically still an option in the Orthodox community, but in practice is used very rarely. Reform and Reconstructionist Jews do not teach Talmud in their Hebrew schools, but do teach it in their rabbinical seminaries. This material is used as part of the research into the application of Torah law, but the research also includes study of the larger context of the time, and the parallels to other co-existant societies. A citation "Check the gemara, Yevamos 12b" means tractate Yevamos, folio 12, reverse side of the folio as per the organization of the Vilna edition of the Babylonian Talmud. Similarly, Chullin 5a would be the obverse side of the fifth folio of tractate Chullin. "Daf Yomi" is a program in which the participants study both sides of a folio of the Babylonian Talmud every day of the year. It takes about 7.5 years to complete the cycle. After the closing of the Talmud, there has been considerable further development of the Law in the areas of practical application, but always in a tone that reveres the stated views of the Talmudic rabbis as being on a higher plane than those of our modern scholars, who are free to interpret but not to contradict. A sharp distinction is always drawn between Torah Law (meaning law that derives directly from prohibitions in the Written or Oral Torah) and Rabbinic Law (meaning law that the Talmudic rabbis adopted as a `fence' to protect us from unwarily transgressing Torah Law), and different standards are used to judge cases of doubt in matters of Torah Law than of Rabbinic. Often, a false distinction is made by uninformed posters between `Torah' (meaning Written) Law and Oral Law---in traditional Judaism, the two stand together in distinction to Rabbinic Law. Example: the Written Law says `an eye for an eye'. The Oral Law says (and historical documents from the Second Temple era confirm) that this was _never_ intended literally, but rather means `measured and just (monetary) compensation for damages inflicted'. The Rabbinic Law upholds this principle, but might still command a man to forego the monetary damages in certain cases so as not to even come close to transgressing some other Torah prohibition, such as exacting interest on a debt, or causing baseless hatred. The first two are Torah, the last is not. But all are binding on Jews worldwide. (Note: A still lower level of `law', called minhag, or `custom', is post-Talmudic and usually has force only within particular communities.)
Subject: Question 3.16: What is Talmud Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud)? Answer: The Talmud Yerushalmi, also known as the Jerusalem Talmud (JT), the Palestinian Talmud, Talmud Eretz Yisrael (Talmud of the Land of Israel) and Gemara de Eretz Yisrael, is the Mishna plus the Yerushalmi gemara. It is interesting to note that the JT that we have today is missing a huge amount of material. There is only commentary for the first four orders of the Mishna; The rest has been lost to history. The JT gemara is also missing for tractates Avot and Eduyot, parts of Toharot and other sections as well. Despite extensive scholarship, it still is unclear why this material was not included in the final redaction of the JT. Rabbi Yohanan bar Nappaha was the main redactor of the JT. It was redacted around 500 to 550 CE. Additionally, the name 'Jerusalem Talmud' is a misnomer; it was most likely written in Northern Israel, specifically Tiberias. In general, whenever the JT contradicts the Babylonian Talmud (BT), the law follows the BT. Only on matters where BT is silent or unclear does the authority of the JT prevail. The absence of numerous Mishna tractates and chapters, the numerous self contradictions, as well as other internal evidence, suggests that the JT was not in fact redacted in the proper sense of the word, but rather was a hasty collection of material. Many scholars believe that the reason for the ultimate acceptance of the BT rather than the JT had a lot to do with the power struggles between the two Jewish communities. Thus it can be argued that the poor preservation of the JT may be a result of its rejection rather than its cause.
Subject: Question 3.17: What is Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud)? Answer: The Talmud Bavli (BT) is the Mishna plus the Babylonian gemara. It is much more complete than the Talmud Yerushalmi (JT), and the redaction is much more careful and precise. Still, it is by no means complete. The gemara only exists for 37 out of the 63 tractates of the Mishna. Why did these tractates remain without gemara in the BT? The traditional answer is that the laws of Zeraim and Toharot (except Niddah) had no practical relevance: * The agricultural laws were tied only to the land of Israel. In the diaspora these laws simply were of no use. * The purity laws (except for family purity) were no longer applicable, because there was no longer a Temple and sacrificial system. One might think then that there would be no BT gemara on Qodashim... but there is. This is probably because the study of the sacrificial regulations is generally thought of as being on par with actually performing sacrifices. In the usual printed editions, the BT comprises the full Mishna, the 37 gemaras, and the extra-canonical (minor) tractates. Typically, this comprises 5,894 pages, and is much more extensive than the JT. The overall character of BT is encyclopedic. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz states in The Essential Talmud (Basic Books, Inc., New York, 1976): The Talmud is the repository of thousands of years of Jewish wisdom. And the Oral Law, which is as ancient and significant as the Written Law (Torah), finds expression therein. It is a conglomerate of law, legend, and philosophy, a blend of unique logic and shrewd pragmatism, of history and science, anecdote and humor.
Subject: Question 3.18: What is Rashi's Commentary on the Talmud? Answer: Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (or: Shlomo Yitzhaki) is known by the acronym "Rashi". Rashi lived from 1040 to 1105 in Troyes, France. [In the version, there is a picture of a Talmud Page to Illustrate This] In the Talmud, Rashi's Commentary is always situated towards the middle of the opened book display; i.e. on the side of the page closest to the binding. The semi-cursive font in which the commentaries are printed is often referred to as "Rashi script." This does not mean that Rashi himself used such a script, only that the printers standardly employ it for commentaries. And Rashi's were the commentaries par excellence to both the Bible and the Talmud. Rashi's Commentary, which covers almost the whole of the Babylonian Talmud, has been printed in every version of the Talmud since the first Italian printings. Rashi's commentary provides a full and adequate explanation of the words, and of the logical structure of each Talmudic passage. Unlike some other commentaries, Rashi does not paraphrase or exclude any part of the text, but carefully elucidates the whole of the text. Rashi also exerted a decisive influence on establishing the correct text of the Talmud. He compared different manuscripts and determined the readings that should be preferred. Rashi's commentary does not exist for every tractate of the Babylonian Talmud, and a few of the printed commentaries attributed to him were composed by others. In some instances, the text indicates that Rashi died before completing the tractate, and that it was completed by a student. This is true of the tractate Makkot, the concluding portions of which were composed by his son-in-law Rabbi Judah ben Nathan. It is also true of tractate Bava Batra finished (in a much wordier and detailed style) by his grandson, Rabbi Samuel ben Meir (Rashbam), one of the prominent contributors to the Tosafot. It is probably a sign of the success of Rashi's achievement that no subsequent scholar, until Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in the late 20th century, tried to compose another comprehensive explanatory commentary.
Subject: Question 3.19: What is the Tosafot? Answer: The Tosafot are commentary on the Talmud by various Rabbis shortly after the time of Rashi; Many of these rabbis were descendants of Rashi himself. The word "Tosafot" translates as "additions" or "supplements." This means that their authors and editors saw their work as supplements to Rashi's basic commentary. Some have seen the Tosafot as an addition to the Talmud itself. It carries on the Talmud's own methods of dialectical argument and debate. The Tosafot are printed on the outer margin of the page; i.e., when looking at an opened book you will see the Tosafot in the columns closest to the edges of the pages, farthest from the binding. They appear in Rashi script, with the headings of each discussion in large square letters. The Tosafot that have been printed in the standard Talmud editions are merely an accidental selection from a vast literature that circulated in manuscript. Some of the other Tosafot compendia have been published as separate works.
Subject: Question 3.20: Who wrote the Tosafot? Answer: The Tosafot were composed by many scholars in different schools throughout the 12th and 13th centuries. They probably originated as students' notes of the discussions that took place in the Talmudic academy [=Yeshivah]. As students moved from one yeshivah to another they would assemble personal lists of the Tosafot of their various teachers. Some of the most prominent contributors to the Tosafot were: Rabbi Jacob ben Meir (Rabbenu Tam). 1100 - 1171. Rashi's grandson, lived in the French town of Ramerupt. Rabbi Samuel ben Meir (The Rashbam). 1080 - 1158. A grandson of Rashi's and the brother of Rabbenu Tam. In addition to his contributions to the Tosafot, he composed a famous commentary to the Torah that is distinguished by its scholarly objectivity in restricting itself to the plain, contextual meaning of the text without imposing the traditional Rabbinic interpretations. Rabbi Isaac of Dampierre (The Ri). A nephew of Rabbenu Tam and the Rashbam, he lived in France during the 12th century; One of the most prolific of the Tosafists. Rabbi Samson [ben Abraham] of Sens. He lived in France during the latter 12th and early 13th centuries, and eventually moved to Jerusalem. He was the most important disciple of Rabbi Isaac of Dampierre. In addition to his Tosafot he composed a commentary to the two orders of the Mishnah for which there is no Babylonian Talmud. Rabbi Meir [ben Barukh] of Rothenburg. 1225 - 1293. Rabbi Meir made important contributions to Jewish civil law, and his many students diligently collected his customs, responsa and rulings, often comparing them with the material in the important Spanish codes of Jewish law. Unlike the explanatory commentaries, such as Rashi's, the Tosafot do not attempt to provide a full elucidation of the Talmud text. Rather they focus on particular issues in the Talmud or in Rashi's commentary which they explore in depth. They often propose alternative readings or interpretations to the ones presented by Rashi.
Subject: Question 3.21: What is the relationship of the Tosefta to the Talmuds? Answer: Both Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi mostly ignore the Tosefta. The Babylonian and the Jerusalem gemaras to the Mishna usually proceed independently of material contained in the Tosefta. The only explicit quotation of the Tosefta in the Talmuds is in Masekhot Yoma, 70A. However, many baraitot (authoritative legal material that was not redacted as part of the Mishna) quoted in the gemara correspond very closely to teachings in the Tosefta, agreeing in substance but differing in wording. Many rabbis in the gemara discuss a problem that seems already to have been solved in the Tosefta. The question is, are they unfamiliar with the Tosefta, or was the Tosefta considered non-authoritative, or were they simply unable to recall the Tosefta? The complete Hebrew text of the Tosefta is appended to the backs of Hebrew versions of the Talmud. An English translation by Jacob Neusner is available. There are also translations of complete Tosefta chapters available in different scholarly works.
Subject: Question 3.22: What are Baraitot? Answer: Any authoritative legal material that was not redacted as part of the Mishna is known as Baraitot. Often the Gemara (main part of the Talmud) will quote a legal source outside the Mishna; This is a quoting of a baraita. Everything in the Tosefta is Baraita by definition, although there is much material that is considered Baraita that is from outside the Tosefta. The word 'baraita' means 'external teaching'.
Subject: Question 3.23: What are the extra-canonical (minor) tractates? Answer: At the end of the Order Neziqin of BT, one finds a number of minor tractates: 1. Avot de Rabbi Nathan. This is found in two versions, one with 41 chapters, another has 48. 2. Soferim. There is a BT version of this, as well as a JT version. 3. Eyvel Rabbati. This tractate about laws and customs pertaining to dying and mourning is sometimes euphemistically called 'Semakhot' (rejoicing) by Rashi and others. 4. Kalah. Discusses engagement, marriage and sex. 5. Derekh Eretz Rabbah. This phrase literally means 'The Ways of the World', but is taken to mean deportment, manners and behavior. 6. Derekh Eretz Zutta. Addresses to scholars, it is a collection of maxims urging self examination and modesty. 7. Pereq haShalom. 8. Sefer Torah. Regulations about writing Torah scrolls. 9. Mezuzah 10. Tefillin 11. Tzitzit 12. Avadim. Slaves, or more accurately, indentured servants. 13. Gerim. Converts to Judaism. 14. Kutim. Samaritans.
Subject: Question 3.24: What is a Midrash? Answer: Dr. Jacob Neusner explains that the word 'Midrash' is based on a Hebrew word meaning 'interpretation' or 'exegesis'. He shows that the term 'Midrash' has three main usages: 1. The term 'Midrash' can refer to a particular way of reading and interpreting a biblical verse. Thus we may say that the ancient rabbis provided Midrash to Scripture. This does not mean that any interpretation of scripture is automatically true rabbinical Midrash. In fact, most of what people call 'Modern Midrash' has nothing to do with the classical modes of literary exegesis that guided the rabbis. Commentary and Midrash are two different things! In order to get a good idea of what classical rabbinic Midrash really is, one has to actually study it; No two or three sentence definition can accurately define the structure of Midrash. 2. The term 'Midrash' can refer to a book - a compilation of Midrashic teachings. Thus one can say that "Genesis Rabbah" is a book that is a compilation of Midrash readings on the book of Genesis. 3. The term 'Midrash' can refer to a particular verse and its interpretation. Thus one can say that "The Midrash on the verse Genesis 1:1 says that...[and some Midrashic interpretation of the verse would go here]. Dr. Charles T. Davis (Appalachian Statue University, Philosophy and Religion Department, NC) has prepared a [5]summary of the definition and features of Midrash, based on Rabbi Burton Visotzky's "Reading the Bible". This summary says that once a canon (i.e., approved scriptural text) is closed, the problem facing the community is the problem of "searching out" the canon. Midrash is a method of reading the Bible as an Eternal text, and is the result of applying a set of hermeneutical principles evolved by the community to guide one in reading the canon, in order to focus one's reading. The ultimate goal of midrash is to "search out" the fullness of what was spoken by the Divine Voice. In developing midrash, there are two schools of thought on how to handle the language of Torah. One is that the language is the language of human discourse, and is subject to the same redundancies and occasional verbiage that we all encounter in desultory conversation. The other view holds that since Scripture is the Word of G@d, no word is superfluous. Every repetition, every apparent mistake, every peculiar feature of arrangement or order has meaning. Midrash minimizes the authority of the wording of the text as communication, normal language. It places the focus on the reader and the personal struggle of the reader to reach an acceptable moral application of the text. While it is always governed by the wording of the text, it allows for the reader to project his or her inner struggle into the text. This allows for some very powerful and moving interpretations which, to the ordinary user of language, seem to have very little connection with the text. The great weakness of this method is that it always threatens to replace the text with an outpouring of personal reflection. At its best it requires the presence of mystical insight not given to all readers. Additional reading on Midrash may be found in the [6]Midrash Reading List.
Subject: Question 3.25: What are Halakhic (or Tannaitic) Midrashim? Answer: These are exegetical [5]midrashim on the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, primarily legal. They establish the Tanakh (Hebrew bible) as the source of Halakha.
Subject: Question 3.26: What are the main Halakhic Midrashim? Answer: Mekhilta. The Mekhilta is an important commentary on Exodus. It is essential to note that there are two separate versions of this midrash collection. One is "Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael" and the other is "Mekhilta de Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai". The former is the one that most Jews use today, but the latter is the text that was used by many medieval Jewish authorities. While the latter (ben Yohai) text was popularly circulated in manuscript form from the 11th to 16th centuries, it was lost for all practical purposes until it was rediscovered and printed in the 19th century. * Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael. This is a halakhic commentary on Exodus, concentrating on the legal sections, from Exodus 12 to 35. It derives halakha from Biblical verses. This midrash collection was redacted into its final form around the 3rd or 4th century CE; its contents indicate that its sources are some of the oldest midrashim, dating back possibly to the time of Rabbi Akiva. The midrash on Exodus that was known to the Amoraim is not the same as our current mekhilta; their version was only the core of what later grew into the present form. * Mekhilta de Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai. Based on the same core material as Mekhlita de Rabbi Ishmael, it followed a second route of commentary and editing, and eventually emerged as a distinct work. The Mekhlita de Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai is an exegetical midrash on Exodus 3 to 35, and is very roughly dated to near the 4th century CE. Sifra. A comprehensive halakhic commentary on Vayikra (Leviticus), which works through all of Leviticus verse by verse. References in the Talmud to the Sifra are ambiguous; It is uncertain whether the texts mentioned in the Talmud are to an earlier version of our Sifra, or to the sources that the Sifra also drew upon. However, we do know that the references to the Sifra from the time of the Geonim and after are to the text that is extant today. The core of this text developed in the mid-3rd century as a critique and commentary of the Mishnah, although subsequent additions and editing went on for some time afterwards. * Sifre Numbers. A mainly halakhic midrash on Bamidbar (Numbers). It also includes a long haggadic piece in sections 78-106. References in the Talmud, and in the later Geonic literature, indicate that the original core of Sifre was on Numbers, Exodus and Deuteronomy. However, transmission of the text was imperfect, and by the middle ages, only the commentary on Numbers and Deuteronomy remained. The core material was redacted around the middle of the 3rd century. * Sifre Zutta (The small Sifre). A Halakhic commentary on Bamidbar (Numbers). The text of this midrash is only partially preserved in medieval works, while other portions were discovered by Solomon Schecter in his research in the famed Cairo Geniza. It seems to be older than most other midrash, coming from the early 3rd century. Terminology alert: Maimonides refers to this work as Mekhlita (de rabbi Ishamel) in his Sefer Ha'Mitzvot. * Sifre Deuteronomy. An exegetical and halakhic midrash on Deuteronomy. Redacted near the late 3rd century. Midrash Tannaim (also known as Mekhilta on Deuteronomy). This was a Halakhic midrash on Deuteronomy, of which only fragments exist today. Only portions of it can be reconstructed from quotes in other extant works, including Genizah fragments.
Subject: Question 3.27: What are the main Exegetical Midrashim? Answer: * Genesis Rabbah (Bereshit Rabbah). A midrash on Genesis, it offers explanations of words and sentences and haggadic interpretations and expositions, many of which are only loosely tied to the text. It is often interlaced with maxims and parables. Its redactor drew upon earlier rabbinic sources, including the Mishna, Tosefta, the halakhic midrashim the Targums. Genesis Rabbah also apparently drew upon a version of Talmud Yerushalmi that resembles, yet was not identical to, the text that survived to present times. It was redacted sometime in the early 5th century. * Lamentations Rabbah (Eichah Rabbah). An exegetical midrash on Eichah (Lamentations). It contains verse by verse expositions, simple lexical explanations and also many parables and stories. It contains many stories about the destruction of the Temple, the crises under Trajan and Hadrian, and the Bar Kokhba revolt. It draws upon the Mishna, Tosefta, Mekhilta, Sifra and Sifre. Lamentations Rabbah has been transmitted in two versions. One edition is represented by the 1st printed edition, 1519 Pesaro; the other is the Buber edition, based on manuscript J.I.4 from the Biblioteca Casanata in Rome. This latter version (i.e. Buber) is quoted by the Shulkhan Aurkh, as well as medieval Jewish authorities. It was probably redacted sometime in the 5th century.
Subject: Question 3.28: What are the main Homiletic Midrashim? Answer: Leviticus Rabbah (Vayikra Rabbah) This consists of 36 homilies on Leviticus, and was redacted sometime between 400 and 500 CE. Pesiqta de Rab Kahana (Verses of Rabbi Kahana) For a long time this work was only known by separate quotations, although recent scholarship has reconstructed the content and structure by piecing together more recently discovered manuscripts and fragments from the Cairo Genizah. This book is a homiletic midrash for the readings on the festivals and Sabbaths. The material contained within it was probably written between 500 and 700 CE. Pesiqta Rabbata A collection of sermons for the festivals and Sabbaths. It may have been written sometime in the 6th or 7th century, but a more accurate dating still is impossible. Tankhuma (Yelamdenu) A homiletic midrash on the whole Torah. It probably was redacted around 400 CE. Devarim (Deuteronomy) Rabbah Consists of 27 self contained homilies that relate to Deuteronomy. Its core material was written before 400 CE, but later material was added until its redaction around 800 CE. Shmot (Exodus) Rabbah The first part is an exegetical midrash on Exodus, while the second part is a homiletic midrash. It was redacted sometime before the 12th century, although it contains much older material. Bamidbar (Numbers) Rabbah A haggadic and homiletic midrash on Numbers. Although its final form was reached around the 12th century, most of the material is probably from the 8th century.
Subject: Question 3.29: What are the Midrashim on the Five Megillot (aka The So-Called Rabbot)? Answer: Lamentations Rabbah As noted in Section [5]3.27, Lamentations Rabbah is exegetical midrash on Eichah (Lamentations). It contains verse by verse expositions, simple lexical explanations and also many parables and stories. It contains many stories about the destruction of the Temple, the crises under Trajan and Hadrian, and the Bar Kokhba revolt. It draws upon the Mishna, Tosefta, Mekhilta, Sifra and Sifre. Midrash Shir haShirim (Song of Songs Rabbah) An allegorical interpretation of 'Song of Songs'. Written sometime between the 3rd and 6th century. Midrash Ruth Exposition of the book of Ruth, redacted around 500. Midrash Kohelet (Ecclesiastes Rabbah) An exposition of the book of Ecclesiastes, written in the 8th century. Midrash Ester (Haggadat Megillah) An exposition of the book of Ester, written around 500 CE.
Subject: Question 3.30: What are some other important Haggadic works? Answer: Megillat Ta'anit A list from the time of the Second Temple describing 36 days on which fasting is not permitted because of the joyous events that occurred on those days. The main text is from the 1st century, while the commentary is post-Talmudic. Seder Olam Rabbah (Seder Olam) Traditionally written by Tannaitic Rabbi Yose ben Halafta. It covers topics from the Creation to the construction of the Second Temple. Seder Olam Zutta This book draws up a list of 89 generations from Abraham to the exile, and then to the Talmudic period. Not written before the 8th century. Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer (Baraita de Rabbi Eliezer) Contains 54 chapters on the life of Rabbi Eliezer, and most of the Torah. It is nor a midrash in the real sense of the word, but is more a coherent biblical story. Dates from the 8th century. Josippon A history of the Jews from the fall of Babylonia to the destruction of the Second Temple. Written in 953 CE by an anonymous author in Southern Italy, based on many historical records, but mainly the works of the Roman Jew, Josephus. Sefer haYashar (Toldot Adam) "The Book of The Upright" presents a view of history from Adam and Eve to the Exodus from Egypt. Written sometime between the 12th and 16th centuries. Mesillas Yesharim Mesilas Yesharim is a guide to character improvement written by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (a/k/a the Ramchal, after his initials). He lived in the 18th cent, born in Italy but spending most of his life in Amsterdam. Professionally, he was a gem cutter. The Ramchal bases the structure of Mesilas Yesharim on a progression of personality traits listed by the tanna (mishnaic era rabbi) Rabbi Pinchas ben Ya'ir (quoted in Tr. Avodah Zarah 20a). For each trait, he has one chapter defining the trait, sometimes he has a second defining subcategories of it, and finally advice for how to acquire it. The Ramchal starts with Watchfulness, and makes his way to aquiring Holiness. A complete translation can be found at: [5]
Subject: Question 3.31: What is the Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Creation)? Answer: The best translation and commentary on this is by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. "Sefer Yetzirah", published by Jacob Aronson. It includes the complete Hebrew text of all versions of this book, a clear commentary with generous commentary and explanation, and in depth discussions of many areas of Kabbalah with clear and lucid explanations and diagrams. From the introduction: The Sefer Yetzirah is without question the oldest and most mysterious of all Kabbalistic texts. The first commentaries on this book were written in the 10th century, and the text itself is quoted as early as the sixth century. So ancient is this book that its origins are no longer accessible to historians. Careful study indicates that it is a meditative text with magical overtones. Talmudic traditions indicate that it could be used to create living creatures, including the Golem! The Sefer Yetzirah is a small and concise book, only 1300 words long in the short version and 2500 words long in the long version. The first chapter discusses the Sefirot; The second chapter is a discussion of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and the 231 gates; Chapters three to five discuss the divisions of the letters in relation to astrology. The text was deliberately written in a fashion so that it would be meaningless to those who read it without an extensive background in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Midrash. To guide the novice, Rabbi Kaplan takes great care to introduce the necessary knowledge to the reader, making it accessible for the very first time to English speakers without a Kabbalistic background.
Subject: Question 3.32: What is Sefer haBahir, The Bahir (The Book of Illumination)? Answer: The Bahir is one of the oldest and most important of all Kabbalistic texts. Until the publication of the Zohar, the Bahir was the most influential source of Kabbalistic teachings. It is quoted in virtually every major Kabbalistic work and is cited numerous times by the Ramban in his commentary on the Torah. It is also paraphrased and quoted many times in the Zohar. The name 'Bahir' literally means 'brilliant' or 'Illumination', and is derived from the first verse quoted in the text of the Bahir "And now they do not see the light, it is brilliant [bahir] in the skies", which itself is a quote from the book of Job (37:21). This book is also called "The Midrash of Rabbi Nehuniah ben haKana". Although the Bahir is a fairly small book, 12,000 words in all, it was very highly esteemed. It was first published in Provence in 1176. Most Kabbalists ascribe authorship to Rabbi Nehuniah ben haKana, a Talmudic sage of the first century. One of the most important concepts revealed in it is that of the ten Sefirot. Also discussed are the opening verses of Genesis and their true meaning; The mystical aspects of the Hebrew alphabet; A discussion of Gilgul [reincarnation]; The 32 paths of Wisdom, and the Tzimtum, among other topics.
Subject: Question 3.33: What is The Zohar? Answer: The Zohar [radiance] is the greatest classic of Jewish mysticism. It is a mystical commentary on the Torah, written in Aramaic, and is purported to be the teachings of the 2nd century Palestinian Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai. Legend relates that during a time of Roman persecution, Rabbi Shimon hid in a cave for 13 years, studying Torah with his son; During this time he is said to have been inspired by G@d to write the Zohar. However, there is no real mention of this book in any Jewish literature until the 13th century. In the 13th century, a Spanish Jew by the name of Moshe de Leon claimed to discover the text of the Zohar, and the text was subsequently published and distributed throughout the Jewish world. However, there is a school of thought (based on the writings of historian Gershom Scholem) that de Leon himself was the most likely author of the Zohar. Among other things, Scholem noticed the Zohar's frequent errors in Aramaic grammar and its highly suspicious traces of Spanish words and sentence patterns. This is still highly disputed by most (but not all) Orthodox Jews. Whoever the author is, the content of the book is not fraudulent. It definitely is based on older works, and it was a common practice to ascribe the authorship of a document to an ancient rabbi in order to give the document more weight. The Zohar contains and elaborates upon much of the material found in 'Sefer Yetzirah' and 'Sefer Bahir', and without question is the Kabbalistic work par excellance.
Subject: Question 3.34: What are the Major Codes of Jewish Law? Answer: * The Rif (Hilkhot of Rav Alfassi). Author: Yitchak Alfassi * Mishneh Torah (Yad Ha-Hazaqah). Author: Maimonides * Sefer Mitzvot Gadol. Author: Moses ben Jacob * Arba'ah Turim (The Tur). Author: Jacob ben Asher * Shulkhan Arukh. Author: Joseph Karo * Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh. Author: Shlomo Ganzfried * Mishnah Berurah. Author: R'Israel Meir Kagan
Subject: Question 3.35: What is the Rif (Hilchos of Rav Alfassi)? Answer: R. Yitchak Alfassi lived from 1013 to 1103. Early on he established a yeshiva in Fez, Morocco, but was forced to flee to Spain in 1088, and eventually established a yeshiva in Lucena that became the primary Torah center for Spain. His major work, entitled Hilchos of Rav Alfassi, is more commonly referred to as the Rif, and is a summation of all the halakhic material in the Talmud. The Rif only quotes that portion of Talmudic dialogue that is pertinent today, omitting all halachot that are no longer relevant after the destruction of the Second Temple, such as the sacrificial service.
Subject: Question 3.36: What is the Mishneh Torah (Yad Ha-Hazaqah , Sefer Mehoqeq)? Answer: Moses Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, usually referred to in Hebrew by the acronym "Rambam") was one of the towering figures in medieval intellectual and religious life. In addition to his law code, he excelled in the fields of philosophy, science, medicine, exegesis and communal leadership. Though born in Spain, in his youth his family fled religious persecution, settling in Egypt. Maimonides' literary output includes: a work on philosophical logic; an Arabic commentary to the Mishnah; an enumeration of the 613 precepts of the Torah; the Mishneh Torah law code; the Arabic philosophical treatise The Guide of the Perplexed; and many letters and responsa addressed to various Jewish communities. Maimonides lived from 1138 to 1204. He spent ten full years compiling the Mishneh Torah, which he continued to revise throughout his lifetime. The term "Mishneh Torah" means "The Second Law" and is the name used in the Bible itself to designate the book of Deuteronomy, which is a kind summary or review of the rest of the Torah. Maimonides's Mishneh Torah was intended to be a summary of the entire body of Jewish religious law. The Mishneh Torah is sometimes referred to as the Yad Ha-Hazaqah, "the mighty arm." This is a play on the numerological value of the Hebrew word for arm, "yad," which is 14, equal to the number of volumes in this code. Maimonides actually referred to the book as "Sefer Mehoqeq" ("The Book of Legislation"), a title which is rarely employed. The Mishneh Torah is composed in Rabbinic Hebrew, after the style of the Mishnah. It is divided up into fourteen general sections (similar to the "orders" of the Mishnah), each of which is further subdivided into books (like tractates), and then into numbered chapters and laws. Some of the distinctive features of the Mishneh Torah are the following: * It encompasses the full range of Jewish law, as formulated for all ages and places. Most other Jewish law codes confined themselves to laws that were in force in their own times and lands, thereby excluding rules that apply only in the Land of Israel, under an independent Jewish kingdom, or that could not be observed following the destruction of the Temple. * It completely reorganizes and reformulates the laws in a clear and logical system. Earlier codes had followed the Talmud's sometimes haphazard arrangement with only very few attempts to improve on that order. * It presents the normative rulings without any discussion or explanation of how the decisions were reached. * It contains a section on systematic philosophical theology, derived largely from Aristotelian science and metaphysics, which it regards as the most important component of Jewish law. Most other Jewish codes avoided mixing creed and religious law; and Maimonides' interpretation of Jewish religion in terms of Greek ideas aroused much opposition. An online version of Mishneh Torah, according to the Yemenite manuscripts, may be found at [5] Immanuel O'Levy's translation of the Rambam's entire Sefer Mada (Book of Knowledge) can be found on Jon Baker's web site at [6]
Subject: Question 3.37: What is the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (The Semag)? Answer: This title translates as "The Great Book of Commandments" and was written by Rabbi Moses ben Jacob of Coucy'. Rabbi ben Jacob lived in the first half of the 13th century, Coucy, France. This work--usually designated by its acronym, the Semag--classifies Jewish law according to the traditional enumeration of 613 commandments. The work is divided into two sections. The first deals with the 365 negative precepts of the Torah, and the second with the 248 positive precepts. References to the Semag are by Section (Positive or Negative) and Commandment Number within each section.
Subject: Question 3.38: What is the Arba'ah Turim (The Tur, The Four Rows)? Answer: The Arba'ah Turim was written by Rabbi Jacob ben Asher. He is also sometimes known as The Tur (after the title of his most famous work) or as "Ba'al Ha'Turim [Master of the Turim]. He lived from 1270 to 1343, in Toledo, Spain. Unlike Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, the Arba'ah Turim covers only those areas of Jewish religious law that were in force in the author's time; it was written to be a halachic guide to those halachot relevent to people living outside of Israel in a time where there is no Temple. The Mishneh Torah was designed to be a recapitulation of everything of the Oral Torah a common man ought to learn, including all of halachah and much of aggadah (non-halachic teachings). The Mishneh Torah is therefore wider in scope. Rabbi Jacob did not deal with criminal law, let alone with the sacrifices or the Zera'im (agricultural precepts that could be observed only in the Holy Land.) In the Tur, the code is divided into four main topics, each of which is divided into a sequence of numbered paragraphs. This roughly follows the Mishnah, which has six orders: Zera'im (Seeds; agricultural laws); Mo'ed (holidays); Nashim (Women and marriage); Neziqim (tort and fisal laws); Qodshim (sacred things; sacrifices, kosher, and other such topics); Taharos (ritual purity). Not all of these are within the Tur's scope: in fact, for some order, only a small part apply: only a small part of Zera'im, the bit about blessings and the Shema (Tr Berachot), and only a small part of Taharos. If you fold these into the adjacent orders, you have the origin of the Four Turim. The four "rows" are: 1. Orah Hayyim - "The Path of Life". This section deals with worship and ritual observance in the home and synagogue, through the course of the day, the weekly sabbath and the festival cycle. 2. Yoreh De'ah - "Teach Knowledge". This section deals with assorted ritual prohibitions, especially dietary laws and regulations concerning menstrual impurity. 3. Even Ha-'Ezer - "The Rock of the Helpmate". This section deals with marriage, divorce and other issues in family law. 4. Hoshen Mishpat - "The Breastplate of Judgment". This section deals with the administration and adjudication of civil law. Within each Tur, the topics are broken down into subtopics, which are then broken down into sections (simanim) and laws (se'ifim). The structure down to the simanim is copied by the Shulchan Aruch and therefore played a great role in how halachic study is organized. Another departure from Maimonides' precedent was the fact that the Tur did not limit itself to recording the normative positions, but compared the various opinions on any disputed point. The influence of the Arba'ah Turim is thus perceptible in its integration of the Franco-German and Spanish legal traditions, as well as in its fourfold structure, which was later adopted by Rabbi Joseph Caro's Shulkhan Arukh, and remains the most widely used structure for the organization of law codes and responsa.
Subject: Question 3.39: What is the Shulkhan Arukh? Answer: Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488 - 1575) made his greatest contribution to Jewish law by spending twenty years compiling an enormous halakhic work, the Beit Yosef. The Beit Yosef is a huge commentary on the Tur in which he clarifies the opinions of authorities who lived after the time of Rabbi Yaakov. However, a work was needed that would let a student determine Jewish law without having to wade through all of the voluminous and complex literature of the Talmud, the law codes and their commentaries. Rabbi Karo set out to solve this problem, and finally wrote The Shulkhan Arukh (literally, The Set Table) as a concise collection of the law brought in his larger work, the Beis Yosef. In writing the Shulkhan Arukh, Rabbi Yosef followed the chapter divisions of the Tur, although he innovated by breaking each section up into separate paragraphs for each law.
Subject: Question 3.40: What is the Hamappah of Rabbi Moshe Isserles? Answer: Rabbi Moshe Isserles, also known as the Rama, lived in Cracow from 1525 to 1572. He noted that the Shulkhan Arukh was based almost entirely on Sephardic tradition, and thus set out to create a series of glosses to be appended to the text of the Shulkhan Arukh for all instances where Sephardi and Ashkenazi customs differed. The short comments of the Rama are incorporated into the body of the Shulkhan Arukh and are printed in Rashi script. He referred to his comments as a 'mappah', which means tablecloth [for the set table].
Subject: Question 3.41: What is the Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh? Answer: This is a short, concise digest of halachah compiled by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried (Hungary 1804 to 1886). He intended his work for mostly uneducated laymen, and therefore did not cite sources for his rulings nor did he include any laws that were not useful in the daily life of the average Jew. This book became immensely popular after its publication due to its simplicity. This work is not binding in the same way as the Mishneh Torah or the Shulkhan Arukh. Note that in Israel in most religious public schools, Bnei Akiva Yeshivot and Ulpanot they have ceased to use the Kitzur and are using the Kitzur Makor Chaim by Rabbi Haim David Halevy. Rabbi HaLevy was born around 1926, and is the Chief Rabbi of Tel-Aviv Yaffo. His works include: * Beyn Yisrael La'Amim. Between Israel and the nations * Dat U'Medina. Religion and Statehood * Mafteychot HaZohar Ve'ra'ayonotav. Indexes to the Zohar and its ideas. * Makor Hayim (Fountain of Life) (5 vol.). The books contain both the Halachot from Orach Haim plus an introduction to each chapter that contains the joint Halach/Agadah roots: Agadah, Mussar, Mahshavah etc., of each halacha. * Assey L'cha Rav (9 parts). A collection of responsa that includes modern questions such as Life after Death, Meditation, Martial Arts, and other questions and answers. All answers are presented clearly and the answers are intended for experts and layman alike. Both Sephardi and Ashkenazi sides of the issues are presented. * Kizur Shulchan Aruch. Similar to the Ginzberg kizzur except that it contains both Sephardi and Ashkenazi minhag where relevant. * Makor Chaim L'bat Yisrael. A concise edition of the halachot relevant especially to women. Includes an introduction to each chapter that gives the joint Halacha/Agada (see above) roots. Brings both Sephardi and Ahskenazi minhag where relevant.
Subject: Question 3.42: What is the Mishnah Berurah? Answer: This is a commentary on the Shulkhan Arukh by Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, better known as The Chofetz Chaim. (Poland, 1838 to 1933). Although he never held a formal position as a rabbi, hundreds of students flocked to his home in Radin. Eventually a yeshiva was established that Rabbi Meir supported. The Mishnah Berurah has become the authoritative halakhic guide for some segments of Ashkenazic Jewry. However, it is not accepted as an authoritative code by other segments, including many Chassidim and some Litvaks.
Subject: Question 3.43: What Other Codes of Jewish Law Are Used by Non- Orthodox Jewish Movements? Answer: Conservative Judaism The current guide to Jewish Law as understood by the Conservative movement was written by Rabbi Isaac Klein in the 1970s. His "Guide to Jewish Law" is a comprehensive guide book to the Conservative understanding of Jewish law based upon the previous law codes, including the Mishneh Torah, The Tur, The Shulkhan Arukh, and the Mishneh Berurah. The book also includes the decisions of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly and the Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards. The goal of Rabbi Klein's work was to reflect the collective understanding of Halakha by the Conservative movement. Reform: Although not a formal guide to Jewish Law, the Central Conference of American Rabbis has published "Gates of Mitzvah" and "Gates of the Seasons" as guidance on mitzvot that are critical to the life of a Reform Jew. More information may be found in the [5]Reform Reading List.
Subject: Question 3.44: What is the Meaning of 'All is Futile' from the beginning of Ecclesiastes? Answer: The orginal Hebrew word (hevel) which you translate as "futile" is better translated to mean "absurd". Hevel is also the word for "vapour" or "mist", so King Solomon's point is that things of this temporal world are as short-lived and thin as vapour, and hence absurd. He means to contrast them to spiritual things that are immortal and holy, as well as more substantial and real. Interestingly enough, we take spiritual things to be vapourous and insubstantial, and worldly things to be substantial and more real. But King Solomon's point is that the opposite is true. As such, the word does nothing to suggest "futility" whatsoever; instead, it speaks to a true and bold hope based on faith in things spiritual-- most especially G-d Almighty.
Subject: Question 3.45: What does it mean in the psalm of Habakkuk when it says that G-d hides His power? Answer: The concept of G-d hiding Himself, has a long tradition in Jewish thought. Basically, the idea revolves around the difference between obvious acts of G-d (i.e., things that violate the rules of nature) and subtle acts of G-d (things that are directed by G-d, but follow all the rules of nature). As examples, consider the Jews saved from Egypt with the sea being split, and compare it to the way the Jews are saved from the Persian empire in the story of Esther. Jewish commentaries point out that G-d's name does not appear in the book of Esther, and yet it is presented as a miraculous event. The Talmud points to Deuteronomy 31:18 as a general description of this phenomena. There, G-d says "I will hide my face". With that as a background, the verse in Habakuk can be understood in a number of ways. Rashi--one of the foremost jewish biblical scholars--sees the verse as referring to the change that took place with the revelation at Sinai, for until that time, G-d was hidden from the world.
Subject: Question 3.46: What is meant by G-d's throne and the Serphim worshiping him in Isaiah 6:1-6? Answer: The "Merkavah" (Divine "Chariot") visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel are difficult to understand; in fact, it is hard to believe that any non-prophet can honestly claim to understand them. That said, we can eek out odds and ends that have more obvious meanings. A prophet experiences something of the underlying reality, of heaven. Being a person, his mind naturally maps these experiences into visions. Metaphors. Much the way the rest of us map ideas into dreams. Man relates to G-d in many ways, among them as a subject to a King. Therefore, when a prophet sees a vision about G-d, it is quite logical that he would see a throne. A large imposing throne that captures the attention of the viewer, since the prophet obviously can't form a vision that represents G-d Himself. So you'll notice that in the vision, He never ends up "looking at" the Occupant. The commentaries relate that the "Throne" is on a chariot because G-d was preparing to join Israel in their exile. Which is why in that verse in Kings, Micaiah described a "Throne" but no chariot. The exile wasn't yet imminant. The three kinds of angel described in Ezekiel's more elaborate description of the vision can be understood in the following manner (among others): The ofanim (wheels) are the archetype machines. They represent the spiritual forces behind man-made things. The chayos are named for undomesticated animals, which in turn are called "chayah"--living thing; life for its own sake. The contrast to ofanim is stark. Chayos are the spiritual forces behind nature. They come together and praise G-d, lifting themselves to the level of the seraphim. Saraph is to burn. Fire, the least tangible of things, the universal representation of the spiritual. Man, by proper utilization of the artificial and natural, can elevate them until they too sing the glory of G-d no less than do the obviously spiritual. Holy, holy, holy is the G-d of Hosts. Holiness means being set aside for a purpose. Usually we speak of "kadosh le-"; that is, the item being santified to something. G-d Himself is as separate from everything else as possible, and works entirely toward His own Goal. These hosts of forces are what are embodied as angels "to His left and to His right". "G-d of Hosts" refers to the G-d who is Master of all the forces throughout existance. The Targum, a 1st century CE commentary and Aramaic translation renders the verse: Holy in heaven (the "there-ness") on high, the abode of his Presence Holy on earth, the work of His Might, Holy for ever, until the ends of time G-d of Hosts, the whole universe is filled with His dear Emanation.
Subject: Question 3.47: Why is G-d referred to in the plural in the book of Genesis? Answer: The plural (for example, in Genesis 1:26) has been the source of wonder for most of the commenators. The following are some of the explanations: * G-d wanted to teach a personality trait to man. Therefore, even though He didn't require their input into the decision, G-d turned to the angels and asked them if they would participate. This act of respect thereby became a fundamental feature of human composition. * There are more than one Hebrew nouns that end in "-im" that are not plural. For example, Mayim (water) and Chayyim (Life). The same is true of Elohim. Sometimes the "-im" ending is used to connote power, not plurality. Whatever the grammatical origin of this word, it is used in the Hebrew Bible as a *singular* noun. * Some scholars view the use of Elohim as a plural that expresses an abstract idea (e.g., zekunim, "old age"; neurim, "time of youth"), so that Elohim would really mean "the Divinity." * It might come from historical usage in the language at the time. It may be derived from Canaanite usage, and the early Israelites would have taken over elohim as a singular noun just as they made their own the rest of the Canaanite language. In the Tell-el-Amarna Letters Pharaoh is often addressed as "my gods [ilaniya] the sun-god." In the ancient Near East of the second half of the second millennium B.C.E. there was a certain trend toward quasi-monotheism, and any god could be given the attributes of any other god, so that an individual god could be addressed as elohai, "my gods" or adonai, "my lords." The early Israelites felt no inconsistency in referring to their sole God in these terms.
Subject: Question 3.48: What is the Mekhilta on Deuteronomy? Answer: Medrashim are compilations of tannaitic material organized as a commentary on the Torah. There are two sorts: medrashei halakhah (halachic medrashim) record tannaitic discussion of the halachos raised by the verses, and medrashei aggadah are the discussions of everything else: theology, philosophy, ethics, the human condition, etc. (Medrashei aggadah are usually composed using stories and metaphore, and gave the word "medrash" a second meaning of stories that embellish those in the text or are about figures known to the authors.) There is also a Mekhilta deRabbi Shim'on bar Yochai, but that is rarely referred to, and therefore people would call it by the full name. It's not "the Mekhilta". This other Mekhilta is sometimes called Mekhilta deVei Rabbi Aqiva (the Mekhilta of the house/school of Rabbi Aqiva) as the identification of the school of the author is more sure than the who in that school actually wrote it. This split is quite relevent as Rabbi Yishma'el and Rabbi Aqiva had very different theories about how the rules of derashah, of associating halakhos with the text by hermeneutic rules, work. Therefore their medrashei halakhah reflect such differences. The two series of medrashei halakhah are: * R' Aqiva's school: + Mekhilta deRabbi Shim'on bar Yochai (on Exodus) + Sifra (on Leviticus: a/k/a Sifra deVei Rav, Toras Kohanim + Sifrei Zuta ("the small sifrei" on Numbers) + Sifrei (Deuteronomy) * R' Yishma'el's school: + Mekhilta (a/k/a Mekhilta deRabbi Yeshima'el, on Exodus) + Sifrei (Numbers) + Mekhilta Devarim (the Mekhilta on Deuteronomy) The traditional publication of the medrashei halakhah includes four books, mixing the two schools: Mekhilta, Sifra, Sifrei (on Numbers) and Sifrei (on Deuteronomy). In fact, the two Sifrei's often get published as a single volume, despite the differnce in style that makes their different origin obvious. A more complete publication would have all seven books, traditionally published in the order: Mekhilta, Mehilta deR' Shim'on bar Yochai, Sifra, Sifrei (Numbers), Sifrei Zuta, Sifrei (Deut), Mekhilta Devarim. The word "mekhilta" is Aramaic, and means "measure" or "rule". The words "sifra" and "sifrei" are conjugations of the root /spr/, meaning "book" or "writing a book". Sometimes the word "sifrei" is used to refer to all 4 books. After Rabbi Yehudah haNasi compiled the Mishnah, organizing halakhah by topic rather than verse, the notion of composing medrashei halakhah fell out of use.
Subject: Question 4.1: What is "Halacha?" How is it determined? Answer: Halacha means "Way" or "Path". Halacha is the application of the Law (Torah) to everyday living. The traditional viewpoint is that Halacha should be decided by those who are most knowledgable in all aspects of Jewish law. Since the Halacha of each generation is decided by its greatest Torah scholars, and the Torah doesn't change, there is usually little change in the Halacha from one generation to the next. The development of Halacha is most evident when new situations arise for which rulings must be made, such as the destruction of the Temple, the development of electricity, and the increasing complexity of modern food processing technology. Since the non-traditional viewpoint is that the the Torah itself was written by people, both the interpretation of the Law and its application are re-evaluated in each generation, using the interpretations of the past to serve primarily as non-binding guidance in how to continue this process. Both viewpoints encourages all Jews to study halacha, and apply it to their daily lives in order that they be brought closer to G-d.
Subject: Question 4.2: Traditionally, what are the levels of halacha? Answer: 1. Minhag. Custom. Custom, although not really part of Halachah, can change. Minhag is any act that the masses, on their own, accept. Any minhag that is against actual Halachah, is called a minhag ta'os, a mistaken minhag. Any that is based on a misunderstanding is a minhag shtus, a foolish custom. These two should not be followed. Any nearly universal minhag is called a Minhag Yisroel, and has most of the stringencies of law. (Yarmulka, and Ma'ariv services are two examples of a Minhag Yisroel.) 2. Din dirabanan. A rabbinic law. These are set up by the rabbinate, instead of the masses, in order to preserve the spirit of the law. For example, Purim and Chanukah. There are 7 new commandments that are entirely rabbinic, bringing the famous total of 613 mitzvot up to 620. 3. Gezeira dirabanan. A rabbinic "fence". These are enacted to prevent a common cause for breaking the act of the law. For example, one may not place food directly on a fire before Shabbat in order to keep it heated during Shabbat. This is a fence around the law against cooking on Shabbat. To prevent the gezeira from being violated, a metal cover, called a blech in Yiddish, is placed on the stove top before Shabbat with the flame (turned to a low setting) under one section and the pot with food placed on the blech. This blech serves as a fence, allowing heating of the food without any danger of violating the law. Note that a "gezeira dirabanan" becomes binding only if it is accepted by the community. 4. P'sak. A rabbinic ruling. This ruling addresses a the questionable area of some law or custom. A p'sak can only be over ruled by another body which is both larger in number, and greater in "chochmah". (The ability to know how to use the facts. Not more knowledgeable book-wise, but more steeped in the Torah weltanschauung.) The distinction between the second and third categories is subtle. In order to be a Din (or Issur, or Melachah) Dirabanan, the prohibited action must be similar in purpose to the permitted one. A gezeira does not even require an action. In the example I gave, it was inaction, leaving the pot where it is, that is prohibited. The category includes things that are similar in means to the prohibited act, and will therefore cause confusion about what is and what isn't okay; and things which will allow people to be caught up in habit, and forget about the prohibition. Only a gezeira may defy an actual Divine law (although a p'sak will often define one), and even so only under specific circumstances. All of the following must be satisfied: * The law being protected is more stringent than the one being violated. This determination isn't easy. * The law is being violated only through inaction. No one is being told to actively violate G-d's commandment. * The law being violated will still be applicable in most situations. It still must exist in some form. On the other hand, a gezeira is less powerful than a normal rabbinic law in that they can not be compounded. One may not make a "fence" for the express purpose of protecting another "fence". A law is considered accepted if it becomes common practice. Any din or gezeira which does not get accepted by the masses in the short run, does not become binding in the long run. Similarly, there are rules for p'sak, but they are violated if the masses choose to follows some other rabbinic body's p'sak. Notice, however, that this is only in the short run. Once a law is accepted, it may only be overruled by p'sak. It cannot just fade into non-practice.
Subject: Question 4.3: Traditionally, what are the different rabbinic eras? Answer: For traditional Torah scholars, the end of each era is marked by a book that gets accepted by the masses as authoritative. This seals the acts of that era as a whole as accepted, authoritative p'sak. Therefore, any ruling by those who live after this era must be supported by an opinion of that era. The first such book (and the first written book of the Oral law) is the [5]Mishna. There are other compilations of the Tanaitic material, the [6]Braisos (Baraitot), the [7]Tosefta, and [8]Midrashai Halakha (Mekhilta, Sifra, and Sifre), but it is the Mishna that marks the end of the Tanaitic era (70-200 CE). It was the Mishna that was accepted by the people. The second is the [9]Babylonian Talmud. The [10]Jerusalem Talmud is less authoritative because it was developed for a shorter time than the Babylonian Talmud. The Talmud marks the end of the Amoraic era (220-500 CE). The next era was the period of the Sabora'im (500-650CE). At this time, the Jewish sages in Persia who were the rabbinic leaders of their time. They contributed much to the finishing of [11]Talmud Bavli; Jews in this area continued to live in a relatively stable environment. In contrast, Jews at this time in Israel were living under the oppressive rule of the Byzantines. There is a Ga'onic era in Jewish history (650-1250CE), but not in Jewish law, since there is no book that was accepted as the end of that era. At this time, Jews were living in Southern Europe and Asia Minor under the often intolerant rule of Christian Kings and clerics. Most Jews lived in the Muslim Arab realm (Israel, North Africa, Babylonia). Despite periods of persecution, Jewish communal and cultural life flowered in this period. The universally recognized centers of Jewish life were in Sura and Pumbeditha (Babylonia); The heads of these law schools were the Geonim, who were consulted on matters of law by Jews throughout the world. The next such book(s) is the [12]Shulchan Aruch (by R' Caro), the authoritative Sephardic resource, and the [13]Mappah (Ramah), which has the Ashkenazic rulings when different (Note that both are in the same book; see the general reading list). This delineated the period of the Rishonim (The First Ones) (1250-1550CE). A Rishon may argue with another Rishon, or with a Ga'on (since there is no Halachic concept of the Gaonic era), but can only argue with an Amora if he has another Amora in his support. He cannot use a Tana that was rejected by the Amora'im as support, since that would be overruling a p'sak of someone greater in chochmah. Most Jews in the period of the Rishonim lived in the Mediterranean basin or in Western Europe under feudal systems. With the decline of both the Muslim and Jewish centers of power in Iraq, there was no single place in the world which was a recognized center for deciding matters of Jewish law and practice. Consequently, the rabbis recognized the need for writing commentaries on the Torah and Talmud and for writing law codes that would allow Jews anywhere in the world to be able to continue living in the Jewish tradition. Anyone after the Shulchan Aruch is called an Acharon (The Last Ones) (1550CE to present). An Acharon can only disagree with a Rishon when he is taking the position of another Rishon. There are strict rules for change. Liberal Jews tend to justify halachic change by ascribing greater authority to present generations (or even to individuals) than to past generations of sages.
Subject: Question 4.4: How can differing halachic rulings all be considered valid? Answer: When both parties agree upon the underlying requirements. For example, rabbis would agree that one may only eat a kosher animal that was slaughtered properly. But they might differ as to the particulars of what constitutes proper kosher slaughtering.
Subject: Question 4.5: How does the Conservative movement deal with Halachic questions? Answer: Conservative Jews view the laws and customs from the various law codes, such as the Mishneh Torah and Shulkhan Arukh, as the basis for binding Jewish law, and allow for law to be modified by today's halakhic authorities. While accepting the dictates of the movement's Rabbinical Assembly as normative, Conservative Jews also accept that rulings of Orthodox and Traditional (i.e., Union for Traditional Judaism) rabbis are legitimate halakhic positions. Jewish law and custom, as followed traditionally, is preserved by Conservative Judaism as much as possible. Changes are not made for their own sake, but rather to deal with an urgent, acute problem, with a preference for lenient ruling over strict ones. This approach is based Talmud Bavli, which states "The strength of a lenient ruling is greater" [Talmud Bavli, Berakhot, 60a] Before giving a halakhic ruling, Conservative Judaism studies the subject in a historic and scientific fashion to determine if the law came from the Torah, the Talmudic sages, the early rabbis (Geonim and Rishonim) or the later rabbis (Acharonim). This is because there is generally more readiness to change a new law or something which is only a custom. Note that Conservative Judaism does not view the Shulkhan Arukh as the ultimate authority in matters of Jewish law and custom. The central halakhic authority in Conservative Judaism is the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), which was founded by the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) in the 1920s. It is composed of 25 rabbis, who are voting members, and five laypeople, who do not vote, but participate fully in deliberations. When any six members vote in favor of a position, that position becomes a validated position of the committee, thus there is the possibility that any issue can generate from one to four official positions. Unanimous decisions become the official position of the Conservative movement. When more than one position is validated, each congregational rabbi functions as the mara de-atra (local rabbinic authority), adopting for their congregation the position he or she considers most compelling. In the overwhelming majority of cases, Conservative rabbis choose among the law committee's validated positions. On rare occasions, an individual rabbi may ignore the committee and act in accordance with his or her own convictions regarding what is halakhically correct. CJLS decisions are not absolutely enforceable on rabbis, except regarding 'standards'. A standard requires an 80% vote of the full membership of the CJLS and a majority vote by the plenum of the Rabbinical Assembly. Willful violations have led to resignations or expulsions from membership of the Rabbinical Assembly (RA). At present, there are four standards: 1. A complete prohibition on rabbis and cantors to officiate in any way at intermarriages. 2. A complete prohibition against officiating at the remarriage of a Jew whose previous marriage has not been halakhically terminated, whether by a halakhic divorce [get], hafka'at Kiddushin [annulment of the marriage], or death. 3. A complete prohibition against taking any action that would intimate that native Jewishness can be confirmed in any way but matrilineal descent. 4. A complete prohibition against supervising a conversion to Judaism that does not include circumcision for males, and immersion in a mikveh for both males and females. The Rabbinical Assembly of Israel (Israeli arm of the RA) has its own decision making body, the Va'ad Halacha. Responsa by both the CJLS and the Va'ad Halacha are equally valid. Due to different social circumstances, the CJLS and the Va'ad do not always come up with the same teshuva. In such a case a rabbi is free to decide which responsa to use. In addition, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) maintains its own list of binding standards for all synagogues associated with the movement. Among other things, these standards mandate observance of the Sabbath and the laws of Kashrut.
Subject: Question 4.6: What is the difference between two Orthodox rabbis who disagree and an Orthodox and a Reform who disagree? Answer: How could two people have two different, logically developed opinions on any issue? :-) In answering this, there are two important points to keep in mind: * Most decisions are not simply bilateral yes/no decisions * Valid interpretations according to traditional hermeneutics that differ in particulars of a particular place/time can survive concurrently (cf. any modern legal system) The Orthodox rabbis would both say that their halachic rulings are in line with the tradition of Torah learning, all the way from Sinai, and that their difference is in details. The Reform rabbi, however, might derive a ruling from other sources of morality, such as secular ethical notions of equality. Reform Rabbi Walter Jacob writes, in Contemporary American Reform Responsa that "Our path in America is clear and our halakhic stance is akin to the pluralism of the past from the days of Hillel and Shammai in the first century through the entire rabbinic period to our own time." Orthodox rabbis would counter that the schools of Hillel and Shammai differed on the particulars of halacha (with the understanding being that the multiplicity of debate was a byproduct of a disucssion of students, not disciples, resulting in flaws of transmission). Thus, the Orthodox scholars believe there was no disagreement over first principles, while Orthodox and Reform differ significantly on major principles, such as Torah being from G-d, and the authority of individuals to decide halacha for themselves.
Subject: Question 4.7: Who is RAMBAM that is mentioned & what are his 13 principles Answer: Moses Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, usually referred to in Hebrew by the acronym "Rambam") was one of the towering figures in medieval intellectual and religious life. In addition to his law code, he excelled in the fields of philosophy, science, medicine, exegesis and communal leadership. Though born in Spain, in his youth his family fled religious persecution, settling in Egypt. Maimonides' literary output includes: a work on philosophical logic; an Arabic commentary to the Mishnah; an enumeration of the 613 precepts of the Torah; the Mishneh Torah law code; the Arabic philosophical treatise The Guide of the Perplexed; and many letters and responsa addressed to various Jewish communities. One of the Rambam's legacies is what has been come to be called the "13 principles of faith". These are not related to any particular observance; rather, they are intended to map out the borders between Judaism and other belief systems (such as Christianity and Islam). Why is this necessary? There are certain laws that apply to our relationships with "apikursim" (from the Greek "epicurean"), minim (heretics), kofrim (deniers) and mumarim (non observant). The first three are defined by belief, so Maimonides wanted to outline the borders between acceptable belief systems, and people in these three classes. According to Maimonides (see Laws of Repentence 3:6-9), these people, while members of the Jewish nation, aren't believers in Judaism. This has halachic import, such as whether they can be counted toward a quorum (minyan) for prayer; whether one can share their wine, etc. It also has metaphysical import: believers in Judaism (including non-Jews who observe the Noachide covenant) are guaranteed a world to come; these people are not. A min (a term also used in the Talmud to refer to early Christians) is one who diverges on the basics of theology: polytheists, deists, atheists, those who believe one should worship G-d via demigods (middle-men), and those who say that god has a body. [According to the Rambam's Guide, the latter is a form of polytheism. He sees it as just a verbal difference between talking about one god who has parts and one pantheon of multiple gods.] The word apikoreis is the Aramaic for Epicurean, as in "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die" and "nothing exists but atoms and the void". Looking at Maimonides' code, he defines "apikoreis" as one who holds any of the following: 1. There is no prophecy 2. Moses' didn't have a special kind of prophecy (since it was Moses who actually conveyed the rules of behavior, both ours and Noachide); or 3. G-d doesn't know what people do. Note that these are related to whether G-d's existance imposes requirements on human behavior (which is why the word relates to Epicurus). Kofrim are those who deny the divine origin of even a single verse of the Torah, or deny the origin of the Oral Torah, and those who say that some part of the Torah was later superceded. So, in summary: the wrong view of G-d makes one a min, the wrong view of how G-d relates to human behavior makes one an apikoreis, and disbelieving part of the Torah makes one a kofeir. Maimonides took these rules and to compose his 13 articles. So, the point of the articles is to give a rational basis to believing that Jewish observance was actually given to us by G-d. The RAMBAM's 13 principles, as expressed in the Artscroll Siddur (pages 178-180) are as follows: 1. G-d's Existence 2. G-d is a complete and total unity 3. G-d is not physical 4. G-d is eternal and the First Source 5. Prayers should be directed to G-d 6. G-d communicates with man 7. Moses' prophecy is unique 8. The entire Torah is G-d-given 9. The Torah is unchangeable 10. G-d knows man's thoughts and deeds 11. Reward and punishment 12. The Messiah will come 13. The dead will live again Some other places to find a more detailed statement of the principles are as follows: * The original, from Maimonides' commentary on the Mishnah: [5] * The Ani Ma'amin liturgical version (shorter): [6] * The Yigdal liturgical poem (even shorter, and might compromise precision in the langauge for poetry): [7] It would take volumes to explain what these mean, but a good "catechism" of Jewish beliefs is the Handbook of Jewish Thought by R' Aryeh Kaplan. See Also: [8]Section 3.36. Torah: What is the Mishneh Torah (Yad Ha-Hazaqah , Sefer Mehoqeq)?
Subject: Question 4.8: Who was Rashi? Answer: Rabbi Shlomo Ben Yitzchak, 1040-1105. Usually called Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki. He was the author of a massive commentary on almost all of Tanach and most of the Talmud. His fame rests not only on the content of his explanations but on their style that remains clear and concise throughout. His commentary has become the most comprehensive and popular in existence and provided the basis for most subsequent studies of the Tanach, Talmud, and Jewish Law. His commentary on Chumash, first printed in 1465, was the first dated Hebrew book, and appears in a special script now know as "Rashi script". His commentaries are considered the standard work without which it is impossible to understand the Talmud. See also: [5]Section 3.18. Torah: What is Rashi's commentary on the Talmud?
Subject: Question 4.9: Who was the Ramban? Answer: Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachmon, Nachmanides, 1194-1270. He wrote a commentary on Torah and halachah, and more than 50 other lucid and logical works. He participated in a disputation (theological argument with the Catholic Church) in Barcelona in 1263; although he won, he was forced to flee Spain, and as a result all future disputations forbade the Jewish participants to answer frankly. At age 72 he settled in Jerusalem, reorganized the Jewish community, and moved to Acco to become head its Jewish community.
Subject: Question 4.10: What is Kabbalah and how can I learn about it? Answer: It's important to differentiate between the popular notion of Kabbalah and the concept within traditional Judaism. In the popular culture, Kabbalah is perceived as a form of magic or the occult, studied for selfish personal gain. This misinformed idea resulted from those who adapted Jewish ideas out of the context of Jewish belief and practice, warping it away from its foundations to their own purposes. These include medieval Christian mystics, neo-pagan groups, and contemporary "new age" movements. Within Judaism, though, Kabbalah is the part of Torah that addresses the process of creation ("Ma'aseh B'raisheet") and the relationship that G-d maintains with creation ("Ma'aseh Merkavah"). As such it is the Torah's inner aspect. Some traditions say that some of the key texts go as far back as the Patriarch Abraham. Parts of Kabbalah, such as the [5]Zohar and Rabbi Moshe Cordovero's "Pardes Rimonim," are accessible, but difficult to understand without a firm grounding in the more basic Jewish sources and an informed teacher. Other parts remain hidden and unavailable to the public. Parts have been committed to print, but others remain as closely held, orally transmitted tradition. The most accessible, traditionally accurate books for English language study of the topic are Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's "Innerspace, Introduction to Kabbalah, Meditation and Prophecy" (Moznaim Publishing, Brooklyn NY), "Meditation and Kabbalah," "Kabbalah and the Bible" (Samuel Weiser and Sons, New York), and "Jewish Meditation" (Schocken, New York). Lubavitcher Chassidim recommend directed study of the Tanya. (Kehot Publications, New York) Additional information may be found in the [6]Mysticism Reading List.
Subject: Question 4.11: Who is allowed to study Kabbalah? Answer: The Kabbalah deals with sensitive topics and the knowledge it offers has been warped, even within the Jewish community. This resulted in severe disruption of the Eastern European Jewish community (for example, the false messiah Shabbtai Tzvi and the Frankists). As a result, the non-Chassidic sages placed a ban on the study of three basic texts until the age of 30, until the age of 40 for general study, and in all cases until one has studied the more basic Jewish sources (Tanakh, Talmud, Halacha) in depth. However, in Sephardic and Chassidic communities, some basic texts are studied even by young folks.
Subject: Question 4.12: Who was Rabbeinu Tam? Answer: Rabbeinu Tam (12th cent) is one of the better known Tosafists, and a grandson of Rashi. His real name was Rabbi Yaakov ben Meir. Yaakov (Jacob) was called in Genesis an "ish tam", a whole/perfect man. In halachic rulings, the Tosafists usually defended Ashkenazi norms, trying to find its basis in the Talmudic texts. Rabbeinu Tam was an exception. Two rulings of his are better known, they serve as an illustration. In both, Rabbeinu Tam disagrees with the opinion of his grandfather. The first was on placement of the mezuzah. Rashi ruled that proper placement is that the parchment be placed vertically. Rabbeinu Tam sided with a horizontal placement. Today, Ashkenazim try to fulfil both opinions by hanging the mezuzah on an angle. Sepharadim follow the opinion attributed to Rashi, which is also born out by the majority of archeological findings. (But they do so because it's the opinion of Maimonides and the Shulchan Aruch.) The better known one was about the proper order of chapters that are placed in tefillin. We follow the opinion of Rashi. However, many Chassidim also wear "Rabbeinu Tam tefillin" (as they are commonly called) afterwards to fulfil his opinion. Some Sephardic kabbalists do as well; while a rare few wear both forms simultaneously! His style of Talmud study was more typical of the Tosafists. They tried to understand the Talmud holistically, typically asking how one discussion ought to be understood given a discussion in another part of the Talmud.
Subject: Question 4.13: What are she'elot u'teshuvot? Answer: "She'eilot" are questions, "teshuvot" are answers. The "u-" prefix means "and". "She'eilot uteshuvot", literally "questions and answers", are responsa. In real yeshiva jargon one would say "shu"t" (pronounced like the word "shoot"), using only the acronym. They're a form of halachic writing written in answer to questions mailed the decisor, although sometimes the question is self-posed. What's nice about shu"t is that the typical format is to provide the reasoning that lead to the conclusion. As opposed to codes, which simply state conclusions.
Subject: Question 4.14: What is the midrash halachah and the midrash agadah? Answer: Medrash is the material associated with the text of the Torah that isn't in the text itself. These can be halachic thoughts or aggadic (non-halachah) ones. The medrashei halachah predate the mishnah, and were the original attempt to record the Oral Torah, and come from the generations right before the Mishnah. There were two schools of medrashei halachah, Rabbi Yishma'el's and Rabbi Akiva's. They had different basic assumptions about the text, and different means of associating rulings to the text. Medrashei Aggadah are generally later recordings, such as Medrash Rabba (the greater medrash; volumes are named "Bereishis Rabba", "Ruth Rabba", and the like) or Yalqut Shim'oni (Simeon's Selections). However, the material in the compilation dates back to the mishnaic era. These are sometimes similar in form to medrashei halachah, deriving things hermeneutically from the text. They are also sometimes written in the form of parables. This is so as to balance the need of recording the Oral Torah during traumatic shifts of exile with the need of keeping the Oral Torah oral. Because so much of medrash is in the form of parables, people loosely use the word "medrash" to refer to aggadic (non-halachic, ie philosophical and ethical) material from the Talmud(s) told in this manner. (Note: "Midrash" is proper Aramaic grammar. "Medrash" is proper Yiddish and yeshiva jargon.)
Subject: How do I obtain copies of the FAQ? Answer: There are a number of different ways to obtain copies of the FAQ: * WWW. If you are reading this on Usenet, and would like to see an online, hyperlinked version, go visit [2] This is the "web" version of the FAQ; the version posted to Usenet is generated from the web version. Note that the version is a copy of the actual master version; if you want to access the master, visit [3] * Email. also provides an autoretriever that allows one to obtain a copy of the FAQ by return Email. To use the autoretriever, you send a retrieval request to [4] with the request in the body of the message. A more reliable way to retrieve these files is through the [5]FAQ autoretriever ([6] For the FAQ, the request has the form: send faq partname For the reading list, the request has the form: send rl partname "Partname" is replaced by the name of the part, as shown in the general index. The following is a short summary of the mapping to partnames for the FAQ: + [7]01-FAQ-intro: Section [8]1: Network and Newsgroup Information. + [9]02-Who-We-Are: Section [10]2: Who We Are + [11]03-Torah-Halacha: Sections [12]3, [13]4: Torah; Halachic Authority + [14]04-Observance: Sections [15]5, [16]6, [17]7, [18]8: Jewish Holidays; Jewish Dietary Law and Kashrut; Sabbath and Holiday Observance; Woman and Marriage + [19]05-Worship: Sections [20]9, [21]10, [22]11: Jewish Worship; Conversion, Intermarriage, and "Who is a Jew?"; Miscellaneous Practice Questions + [23]06-Jewish-Thought: Section [24]12: Jewish Thought + [25]07-Jews-As-Nation: Section [26]13: Jews as a Nation + [27]08-Israel: Section [28]14: Jews and Israel + [29]09-Antisemitism: Sections [30]15, [31]16, [32]17: Churban Europa (The Holocaust); Antisemitism and Rumors about Jews; Countering Missionaries + [33]10-Reform: Section [34]18: Reform/Progressive Judaism + [35]11-Miscellaneous: Sections [36]19, [37]20: Miscellaneous; References and Getting Connected + [38]12-Kids: Section [39]21: Jewish Childrearing Related Questions + [40]mail-order: Mail Order Judaica The following is a short summary of the mapping of partnames for the Reading Lists: + [41]general: Introduction and General. Includes book sources, starting points for beginners, starting points for non-Jewish readers, General Judaism, General Jewish Thought, General Jewish History, Contemporary Judaism, Noachide Laws, Torah and Torah Commentary, Talmud and Talmudic Commentary, Mishnah, Midrash, Halachic Codes, Becoming An Observant Jew, Women and Judaism, and Science and Judaism. + [42]traditional: Traditional Liturgy, Practice, Lifestyle, Holidays. Includes Traditional Liturgy; Traditional Philosophy and Ethics; Prayer; Traditional Practice; The Household; Life, Death, and In-Between; and The Cycle Of Holidays. + [43]mysticism: Kabbalah, Mysticism, and Messianism. Includes Academic and Religious treatments of Kabbalah, Sprituality, and the Jewish notion of the Messiah. + [44]reform: Reform/Progressive Judaism + [45]conservative: Conservative Judaism + [46]reconstructionist: Reconstructionist Judaism + [47]humanistic: Humanistic Judaism (Society for Humanistic Judaism) + [48]chasidism: Chassidism. Includes general information on historical chassidism, as well as specific information on Lubavitch (Chabad), Satmar, Breslaw (Breslov), and other approaches. + [49]zionism: Zionism. Includes Zionism and The Development Of Israel, The Founders, Zionistic Movements, and Judaism in Israel. + [50]antisemitism: Antisemitism. Includes sections on Antisemitism, What Led to The Holocaust, Medieval Oppression, Antisemitism Today (Including Dealing with Hate Groups), Judaism and Christianity, and Judaism, Freemasonry and other rumors. + [51]intermarriage: Intermarriage. Includes sections on "So You're Considering Intermarriage?", The Traditional Viewpoint, Conversion, and Coping With Life As An Intermarried. + [52]childrens: Books for Jewish Children. Includes sections on Birth and Naming, Raising a Child, Family Guidebooks, Upsheren, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, Holiday Books for Children, Liturgy for Children, Bible and Torah for Children, Jewish History for Children, Jewish Theology for Children, Israel, Learning Hebrew, and Jewish Stories. Alternatively, you may send a message to [53] with the following line in the body of the message: send usenet/news.answers/judaism/(portionname) Where (portionname) is replaced by the appropriate subdirectory and filenames; for example, to get the first part of the reading list, one would say: send usenet/news.answers/judaism/reading-lists/general * Anonymous FTP: All portions of the FAQ and of the reading lists are archived on [54] and are available for anonymous FTP from the pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/FAQ directory (URL [55] Similarly, the parts of the reading lists are stored in the pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/reading-lists directory (URL: [56] ts). Note that the archived versions of the FAQ and reading lists are the posted versions; that is, they are each one large ASCII file.
Subject: Who Wrote the FAQ? Answer: The original version of the Frequently Asked Questions was developed by a committee consisting of Mike Allen, Jerry Altzman, Rabbi Charles Arian, Jacob Baltuch (Past Chair), Joseph Berry, Warren Burstein, Stewart Clamen, Daniel Faigin, Avi Feldblum, Rabbi Yaakov Feldman, Itzhak "Jeff" Finger, Gedaliah Friedenberg, Yechezkal Gutfreund, Art Kamlet, Joe Kansun, CAPT Kaye David, Alan Lustiger, Hillel Markowitz, Len Moskowitz, Colin Naturman, Aliza Panitz, Eliot Shimoff, Mark Steinberger, Steven Weintraub, Matthew Wiener, and headed by Robert Levene. The organization and structuring of the lists for posting purposes was done by [2]Daniel Faigin, who is currently maintaining the lists. Other contributors include Aaron Biterman, A. Engler Anderson, Ken Arromdee, Seymour Axelrod, Jonathan Baker, Josh Backon, Micha Berger, Steven M. Bergson, Eli Birnbaum, Shoshana L. Boublil, Kevin Brook, J. Burton, Harvey Cohen, Todd J.Dicker, Michael Dinowitz, Rabbi Jim Egolf, Sean Engelson, Mike Fessler, Menachem Glickman, Amitai Halevi, Walter Hellman, Per Hollander, Miriam Jerris, Robert D. Kaiser, Yosef Kazen, Rabbi Jay Lapidus, Mier Lehrer, Heather Luntz, David Maddison, Arnaldo Mandel, Ilana Manspeizer, Seth Ness, Chris Newport, Daniel Nomy, Jennifer Paquette, Andrew Poe, Alan Pfeffer, Jason Pyeron, Adam Reed, Seth Rosenthall,, David Sheen, Rabbi John Sherwood, Michael Sidlofsky, Michael Slifkin, Frank Smith, Michael Snider, Rabbi Arnold Steibel, Andy Tannenbaum,, Meredith Warshaw, Bill Wadlinger, Arel Weisberg, Dorothy Werner, and Art Werschulz, and the soc.culture.jewish.parenting board. Some material has been derived from other sources on the Internet, such as [3], [4], and [5] Comments and corrections are welcome; please address them to [6] A special thank you... Special thanks for her patience and understanding go to my wife, Karen, who put up with me hiding at the computer for the two months it took to complete the July/August 2000 remodel of the entire soc.culture.jewish FAQ and Reading Lists. If you think the effort was worth it, drop her a note c/o [7] ------------------------------------------------------------ -- Please mail additions or corrections to me at End of SCJ FAQ Part 3 (Torah and Halachic Authority) Digest ************************** -------

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