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Rabbinic Literature

Talmudic literature

MishnahTosefta
Jerusalem TalmudBabylonian Talmud
Minor tractates


Halakhic Midrash

Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael (Exodus)
Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon (Exodus)
Sifra (Leviticus)
Sifre (Numbers & Deuteronomy)
Sifre Zutta (Numbers)
Mekhilta le-Sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy)
Baraita of Rabbi Ishmael


Aggadic Midrash

—— Tannaitic ——
Seder Olam Rabbah
Alphabet of Akiba ben Joseph
Baraita of the Forty-nine Rules
Baraita on the Thirty-two Rules
Baraita on Tabernacle Construction
—— 400–600 ——
Genesis RabbahEichah Rabbah
Pesikta de-Rav Kahana
Esther RabbahMidrash Iyyov
Leviticus RabbahSeder Olam Zutta
Midrash TanhumaMegillat Antiochus
—— 650–900 ——
Avot of Rabbi Natan
Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer
Tanna Devei Eliyahu
Alphabet of Ben-Sira
Kohelet RabbahCanticles Rabbah
Devarim RabbahDevarim Zutta
Pesikta RabbatiMidrash Samuel
Midrash ProverbsRuth Rabbah
Baraita of SamuelTargum sheni
—— 900–1000 ——
Ruth ZutaEichah Zuta
Midrash TehillimMidrash Hashkem
Exodus RabbahCanticles Zutta
—— 1000–1200 ——
Midrash TadsheSefer ha-Yashar
—— Later ——
Yalkut ShimoniYalkut Makiri
Midrash JonahEin Yaakov
Midrash ha-GadolNumbers Rabbah
Smaller midrashim


Rabbinic Targum

—— Torah ——
Targum Onkelos
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan
Fragment TargumTargum Neofiti

—— Nevi'im ——
Targum Jonathan

—— Ketuvim ——
Targum TehillimTargum Mishlei
Targum Iyyov
Targum to the Five Megillot
Targum Sheni to Esther
Targum to Chronicles

The Jerusalem Talmud or Talmud Yerushalmi (Hebrew: תַּלְמוּד יְרוּשָׁלְמִי‎), often the Yerushalmi for short, is a collection of Rabbinic notes about the Jewish Oral tradition as detailed in the 2nd-century Mishnah. Other descriptions are Talmud de-Eretz Yisrael (Talmud of the Land of Israel) or, in some scholarly literature, Palestinian Talmud: these names are considered more accurate by some because, while the work was certainly composed in "the West" (i.e. the Holy Land), it originates from Galilee rather than Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Talmud predates its counterpart, the Babylonian Talmud, by about 200 years and is written in both Hebrew and Aramaic. It includes the core component, the Mishna, finalized by Rabbi Judah the Prince (c. 200 CE) along with the written discussions of generations of rabbis in the Land of Israel (primarily in the academies of Tiberias and Caesarea) which was compiled c. 350-400 CE into a series of books that became the Gemara (גמרא - from gamar: Hebrew "[to] complete"; Aramaic "[to] study"). The Gemara, when combined with the Mishnah, completes the Talmud.

There are two recensions of the Gemara, one compiled by the scholars of the Land of Israel and the other by those of Babylonia (primarily in the academies of Sura and Pumbedita, completed c. 500 CE). The Babylonian Talmud is often seen as more authoritative and is studied much more than the Jerusalem Talmud. In general, the terms "Gemara" or "Talmud," without further qualification, refer to the Babylonian recension.

Historical context Edit

Following the redaction of the Mishnah, many Jewish scholars living in Roman-controlled Syria Palæstina moved to Persia to escape the harsh decrees against Jews enacted by the emperor Hadrian after Bar Kokhba's revolt. The remaining scholars who lived in the Galilee area decided to continue their teaching activity in the learning centers that had existed since Mishnaic times.

Text editions Edit

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia,

"Yerushalmi has not been preserved in its entirety; large portions of it were entirely lost at an early date, while other parts exist only in fragments. The editio princeps (ed. Bomberg, Venice, 1523 et seq.), on which all later editions are based, terminates with the following remark: "Thus far we have found what is contained in this Talmud; and we have endeavored in vain to obtain the missing portions." Of the four manuscripts used for this first edition (comp. the note at the conclusion of Shab. xx. 17d and the passage just cited), only one is now in existence; it is preserved in the library of the University of Leyden (see below). Of the six orders of the Mishnah, the fifth, Ḳodashim, is missing entirely from the Palestinian Talmud, while the sixth, Ṭohorot, contains only the first three chapters of the treatise Niddah (iv. 48d-51b)."

Place and date of composition Edit

The Jerusalem Talmud probably originated in Tiberias in the School of Johanan ben Nappaha. It is a compilation of teachings of the schools of Tiberias, Sepphoris and Caesarea. It is written largely in a western Aramaic dialect that differs from its Babylonian counterpart.

This Talmud is a synopsis of the analysis of the Mishnah that was developed over the course of nearly 200 years by the Academies in Israel (principally those of Tiberias and Caesarea.) Because of their location, the sages of these Academies devoted considerable attention to analysis of the agricultural laws of the Land of Israel. Traditionally, the redaction of this Talmud was thought to have been brought to an abrupt end around 425 C.E., when Theodosius II suppressed the Patriarchate and put an end to the practice of formal scholarly ordination. It was thought that the compilers of the Jerusalem Talmud lacked the time to produce a work of the quality they had intended, and that this is the reason why the gemara do not comment upon the whole Mishnah.[1]

In recent years scholars have come to doubt the causal link between the abolition of the Patriarchate and the seeming incompletion of the final redaction. However, as no evidence exists of Amoraim activity in Palestine after the 370s, it is still considered very likely that the final redaction of the Palestinian Talmud took place in the late fourth or early fifth Century.[2]

Comparison to Babylonian Talmud Edit

There are significant differences between the two Talmud compilations. The language of the Jerusalem Talmud is a western Aramaic dialect which differs from that of the Babylonian. The Talmud Yerushalmi is often fragmentary and difficult to read, even for experienced Talmudists. The redaction of the Talmud Bavli, on the other hand, is more careful and precise. The traditional explanation for this difference was the idea that the redactors of the Jerusalem Talmud had to finish their work abruptly (see above). A more probable explanation is the fact that the Babylonian Talmud was redacted for at least another 200 years, in which a broad discursive framework was created. The law as laid down in the two compilations is basically similar, except in emphasis and in minor details.

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

  • The Jerusalem Talmud covers all the tractates of Zeraim, while the Babylonian Talmud covers only tractate Berachot. The reason might be that most laws from the Orders Zeraim (agricultural laws limited to the land of Israel) had little practical relevance in Babylonia and were therefore not included.[3] The Jerusalem Talmud has a greater focus on the Land of Israel and the Torah's agricultural laws pertaining to the land because it was written in the Land of Israel where the laws applied.
  • The Jerusalem Talmud does not cover the Mishnaic order of Kodashim, which deals with sacrificial rites and laws pertaining to the Temple, while the Babylonian Talmud does cover it. It is not clear why this is, as the laws were not directly applicable in either country following the Temple's 70 CE destruction.
  • In both Talmuds, only one tractate of Tohorot (ritual purity laws related to the Temple and sacrificial system) is examined, since the other tractates deal exclusively with Temple-related laws of ritual purity.

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

Influence of the Jerusalem TalmudEdit

The influence of the Babylonian Talmud has been far greater than that of the Yerushalmi. In the main, this is because the influence and prestige of the Jewish community of Israel steadily declined in contrast with the Babylonian community in the years after the redaction of the Talmud and continuing until the Gaonic era. Furthermore, the editing of the Babylonian Talmud was superior to that of the Jerusalem version, making it more accessible and readily usable.

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

The Babylonian Talmud has traditionally been studied more widely and has had greater influence on the halakhic tradition than the Jerusalem Talmud. A notable exception are the Jewish Romaniotes, who traditionally follow and learn the Jerusalem Talmud.

With the modern Jewish return to the land of Israel, the Jerusalem Talmud has taken on greater relevance and popularity with talmudic and rabbinical scholars. Modern scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries turned to the Yerushalmi as an invaluable source for the history of Judaism and the development of rabbinical law in late antiquity.

There are traditions that hold that in the Messianic Age the Jerusalem Talmud will have priority over the Babylonian. This may be interpreted as meaning that, following the restoration of the Sanhedrin and the line of ordained scholars, the work will be completed and "out of Zion shall go the Law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem".

Translations into English Edit

  • Talmud of the Land of Israel: A Preliminary Translation and Explanation Jacob Neusner, Tzvee Zahavy, others. University of Chicago Press. This translation uses a form-analytical presentation which makes the logical units of discourse easier to identify and follow.
  • Schottenstein Edition of the Yerushalmi Talmud Mesorah/Artscroll. This translation is the counterpart to Mesorah/Artscroll's Schottenstein Edition of the Talmud (i.e. Babylonian Talmud). (n.b. currently incomplete - only some volumes available)
  • The Jerusalem Talmud ed. Heinrich W. Guggenheimer, Walter de Gruyter (Publisher's Website). This edition is only available on Order Zeraim and part of Order Nashim. Contains a bare translation with simple footnotes clarifying only the most problematic points.

All these translations are problematic: Neusner's for its gross and often amateurish inaccuracies, the Artscroll for its traditionalism, harmonization attempts, and the fact that they have not yet completed the entire Yerushalmi, and Guggenheimer's for its incompleteness, rarity, and very thin critical apparatus.

Commentators on the Jerusalem TalmudEdit

Compared to the Babylonian Talmud, the Jerusalem Talmud has not received as much attention from commentators, and such traditional commentaries as exist are mostly concerned with proving that its teachings are identical to Bavli. A modern edition and commentary, known as Or Simchah, is currently being prepared in Beersheba; another edition in preparation, including paraphrases and explanatory notes in modern Hebrew, is Yedid Nefesh. The Jerusalem Talmud has also received some attention from Adin Steinsaltz, who plans a translation into modern Hebrew and accompanying explanation similar to his work on the Babylonian Talmud. So far only Tractate Peah has appeared.

External linksEdit

Notes Edit

  1. G. Stemberger, Einleitung in Talmud und Midrasch (München 1992), p. 172-5.
  2. C.E. Hayes, Between the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds, accounting for halakhic difference in selected sugyot from Tractate Avodah Zarah (New York 1997), p. 20-1.
  3. Steinsaltz, Adin (1976). The Essential Talmud. BasicBooks, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0465020631. 

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