Talmud Diagrams

Talmud Diagrams

Israel Ury (Jewish Content Laboratories, Israel)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5816-5.ch011

Abstract

The Talmud, as the basic source of Jewish law and thought, continues to receive the attention of scholars and students from a wide age group. Study of the Talmud is complicated by its complex and involved legal arguments. Talmud Diagrams are designed to be easy to read graphical representations of the logic of the Talmud that aid its comprehension and retention. In particular, Talmud Diagrams are maps of legal opinions that consist of rulings on a set of related cases. Passages in the Talmud are represented by a series of Talmud Diagrams that portray the evolution of the legal opinions, challenges, and resolutions. The principle of a fortiori is embedded within the structure and formation rules of Talmud Diagrams, allowing the use of Talmud Diagrams to be extended to other legal systems where a fortiori applies.
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Background

The Talmud is the written record of Jewish Oral Law and consists of two parts, Mishnah and Gemara. The Mishnah consists of legal rulings that reflect a complete set of all principles in Jewish law, and was first redacted in the third century CE. The Gemara presents the subsequent discussions and analyses of the Mishnah that were conducted in the academies of Israel and Babylonia. The earlier Jerusalem Talmud (Malinowitz, 2006-2012) was succeeded by the Babylonian Talmud which itself was finally redacted several hundred years after the redaction of the Mishnah. Being a later text, the Babylonian Talmud is the authoritative source for all subsequent developments of Jewish law.

The Talmud derives Jewish law from written passages in the Bible using a number of rules of exegesis. The most commonly quoted list of these principles is Rabbi Yishamael’s Thirteen Hermeneutical Principles (Steinsalz, 1976). The first principle in the list is kal vachomer – the principle of a fortiori. By being one of the principles of Bible hermeneutics, the kal vachomer goes beyond being a tool of rhetoric but rather becomes a method for establishing concrete laws. The idea is that the entire corpus of Jewish Law is consistent with the (nearly) universal application of kal vachomer as a guiding principle for establishing new rulings. The method of Talmud Diagrams incorporates the principle of a fortiori in a native way and therefore has great utility in helping to understand Talmudic discussions.

The Talmud is the Jewish text that enjoys the investment of the most hours of study by Orthodox Jews. Study of the Mishnah usually begins in about Grade 4 and Gemara instruction generally begins no later than Grade 6. Orthodox Jewish high school age students and adults are expected to spend hours a day studying Talmud.

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