יום רביעי כ' באב תשפ"ב 17/08/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

The Talmud Bavli

Unprecedented in its magnitude, the ‘Babylonian Talmud’ was written by the Amora’im of Bavel over a span of seven generations during which they sat before their teachers and plumbed the depths of the Mishnah, until they reached Halachic conclusions by which we conduct our lives until this day

Motty Meringer 01/12/2009 11:01
The Talmud Bavli itself contains tens of tractates culled from the six volumes of the Mishnah, and was written by the Amoraim - the elite scholars of Israel. The end of the period of the Mishnah was marked by Rabi Yehuda HaNassi, known as ‘Rebbi haKadosh’, who arranged the words of the Tannaim before him into the six volumes we know today as the ‘Shisha Sidrei Mishnah’ - Zera’im, Mo’ed, Nashim, Nezikin, Kodshin and Taharos. The passages of the Mishnah that Rebbi haKadosh arranged are clear and concise, but the Tanaim expressed themselves in great brevity, to the extent that the need arose to expound on their words until they were clarified and Halachic conclusions were reached. The commentary which elaborates on the words of the Tannaim is the Talmud is we know it today, or ‘Gemara’. There the Amora’im discussed, analyzed and dissected the words of the Mishnah, bringing proofs from ‘Breisos’ and ‘Toseftos’ - tractates which were also written by the Tannaim but were not included in the six volumes of the Mishnah which Rabi compiled.

During the period of the Amoraim, the Torah world was divided into two segments - one headed by the Amoraim of Eretz Yisrael, and the other comprising the Amoraim of Bavel. One of the first and foremost Amoraim in Eretz Yisrael was Rabi Yochanan, who stood at the helm of the Yeshiva in Teveria. It was his students and peers, living in Teveria and Tzipori, who compiled the ‘Talmud Yerushalmi’ (also known as ‘Talmud Eretz Yisrael’).

the Rambam[]

The Amoraim in Bavel were led by the famous Rav Abba bar Ayvu, known to all as ‘Rav’, and his counterpart and erstwhile challenger, Shmuel. Rav and Shmuel were both students of Eretz Yisrael; Rav had merited to study Torah from the mouth of the very last Tanna, Rebbi haKadosh, and about him the Gemara writes a number of times: ‘Rav Tanna hu u’palig’ (Rav has the standing of a Tanna, and is therefore worthy of disagreeing on the Mishnah and the words of the Tannaim from generations preceding him). After Rebbi passed away, Rav learnt Torah from Rabi Yannai, and Shmuel studied under the Tanna Reb Chanina bar Chama.

The period of time heralding the beginning of the era of the Amoraim was a difficult one for the Jewish nation. The Roman Empire ruling over Eretz Yisrael tightened its vicelike grip on the land, and issued countless vicious edicts against the Jews. This situation eventually led to a mass emigration of Jews from Eretz Yisrael towards Bavel, which was ruled by the Persians who were considerably more tolerant and allowed the Jews to live their lives without disturbance. The new arrivals joined the community in Bavel that had existed there since the destruction of the first Beis haMikdash (Temple), and they helped to build up the community and strengthen it.

The Amorah, Shmuel resided in Bavel long before the arrival of Rav, and he led the Jewish community in the city of Neherda and headed the famous Yeshiva there. When the oppression in Eretz Yisrael proved too great, Rav decided to leave the holy Land and settle in Bavel. On his arrival he made his way to the city of Sura, where he founded a Yeshiva and stood at its helm.

Rav and Shmuel were the first of the Amoraim in Bavel, and they brought with them a significant leap in the standing of the community there. Proof of this change is manifested in several Halachic rulings, such as we see in Tractate Gittin: There is a law that a messenger who brings a ‘Get’ (bill of divorce) to a woman from her husband from outside the borders of Eretz Yisrael, must testify on the validity of the Get and assure that it was produced according to Halacha. The Gemara brings the words of Rav Abba in the name of Rav Huna: “We made ourselves in Bavel like Eretz Yisrael with regards to Gittin, since Rav came to Bavel”. Rashi adds: “…when the Yeshiva was founded in Sura and Shmuel was in Neherda; but before that even though there was a king of Yehuda in Bavel, Yechanya, ... they did not rule Halacha from them.” Rashi is referring to the fact that even though there were many wise men in Bavel, it was only with the arrival of Rav to Sura and the leadership of Shmuel in Neherda, which changed the Halachic standing of Bavel with regards to issues such as Gittin, and equates Bavel with Eretz Yisrael.

The second generation of Amoraim in Bavel was led by Rav Huna, who was appointed to lead the Yeshiva in Sura after Rav, Rav Yehuda, Rav Nachman and Rav Kahana. During this second generation of Amoraim, two major changes were implemented in the Torah center in Bavel. The first was the closure of Yeshivas Neherda by Rav Nachman bar Yaakov, and its relocation to the city Mechoza. This step was taken after large groups of bandits raided the town, effectively destroying it and leaving it in ruins. The second change was the founding of Yeshivas Pumbedisa, by Rav Yehuda.

The third generation of Amoraim in Bavel appointed as its leaders Raba and Rav Yosef, both of whom led Yeshivas Pumbedisa, in succession. Their students were the legendary Abaye and Rava, who merited to learn Torah from Rav Nachman too. Abaye led the Yeshiva in Pumbedisa, and Rava headed the Yeshiva in Mechoza. After Abaye passed away, the students of Pumbedisa moved to Mechoza to study under Rava. The foremost students of Abaye and Rava were Ravina and Rav Ashi, who were responsible for the compilation of the Talmud.

The names of all these Amoraim are mentioned countless times throughout the Talmud, and their words form the basis for the entire Talmud. Their method of analysis was to discuss the words of the Mishnah, but not to disagree with the words of the Tannaim. The students of the Yeshivos in Bavel would raise questions and suggest answers on the words of the Mishnah, or bring proofs to their words from the Mishnah itself. Many times the Amoraim would phrase the verses of the Mishnah in a different manner, and this was based on tradition that they had received with regards to the original text of the Mishnah. There is a phrase found many times in the Gemara: ‘Chasurei mechsara v’hachi ketani’ (the wording in the Mishnah is lacking and therefore it should be written). This is used in instances when the words of the Tannaim in the Mishnah are not clear enough, and the Amoraim had to expand on them to make it understandable. In addition to the actual explanation of the words of the Tannaim themselves, the Amoraim went to great lengths to explain the source of the reasoning of the Tannaim, mainly using the ‘Thirteen principles by which the Torah is explained’ compiled by Rabi Yishmael. Not in every instance did the Amoraim reach the crux of the Halacha, as we see the Gemara often concludes with the word: ‘Kashia’, or ‘Teiku’.

In many places in the Talmud we find passages of ‘Aggada’ and ‘Drush’. Parts of it are entirely beyond our understanding, such as the Aggados of Raba bar bar Chana in Tractate Bava Basra, where he relates mysterious events which are not understandable on a simple level. In such instances many of the early and later commentators toiled to explain the depth of the words of the Amoraim. There are other Aggados which seemingly have no connection to Judaism or Halachic rulings, such as the Aggados in Tractate Gittin (in the chapter ‘Mi she’achzo), describing medicines for certain types of illnesses. The Maharsha (Rav Shmuel Eliezer Eidels) explains why these medicines are described in the Talmud, and amongst other reasons he writes “And from this we see that the Talmud does not lack in any form of wisdom, since every illness has a complete and true cure for those who understand… and the scoffers should not say about the wise men of the Talmud that they were lacking in the wisdom of medicine.”

The Aggados in the Talmud were often used over the course of history as a pretext for the infliction of suffering against our people by our eternal enemies, the Christians. Many a time the Talmud stood in the center of fierce debates between the wise men of Israel and malevolent priests and cardinals, who wished only to see the downfall of the Jews. The Talmud was accused of insulting the Christian religion and blaspheming it, and on account of its dubious iniquities was burnt at the stake in many countries across Europe. Much of the Christians’ allegations were directed at the Aggados of the Talmud, many of which discuss incidents concerning ‘Yeshu’ and his evil students who strayed from the path of their fathers, and brought the nations of the world to the lowly state they are in today. In cases where the Talmud was saved from the stake, large portions were censored by various ‘committees’ – usually consisting of members who were totally ignorant of the Talmud and did not understand its language. In later generations the censored portions of the Talmud were returned, and the Talmud as we have it today is complete and whole once again.

In the Yeshivos of Bavel throngs of students gathered to hear the words of the holy Amoraim. These students would circulate between the many Yeshivos and bring with them the Divrei Torah and Chidushim (novel concepts) they heard in previous places. Thus the circle of contestants on any given issue widened, and each novel concept was debated countless times until the very core of the Torah’s truth was exposed. This movement between Yeshivos was not limited within the borders of Bavel alone, but also occurred between the Yeshivos of Eretz Yisrael and those of Bavel. There were Amoraim who left Bavel to travel to Eretz Yisrael, such as Rav Zeira, whilst there were those who came down to Bavel such as the Amorah, Ravin. These Amoraim who crossed borders brought the words of the Chachamim of their own land to their counterparts abroad, and thus we find the words of Chachmei Eretz Yisrael written down in the Talmud Bavli. A considerable portion of this was brought by Ravin, who was a student of Rabi Yochanan and publicized the words of his mentor in the Yeshivos of Bavel.

The teachings of the Amoraim in the Yeshivos of Bavel were delivered orally in a random fashion, and told over by heart from one student to the next. In the fifth generation of Amoraim, Rav Ashi and Ravina (the first) saw the need to organise the words of the Amoraim according to the order of the Mishnayos, so they would not be lost to future generations. An interesting fact is raised by the Rambam in the introduction to his Sefer ‘Mishneh Torah’, that from the days of Moshe Rabbenu until Rav Ashi exactly forty generations passed during which Torah was transferred orally from teacher to student. Rav Ashi and Ravina began the job of recording these teachings for posterity, a task that was completed two generations later in the days of Ravina the second. The work of completing the Talmud was difficult and lengthy, in light of the general state of decline of Babylonian Jewry and the evil decrees which began to rain down profusely from the direction of the monarchy in Bavel. This bleak situation aroused the Amoraim to exert themselves all the more intensely to finish the work of arranging the Talmud.

There is an interesting phrase cited in Tractate Bava Metzia (Hasocher es ha’poalim): ‘Rav Ashi and Ravina marked the end of the period of instruction…’ The commentators argue as to the identity of the Ravina mentioned here, either intending it to be Ravina the first who began the task of compiling the Talmud, or his nephew Ravina the second who was the last Amorah and merited to complete the writing of the Talmud. But all opinions agree that with the completion of the Talmud came the end to independent Halachic instruction, and afterwards no mortal was authorized to introduce novel concepts in Halacha of his own accord. Every Jewish law from then on had to be based on what was written in the Talmud, and as the Rambam wrote in his introduction to his commentary on the Mishnayos: ‘Every member of Israel must abide by the matters brought down in the Talmud Bavli, and each and every city and country is compelled to behave according to the customs that the wise men of the Talmud instructed… since those words in the Talmud were agreed upon by all of Israel’.

The Amoraim who arranged the Talmud laid out the words of their predecessors in 48 tractates, printed today according to the Vilna edition in twenty volumes. Of the six sections of the Mishnah, not on all of them do we have a Gemara. In Zeraim we only have a Gemara on the tractate Brachos, and in Taharos, only on Tractate Niddah. In Seder Moed, we are missing a Gemara on Tractate Shekalim. Likewise in Nezikin we are missing Eduyos and Avos, and in Kodshim the tractates Kinim and Middos are missing. On these tractates we did not merit to receive an organized Gemara laid out by the Amoraim, but in the tractates that we do have, many references are made to these missing sections, and we see that the Amoraim did discuss the words of the Mishnah in those tractates, too.

As the period of the Amoraim drew to a close, many of the Yeshivos in Bavel continued to exist – some even well into the period of the ‘Saboraim’, and others for years beyond that, until the end of the era of the Geonim. Throughout the generations, for the duration of over one thousand five hundred years, the Talmud Bavli has been studied by the ‘People of the Book’. Geonim, Rishonim (early commentators) and Acharonim (later commentators) delved and thrashed through the words of the Talmud in an effort to explain and clarify the teachings of the Amoraim – each one according to his own unique method and perspective, and so it was that the Talmud became the infrastructure for a wide and all encompassing library containing tens of thousands of holy works dealing directly or indirectly with the words of the Amoraim. The Talmud Bavli is a living entity, and in all communities it is studied alongside the commentary of the Geonim, Rishonim and Acharonim. In the edition that is used today, the words of the Talmud are surrounded by Rashi’s commentary, the Baalei Tosfos, and the elucidation and emendations of various Torah giants from the past hundreds of years.

In the last century our nation has merited to see the fulfilment of Rav Meir Shapiro’s dream – the Daf haYomi enterprise, which has brought the study of Gemara closer to Jews from all ends of the spectrum; from the scholar to the businessman alike. Today, with tremendous divine assistance, the words of our holy Amoraim are studied in thousands of Yeshivos and Torah institutions, and in tens of thousands of Daf haYomi lectures across the Jewish world.

Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin []