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Studying the Talmud – An Overview over the Daf



Before I begin on the first mishnah it would be a good idea to give an overview over a typical daf in the Talmud. Daf is Hebrew for page, and the subject is found by relating to the page it is written, that is, according to the Order, then the Tractate, and then the page. And since each page has two sides, the number of the page will be followed by a or b in order to indicate which side we are dealing with. That is when we use the Latin script to indicate where in the Talmud to look, the Hebrew is different, but the idea is the same. So if we for example should relate to where we will be begin then it would be Seder (Order) Zera’im, Massechet (Tractate) B’rachot 2a. Page two because each tractate starts on the second page, not the first page, and a because it would be the first side of the page.

Let’s look at what it looks like:

This is the first page in the Talmud Bavli, which we will be focusing on in the coming. I will tell you about the parts of the Talmud during the next couple of pictures or so.

The name of the chapter is given from the first word of the chapter. In this case it is “me’eimatai,” “from when,” which is written in top of the page to the right (as well as in the big box introducing the text):


The next part, next to the title of the chapter, is the number of chapter, here “Pereq Rishon,” the first chapter:


And then follows the name of the Tractate, here B’rachot:


As said, the title of the chapter is the first word of the text, which is introduced by the title:


In the middle of the page we have the talmudic text itself, with the Mishnah and the Gemarrah. It is this text which we will be focusing on:


The first part is the Mishnah, the first mishnah of the Talmud, actually beginning with the title, and then continuing until the two letters gimel and mem, which is short for Gemarrah:


The mishnaic text is rather short compared with the discussions following it. The following is the Gemarrah, which continues on the next many pages, before we will reach the second mishnah:


The text surrounding the Talmudic text to the right is Rashi’s commentary. On the second side of the page it will be to the left instead of to the right. Rashi, besides his commentary to the Torah, also wrote an extensive commentary to the Talmud, revealing his great insights and knowledge on both Torah and Talmud:


On the other side and underneath the Talmudic text we find the commentaries of the Tosafot, not to confuse with the Tosefta. The authors of the Tosafot were the disciples of Rashi and other later commentators, adding to his commentaries on a rather high level, taking advanced discussions for granted:


On the sides of the commentaries we have references to the Torah and various passages, as well as the commentaries of R. Nissim Gaon, Z”L, but I won’t be referring to these much.

So this was a short introduction to a typical page in the Talmud Bavli. The Yerushalmi reminds but has some differences, but I will get back to that when (if) we will study it instead.

In the following post I will make a study with you of the first mishnah. Until then, take care.

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