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The Wisdom of the Talmud
by Ben Zion Bokser

A great introduction to the Talmud for contemporary readers.

The literature of the Talmud represents approximately a thousand years of Jewish thought. Its foundations were laid by the work of Ezra during the middle of the fourth century B.C.E., in the community of the returned exiles from Babylonia, who inaugurated the second Jewish commonwealth in Palestine. Its period of greatest productivity came in the centuries that followed the disastrous Jewish war against Rome in 70 C.E. The Talmud is not an independent literature however. It proceeds instead as a supplement to the Bible. The Bible remained the fundamental source of belief and practice in Judaism, but the Talmud was its authoritative exposition and implementation.

The position of the Talmud in Jewish life has been paramount. It was studied zealously by young and old alike, who found in it the authoritative word concerning the true meaning of Scripture. The lighter side of the Talmud, its parables, its ethical aphorisms, its legendary tales, delighted the common people. The more serious side, the subtle discussions of law, were a welcome outlet for the intellectual interests of the learned.

1. The Talmud as Literature
2. The Forerunners of the Talmud
3. The Talmud in its Historical Setting
4. The Theological Elements in the Talmud
5. Social Ethics in the Talmud
6. Personal Morality in the Talmud
7. The Jurisprudence of the Talmud
8. Human Wisdom in the Talmud

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