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Gemara

From Academic Kids

The Gemara are the Rabbinical commentaries and analysis on the Mishnah, undertaken in the Academies of Palestine and Babylon over a 300 year period to about 500CE. The Mishnah is the core text, and the gemara is the analysis and commentary which “completes” the Talmud (from gamar גמר, to complete). The Rabbis of the Gemara are known as Amoraim (sing. Amora). The Gemara, together with the Mishnah, makes up the Talmud. There are two Talmuds, corresponding to the Jerusalem (or Palestinian) Gemara and the Babylonian Gemara; both share the same Mishnah. The Jerusalem Gemara is written in Western Aramaic, while the Babylonian Gemara is written in Eastern Aramaic. The Gemara, as redacted in the Talmud, is a record of the close analysis of the Mishna. This analysis is aimed at an exhaustive understanding of the Mishna's full meaning. In the Talmud, the analysis is essentially presented as a series of questions and hypotheses– with the Talmudic text as a record of each step in the process of reasoning and derivation. In the Gemara, every aspect of the Mishnaic text is treated as a subject of close investigation. (This analysis is often described as "mathematical"; Adin Steinsaltz makes the analogy of the Amoraim as scientists, with the Mishnah and Tosefta providing the phenomena studied.) "Confronted with a statement on any subject, the Talmudic student will proceed to raise a series of questions before he satisfies himself of having understood its full meaning." [1] (http://ohr.edu/judaism/articles/talmud.htm)

  • Language: Why does the Mishna use one word rather than another? If a statement is not clear enough, the Gemara seeks to clarify the Mishna's intention.
  • Logic: What underlying principle is entailed in a statement of fact or in a specific instance brought as an illustration? If a statement appears obvious, the Gemara seeks the logical reason for its necessity. It seeks to answer under which circumstances a statement is true, and what qualifications are permissible. All statements are examined for internal consistency.
  • Legal: Do certain authorities differ or not? If they do, why do they differ? If a principle is presented as a generalization, the gemara clarifies how much is included; if an exception, how much is excluded.
  • Biblical Expositions: From where in the Torah does the Mishnah derive a particular law? The Gemara often counters by saying that the verse from which the law is derived is needed to adduce another law. The Gemara answers its challenge, usually, by saying that the other law is derived from a different phrase or verse.

The Gemara is not strictly limited to an analysis of the Mishnah's text. It also brings in sources from the Mishnaic era, which were not included in the Mishnah compendium, which are called Tosefta (additions); the Talmud refers to these as beraitot, (the word for “outside”). The statements are usually related to the Mishnah or the topic of discussion, but sometimes only to the Tanna that has been quoted in a previous statement. The gemara also supplements the Mishna with haggadic (or aggadic) materials, statements not related to Halacha, and is a source for history and legend.

See also

External links and references

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