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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 3.17:
What is Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud)?

Answer:

The Talmud Bavli (BT) is the Mishna plus the Babylonian gemara. It is much more complete than the Talmud Yerushalmi (JT), and the redaction is much more careful and precise. Still, it is by no means complete. The gemara only exists for 37 out of the 63 tractates of the Mishna. Why did these tractates remain without gemara in the BT? The traditional answer is that the laws of Zeraim and Toharot (except Niddah) had no practical relevance:

One might think then that there would be no BT gemara on Qodashim... but there is. This is probably because the study of the sacrificial regulations is generally thought of as being on par with actually performing sacrifices.

In the usual printed editions, the BT comprises the full Mishna, the 37 gemaras, and the extra-canonical (minor) tractates. Typically, this comprises 5,894 pages, and is much more extensive than the JT.

The overall character of BT is encyclopedic. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz states in The Essential Talmud (Basic Books, Inc., New York, 1976):

The Talmud is the repository of thousands of years of Jewish wisdom. And the Oral Law, which is as ancient and significant as the Written Law (Torah), finds expression therein. It is a conglomerate of law, legend, and philosophy, a blend of unique logic and shrewd pragmatism, of history and science, anecdote and humor.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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