On January 5, the seven-year cycle of Talmud study known as the daf yomi (“daily page”) began once more. Two months later, it still seems an apt moment to reflect on what the Talmud actually is and what sort of messages its compilers wished to convey. Part of what makes the Talmud such a unique work—and so unlike anything in the history of Western literature, theology, or legal scholarship—is that it intertwines discussions about law with stories about the people discussing it, their relationships with each other, and the human circumstances surrounding their discussions.
A Blueprint for Jewish Law
A passage in the Talmud’s first tractate shows why it’s such a uniquely influential work, and so unlike anything in the history of Western literature, theology, or legal scholarship.