The sprawling nature of the Talmud, where discussion of one topic leads seamlessly to another, sometimes with only the loosest of connections, has invited comparison with the Internet, where a reader can follow one link after another to roam farther and farther afield from the subject with which he or she began. But the comparison only goes so far, writes Gil Student:
While there is some truth to this abstract comparison, [the differences] deserve our attention as well. [The Talmud] begins with page 2a of Tractate Brakhot and continues for 2,711 pages until it concludes with Nidah 73a. Of course, you can start anywhere in the middle, particularly at the beginning of any of the 37 tractates. But it has a discrete beginning and end. . . . By contrast, the Internet has no entrance or exit. Every article contains links to many others. Every person has his own beginning and only stops when other concerns beckon.
[In studying the Talmud], we study the text, perhaps with additional tools when available, but always remaining on, or at least returning to, the page. The Internet, [by contrast], has no anchor, sending you across the globe with endless links.
Finally, notes Student, while the Internet encourages social isolation, the Talmud is customarily studied communally—with a study partner, or in a class, or even individually in the public space of the synagogue or study hall.