I. ZERAIM: concerning seeds. It treats of seeds, fruits,
herbs, trees; of the public and domestic use of fruits, of different seeds,
Each of these six parts, which the Jews call Schishah Sedarim—six orders or ordinances—is divided into books or tracts, called Massiktoth, and the books into chapters, or Perakim.(10)
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I. ZERAIM. Contains eleven books or Masechtoth.
II. MOED. Contains twelve Books or Masechtoth.
III. NASCHIM. Contains seven Books or Masechtoth.
IV. NEZIKIN. Contains ten Books or Masechtoth.
V. KODASCHIM. Contains eleven Books or Masechtoth.
VI. TOHOROTH. Contains twelve Books or Masechtoth.
The complete Talmud contains 63 books in 524 chapters.
Added to these are four other shorts tracts, which have not been included in the regular Talmud. They have been added by later writers and exponents.
These four are:
MASSEKHETH SOPHERIM—the Tract of Scribes. Treats of the
mode of writing the books of the law. Has 21 chapters.
Since the Talmud was such a voluminous and disordered work, there was a need of a compendium which would facilitate its study. To supply this need, therefore, Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob Alphassi, in 1032, published a Shorter Talmud, which he called Halakhoth—Constitutions. He omitted all lengthy discussions and preserved only those parts which had to do with the practical things of life. Since this work, however, had no order to it, it was not considered of great worth.
The first to issue a well ordered work on Jewish Law was Maimonides, styled the "Eagle of the Synagogue." In 1180 he produced his celebrated work Mischhah Torah—Repetition of the Law, also called Iad Chazakah—the Strong Hand. It contains four parts or volumes and 14 books and includes the whole Talmud. Maimonides also included much philosophical discussion in this work and attempted to establish many laws of his own. Because of this he was excommunicated by his people and condemned to death. He fled to Egypt where he died in the year 1205.
In spite of this, the value of his work increased in time, and for a while an expurgated version was held in the highest esteem by the Jews. A drawback to this work is that it contains many laws which were of no value after the destruction of the Temple.
An edition of the work of Maimonides, expurgated of all his philosophical innovations and of all the old, useless laws, was edited in 1340, in strict accord with the ideas of the Rabbis, by Jacob ben Ascher, to which he gave the name Arbaa Turim—The Four Orders, which are:
I. ORACH CHAIIM: The seeds of Life, and treats of the daily life in the home and in the Synagogue.
II. IORE DEAH: which teaches knowledge about foods, purifications and other religious laws.
III. CHOSCHEN HAMMISCHPAT: private judgments about civil and criminal laws.
IV. EBHEN HAEZER: The Rock of Help, which treats of the laws of marriage.
Since Alphasi, Maimonides and Jacob ben Ascher disagreed on many points, which gave rise to different interpretations of the same law, there was great need of a book which would contain short, concise solutions to controversies, and which would supply to the Jewish people a law book worthy of the name.
Joseph Karo, a Rabbi of Palestine (born 1488, died 1577), supplied this need by his celebrated commentary on the Arbaa Turim, which he called Schulchan Arukh — the Prepared Table. Since, however, the customs of oriental Jews differed greatly from those of western Jews, even the Schulchan Arukh, of Joseph Karo did not suffice for Jews everywhere. And for this reason Rabbi Mosche Isserles wrote a commentary on the Schulchan Arukh, entitled Darkhe Mosche, the Way of Moses, which received the same acceptance in the West as the work of Joseph Karo in the East.
At the present time, the Schulchan Arukh is regarded as the obligatory Law Code of the Jews, and they use it principally in their studies.(11) Many commentaries have been written on each part of this book.
An important point to note is that this work has always been regarded by the Jews as holy. They have always held it, and still hold it, as more important than the Sacred Scriptures.The Talmud itself shows this very clearly:
In the tract Babha Metsia, fol. 33a, we read:
Likewise in the tract Sopherim XV, 7, fol. 13b:
The following is a well-known and highly praised opinion in the writings of the Rabbis:
The reason for this is found in the tract Sanhedrin X, 3, f.88b:
Also when there are differences of opinion between the Law and the doctors, both must be taken as the words of the Lord God.
In the tract Erubhin, f.13b, where it is related that there was a difference of opinion between the two schools of Hillel and Schamai, it is concluded that:
In the book Mizbeach,(13) cap. V, we find the following opinion:
Contemporary defenders of the Talmud speak of it almost in the same way.(14)
What Christians have thought of the Talmud is amply proved by the many edicts and decrees issued about it, by which the supreme rulers in Church and State proscribed it many times and condemned this sacred Secondary Law Code of the Jews to the flames.
In 553 the Emperor Justinian forbade the spread of the Talmudic books throughout the Roman Empire.(15) In the 13th century "Popes Gregory IX and Innocent IV condemned the books of the Talmud as containing every kind of vileness and blasphemy against Christian truth, and ordered them to be burned because they spread many horrible heresies."(16)
Later, they were condemned by many other Roman Pontiffs—Julius III, Paul IV, Pius IV, Pius V, Gregory XIII, Clement VIII, Alexander VII, Benedict XIV, and by others who issued new editions of the Index of Forbidden Books according to the orders of the Fathers of the Council of Trent, and even in our own time.(17)
[As to the attitude of the Catholic Church towards the Jews, see Appendix at the end of this book: "How the Popes Treated the Jews."]
At the beginning of the 16th century, when the peace of the Church was disturbed by new religions, the Jews began to distribute the Talmud openly, aided by the art of printing then recently invented. The first printed edition of the whole Talmud, containing all its blasphemies against the Christian religion,(18) was published in Venice in the year 1520.(19) And almost all Jewish books published in that century, which was favorable to them, are complete and genuine.
Towards the end of the 16th century and at the beginning of the 17th, when many famous men undertook diligently to study the Talmud, the Jews, fearing for themselves, began to expugn parts of the Talmud which were openly inimical to Christians. Thus the Talmud which was published at Basle in 1578 has been mutilated in many places.
And at Synod in Poland, in the year 1631, the Rabbis of Germany and other countries declared that nothing which would annoy the Christians and cause persecution of Israel, should be printed. For this reason there are signs of many things missing in the Jewish books which were published in the following century and thereafter. The Rabbis explain from memory what these things mean, for they possess the genuine books which Christians rarely see.
However, Jewish books were published later with very few mutilations in Holland—where the Jews who were expelled from Spain were kindly received. The Talmud published there in 1644-1648 is almost similar to the Venetian edition.(20)
The latest device invented to deceive the censors was to insert the word haiah (was) with the genuine text, as if to indicate that the matter in question once had its place there.(21) But by so doing they only cleanse the outside of the cup. For in many places they do show what they mean, ex.gr. by the words gam attah, "even now," viz. "this law obliges"; and aphilu bazzeman hazzeh, "even to this day" viz. "this law holds," and such like.(22)
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We must add a few remarks about that other very well known book of the Jews, called the ZOHAR.
According to some Rabbis, Moses, after he had been instructed in the interpretation of the law on Mount Sinai, did not pass this information to Joshua nor he to the Elders, but to Aaron, Aaron to Eleazer, and so on until the oral teachings had been put into book form called the ZOHAR, so called from the name ZEHAR, meaning to shine forth. For it is an illustration of the books of Moses, a commentary on the Pentateuch.
The author is said to have been R. Schimeon ben Jochai, a disciple of R. Akibha who, fifty years after the destruction of the Temple, ended his life as a martyr about the year 120 A.D. in Hadrian's war against the Jews. Since, however, names of men appear in this book who lived many centuries after the year indicated, and since neither Rambam (R. Mosche ben Nachman), nor R. Ascher, who died about the year 1248 A.D., make no mention of it, it is more likely that those are nearer the truth who say that the book of Zohar first saw the light about the 13th century. Especially is this considered likely since about this time a book was produced which is similar in argument and style to the Chaldaic type of writing.
It consists of three volumes in large octavo.
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Many other works have been published by the Jewish teachers which are used in the study of Jewish law, and which are held in high esteem since they explain many obscure passages in the Talmud. Some of them are cited in this book, and are as follows:
BIAR—Declaration, elucidation, Commentary on another Commentary. These declarations differ from one another.
HALAKOTH—usually written HILKHOTH—Decisions or Dissertations. Separate books of Holy Scriptures and of the Talmud by different Rabbis: Maimonides, Beshai, Edels, Moses of Kotzen, Kimchi and others. In most cases citations are given from HILKOTH AKUM by Maimonides. These contain dissertations on stars and planets and the status of nations. There is another—HILKOTH MAAKHALOTH ASAVOROTH—dissertation about forbidden foods.
IUCHASIN or SEPHER IUCHASIN—dissertations on lineage. Treats of Sacred and Jewish history from the beginning of the world until 1500. Printed at Cracow, 1580.
JALKUT—a collected commentary from various ancient books. Supposed to have not a literal but allegorical meaning. Author: Rabbi Shimeon of Frankfurt.
KED HAKKEMACH—Barrel of flour. Contains places of theological communities in alphabetical order. Author: Rabbi Bechai of Lublin.
MAGEN ABRAHAM—Shield of Abraham. Author: Perizola.
MIZBEACH HAZZAHABH—the Golden Altar. A Cabalistic book. Author: R. Schelomon ben Rabbi Mordechai. Printed at Basle, in 1602.
MACHZOR—a Cycle. Book of Prayers used on great festivals.
MENORATH HAMMAOR—Candlestick of light. A Talmudic book. Contains Aggadoth and Medraschim. i.e., allegorical and historical commentaries on the entire Talmud. Author: Rabbi Isaac Abhuhabh. Printed in 1544.
MAIENE HAIESCHUAH—Fountains of the Savior. An exquisite Commentary on Daniel by Rabbi Isaac Abarbanel. There are numerous disputations against Christians. Printed in 1551.
MIKRA GEDOLAH—the Great Convocation. A Hebrew Bible with commentaries by R. Salomon Iarchi and R. Ezra.
MASCHMIA IESCHUAH—The Preacher of Salvation. Explanations on all the Prophets. On future redemption. Author: R. Abarbanel.
NIZZACHON—Victory. Attacks on Christians and on the Four Gospels. Author: Rabbi Lipman. Printed in 1559.
SEPHER IKKARIM—Book on fundamentals or articles of faith. It contains one very bitter attack against the Christian faith.
EN ISRAEL—the Eye of Israel. A celebrated book. Has a second part —BETH JAKOBH—the House of Jacob. Embraces the most delightful Talmudic histories. Printed in Venice, in 1547.
SCHAARE ORAH—the Gates of Light. A most celebrated Cabalistic book. Author: Ben Joseph Gekatilia.
SCHEPHAA TAL—Abundance of Dew. A Cabalistic book. A key to the book of Zohar and other similar books. Author: Rabbi Schephtel Horwitz of Prague.
TOLDOTH IESCHU—the Generations of Jesus. A little pamphlet full of blasphemies and maledictions. Contains the history of Christ. Full of false and deceiving manifestations.