Guide To Talmudic Terms
Tonight, tens of thousands of Jews will celebrate completing their study of the Talmud. Some of the celebrants are full-time Torah scholars, others are dentists, mechanics and businesspeople. Almost all of them have been involved in the Daf Yomi, a program of studying one folio page of Talmud each day that was initiated in 1923 by Rabbi Meir Shapiro. It takes 7 ½ years to complete the Talmud’s 2711 folio pages one folio page at a time, and each Daf Yomi cycle’s completion is celebrated at a Siyyum Hashas. A siyyum is a special celebration observed upon completing any set amount of Torah study. Shas is an acronyn for the Talmud, alluding to the Shisha Sedarim, the six orders into which both the Mishna and the Talmud are divided.
The Shisha Sedarim, which are then broken into smaller tractates, are as follows:
(1) Zera’im (“Seeds”) – agricultural laws and prayers.
(2) Mo’ed (“Festival”) – Shabbat and the Holy Days.
(3) Nashim (“Women”) – marriage and divorce.
(4) Nezikin (“Damages”) – civil and criminal law.
(5) Kod’shim (“Holy [things]”) – sacrifices, the Holy Temple, and the dietary laws.
(6) Taharot (“Purities”) – ritual purity and impurity.
In honor of the Siyyum Hashas, Jewish Treats presents several common terms used when discussing the Talmud:
Mishna: The first transcription of the Oral Torah, compiled by Rabbi Judah the Prince (app 200 C.E.), out of fear that these teachings might otherwise be forgotten and lost forever.
Gemarah: The transcription of scholarly rabbinic discussions concerning the teachings of the Mishnah. Transcribed by Ravina and Rabbi Ashi in approximately 500 C.E.
Talmud: The Mishnah and Gemarah published together.
Masechet: One of 63 tractates, subdivisions of the six orders.
Baraita: A statement of Oral law that had not been written in the Mishna but is accepted as a proof-text in the Gemarah.
Sug’ya: Talmudic topic leading to discussion that begins with either a quoted Mishna or a question.
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