The Students' Guide Through The Talmud

ISBN 1-933143-05-3, Hardcover, $24.95
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By Zevi Hirsch Chajes
Translated by Jacob Shachter

Long acknowledged as one of the land­marks in Rabbinic scholarship, this work is being republished in English for the first time in over forty years, more than 150 years since the work's original publication in Hebrew. The Student's Guide Through the Talmud dates from the illustrious author's later years and in it he attempts to formulate the nature, extent and authority of tradition.

Like the Talmud itself, this book bears a two-fold character and deals with both the Halachah, the legal aspects of the Talmud, and the Aggadah, the non-legal portions. Presenting his analysis with the experience and insight of a world-renowned talmudic scholar, R. Chajes imparts a detailed history and classification of the Talmud and its underlying oral tradition.

He presents rational explanations for many of the seemingly irrational statements of the Talmud, describing the methodologies utilized and the rationales behind them. The translator has added extensive footnotes that explain the author's voluminous talmudic citations so that even a novice will be able to follow the work. After completing this book, a reader will have gained insight into the inner workings of the Talmud and an understanding of the history and methodologies of the Oral Torah.

Blurbs about the Book
"The author of this important work is one of the greatest 19th century rabbis, whose notes figure prominently in the standard edition of the Talmud. How often does such an authority provide a set of introductory lectures that continue to speak to the 21st century student?"

Rabbi Shalom Carmy
Noted Jewish Thinker and Assistant Professor of Bible and Jewish Philosophy at Yeshiva University
"The commentary of Rabbeinu Zevi Hirsch Chajes that appears in the printed editions of the Talmud Bavli has been widely recognized in the Torah world as one of the basic tools necessary to gain a higher understand of Talmudic sugyot. In addition, his fundamental and specialized essays on the early development of Mishnah, Talmud and Midrash serve until today as a cornerstone for the understanding of the literary, Halachic and Aggadic combination of the early Rabbinic literature... During my experience of over 40 years teaching the introduction to Torah she'baal Peh, Mishnah, Talmudic, Halachic and Aggadic midrashim, I found that this book gave to my students a broad understanding of the total spectrum about the development of early rabbinic literature in Halacha and Aggadah."

Rabbi Dr. Elazar Hurvitz
Professor of Biblical and Talmudic Literature at Yeshiva University
"Rabbi Zevi Hirsch Chajes was one of the preeminent representatives of Torah and scholarship in the Modern era. His introduction to the Talmud is a classic of rabbinic literature and a fitting expression of the manner in which Torah and wisdom can dwell together in harmony. The renewed availability of this English edition is greatly welcomed."

Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey R. Woolf
Senior Lecturer in Talmud at Bar Ilan University

Inside the Book

Table of Contents

Short biographical sketch of the author
Talmudical Introductions down to the time of Chajes

1. The Oral Law ans its relation to the Written Law
2. Traditional Laws without any exegetical basis in the
3. The Categories of Oral Law
4. Authority for rulings based on logical inferences
5. Enactments deduced from post-Mosaic Books
6. Takkanoth (Enactments) and Gezeroth (Decrees)
7. Gezeroth in chronological order
8. Enactments promulgated by post-Biblical authorities
9. Enactments handed down from anonymous authorities 10. The Takkanoth in chronological order
11. Enactments promulgated by the Nesiyyim (Princes) and
      the Sanhedrin (Supreme Court)
12. Rabbinic Enactments unanimously adopted
13. Enactments the binding force of which was later
14. A Summary of the various categories of the Oral Law
15. Rulings established by the usage of the People
16. Miscellaneous rabbinical Ordinances
17. The Aggadah — a general outline of its main aspects
18. Aggadoth received by tradition
19. The thirty-two Middoth (Rules) employed by the
20. The Praise of the Righteous and the Condemnation of
      the Wicked in the Aggadah
21. The Quoting of various persons under one and the
      same name
22. The Method of expounding the names of persons
23. Support in history for 'Tradition' handed down by the
      Great Assembly
24. Divine Providence in the Aggadah
25. Alterations in textual reading as a specific device in
      homiletic expositions
26. Aggadoth aimed at inspiring and stirring the curiousity
      of the People
27. Aggadoth expressing profound ideas in figurative style
28. Aggadoth relating the performance of mriacles
29. The Parables of the Aggadah — illustrations pointing a
30. The Aggadic use of hyperbole and the employment of
      numbers figuratively; also Biblical quotations in the       Aggadah which are at variance with the Massoretic
31. Demons, witchcraft, incantations, dreams, and
      planetary influences, medical prescriptions, and
      curative methods in the Aggadah
32. The contradictory views regarding the Aggadah and its
      place in talmudic teaching
33. Dates of completion of the Mishnah and Talmud



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About the Author

R. Zevi Hirsch Chajes, frequently known as "The Maharatz Chayes," was born in 1805 in Brody, a commercial frontier town in the north east of Galicia. Born to a wealthy family, he received, in addition to his traditional talmudic education, instruction in modern and classical languages and literature, as well as geography, history and philosophy. He was identified at an early age as a prodigy and grew to master the entire talmudic literature as well as that of medieval Jewish philosophy. He studied under a number of great scholars of that time, particularly R. Ephraim Zalman Margulies. At the young age of twenty two, he was called to occupy an important rabbinic position in the district of Zolkiev, Galicia. In this position, he fought against the radical innovations being introduced into Judaism at that time, while also opposing the increasing conservatism among his Orthodox colleagues. Additionally, with his keen intellect and broad knowledge, he was able to produce many works of scientific study of Judaism that were faithful to tradition but modern in their organization and subjects. His works include Torat Nevi'im; Darkhei Hora'ah; Imre Binah; Minhat Kena'ot; and glosses to the Talmud that were published in the now-standard Romm-Vilna edition of the Talmud. Chajes died prematurely in 1855 at the age of 50, only three years after being appointed to the prestigious post of rabbi of Kalish, Poland.

About the Translator

Born in Rumania in 1886, Jacob Shachter received his Rabbinical Diploma from the leading authorities of the time, in 1911. From 1913-20, he served as Rabbi in Galatz. He arrived in England in 1920 at the invitation of the Rumanian Synagogue of Manchester in order to become their Rabbi — a position he held until 1926. During that period, he also served as a member of  the  Beth Din of that city.  In 1926,

he received a call from the Jewish community of Northern Ireland to succeed Rabbi I. H. Herzog who had left to become Chief Rabbi of the Irish Republic and was later to become the Chief Rabbi of the Holy Land.

The translator's leadership of the Jewish community in Northern Ireland continued uninterruptedly until his retirement in 1954. During this period, his manifold activities in the religious, cultural, academic and social life of the Jewish and non-Jewish community have left their lasting imprint. This found its recognition in the decision of the Senate of the Queen's University of Belfast to award him an Honorary Degree.

His lifelong devotion to the Zionist cause found its practical expression in the role that he played in the Zionist Movement over many years. The cause of the Jewish refugees claimed much of his time in the years immediately preceding World War II and, as a direct result of his efforts, many lives were saved and relief was brought to others. During the War years, the translator served as a non-commissioned chaplain to the Forces, in which capacity he brought spiritual succour to the thousands of Jewish troops stationed in Ulster.

Among his many scholarly publications are several halachic works of his father's which he edited and annotated; the English translation of Tractate Sanhedrin I, with note, which forms part of the Soncino English translation of the Talmud; "The Student's Guide through the Talmud"; "Sefer Mishlei b'Divrei Hazal" (The Book of Proverbs in Talmudic Literature).

Following his retirement in 1954 he settled in Jerusalem, having previously visited the Holy Land on many occasions since his first visit in 1935. In Jerusalem, he continued to play an active role in the religious and cultural life of the city until his death in 1971.

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