GOD’S COVENANT PEOPLE:
Yesterday, Today & Forever
The Talmud: The Jews’ Religious Book of Faith and Law
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In the foreword to The Babylonian Talmud, Chief Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz expounded upon its origin and provided other interesting insights:
The beginnings of Talmudic literature date back to the time of the Babylonian Exile in the sixth pre-Christian century, before the Roman Republic had yet come into existence. When, a thousand years later, the Babylonian Talmud assumed final codified form in the year 500 after the Christian era, the Western Roman Empire had ceased to be.1
When we come to the Babylonian Gemara, we are dealing with what most people understand when they speak or write of the Talmud. Its birthplace, Babylonia, was an autonomous Jewish centre for a longer period than any other land; namely, from soon after 586 before the Christian era to the year 1040 after the Christian era – 1626 years; from the days of Cyrus [King of Babylon] down to the age of the Mongol conquerors!2
Even a student who has a fair knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic, but has not been initiated into the Talmud by Traditional Jewish guides, will find it impossible to decipher a page!3
During all these centuries, the non-Jewish attitude to the Talmud remained one of implacable hostility.4
Rabbi Morris Norman Kertzer, Director of Interreligious Activities for the American Jewish Committee, considered the Talmud essential in the training of rabbis because it is the legal basis for their religious law:
The TALMUD consists of 63 books of legal, ethical and historical writings of the ancient rabbis. It was edited five centuries after the birth of Jesus. It is a compendium of law and lore. It is the legal code which forms the basis of Jewish religious law and it is the textbook used in the training of rabbis.5
The Talmud, written in French by Arsene Darmesteter and translated into English by Henrietta Szold in 1897, was published by the Jewish Publication Society of America in Philadelphia. It is a book considered by many Jews to be “the most authentic analysis of The Talmud which has ever been written.”6
The following quote from Mr. Darmesteter succinctly states the Jewish position with regard to their most sacred book:
The Talmud, exclusive of the vast Rabbinic literature attached to it, represents the uninterrupted work of Judaism … the resultant of all the living forces and of the whole religious activity of a nation. If we consider that it is the faithful mirror of the manners, the institutions, the knowledge of the Jews, in a word of the whole of their civilization in Judea and Babylonia during the prolific centuries preceding and following the advent of Christianity, we shall understand the importance of a work, unique of its kind, in which a whole people has deposited its feelings, its beliefs, its soul. Nothing, indeed [not even God and His Laws], can equal the importance of the Talmud [to the Jews]….7
…Judaism finds its expression in the Talmud, which is not a remote suggestion and a faint echo thereof, but in which it has become incarnate, in which it has taken form passing from the state of an abstraction into the domain of real things. The study of Judaism is that of the Talmud, as the study of the Talmud is that of Judaism…. They are two inseparable things, or better, they are one and the same….8
In The Sacred Books of the Jews, Harry Gersh provided his opinion on the importance of the Talmud to today’s Jews:
…the Talmud is the moving, changing bloodstream nourishing every organ and extremity of that corpus [body of Judaism].9
In Rome and Jerusalem, Moses Hess confirmed the Jews’ dependence upon the Talmud:
… The Talmud on which the whole present day Jewish Orthodoxy [Judaism] leans….10
Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits brags of the Talmud’s influence upon Judaism in his book Towards Historic Judaism:
Our Judaism, as we know it today, is based on the Talmud. …it is a wonderfully vivid record of the religious, cultural, and social life of the entire Jewish nation, covering a period of at least seven centuries…. There is every reason for a Jew to take pride in this great creation of his nation.11
Within the Talmud since its conclusion all religious and spiritual authority in Judaism has been centered. Every decision in Jewish life, great or small, has been taken in accordance with Talmudic authority…. The Talmud became the spiritual authority – voluntarily accepted by the whole nation. …[this] unifying authority remained firm all the time, for it was rooted in the voluntary acceptance of spiritual values. [The Talmud, not God or His Laws, is] … the only authority in Judaism….12
Under the heading “TALMUD,” The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia provides insight into the importance of the Talmud to Jewish religious education:
TALMUD: …Although the Babylonian T[almud] is no longer the chief direct source of Jewish law – for ultimate authority has long since passed to the CODES and subsequent compilations, especially RESPONSA – it is nevertheless still the most important Jewish legal source-book and, as such, continues to provide the foundation of religious education among observant Jews.13
In exposing the Talmud and the Jews, Dr. Benjamin H. Freedman wrote of the Talmud’s authority over the Jews:
The Talmud today virtually exercises totalitarian dictatorship over the lives of so-called or self-styled “Jews” whether they are aware of that fact or not.14
Just as the Talmud is the “textbook by which rabbis are trained,” so is the Talmud also the textbook by which the rank and file of the so-called, or self-styled, Jews are trained to think from their earliest age.15
In his book A History of the Jews, Abram Leon Sachar expounded on the Talmud’s usurpation of God’s Laws:
New [man-made] laws were therefore deduced from the old [Covenant] ones, new meanings were ferreted out of every sentence and every clause. Soon a school of expounders developed, whose work continued for centuries and became the foundation of the Talmud.
…Those [new Talmudic laws] which were afterwards embodied in the Mishnah were sound and humane and were a distinct improvement on many of the Biblical injunctions [YHWH’s Laws].16
Once men lived by the plain Mosaic law. As parts grew antiquated [according to Jewish reasoning], new interpretations and traditions [of men] grew up about it [replaced it]. …Mosaic law [was] developed [by the Jews] into the Mishnah, the Mishnah into the Gemara, the Gemara into innumerable commentaries and codes.17
The compilation of the Mishnah marked a turning-point in Jewish history. …The great compilation tended to overshadow the [Hebrew] Scriptures which it [the Mishnah] was created [by the Jews] to expound.18
But the Talmud was never displaced. It became the citadel of Jewish life all throughout the bitter Middle Ages and, in eastern Europe, down into modern times. …No other literature [not even the Bible] was worthy of serious consideration.19
The Talmud faithfully reflected the beliefs and notions of its [Jewish] people.20
By the eighth century the authority of the Talmud was supreme in all matters – from the prayers for a new garment to the amount of dough which the pious [Jewish] housewife was obliged to burn at each baking.21
The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, under the heading “Talmud,” corroborates the previous Jewish quotes which blasphemously state that the Talmud is of greater importance to the Jew than are the God-inspired Scriptures:
TALMUD…. The Significance of the Talmud. Among the schools of European Jewry the Talmud represented the highest and most complete mastery and challenge to which the pious Jew could apply. The knowledge of the Talmud was held in higher esteem than that of the [Hebrew] Scripture itself.22
In Archives Israelites, a Jewish periodical from Paris, France, edited by Samuel and Isidore Cahen, we find that Jews are demanded to accept the Talmud over the Mosaic Laws of God:
The absolute superiority of the Talmud over the Bible of Moses [YHWH’s Laws] must be recognized by all [Jews].23
In Jewish Life in Modern Times, Israel Cohen admitted to the existence of “Talmudical dialectics.”24
1. Chief Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz, forward to the first edition, The Babylonian Talmud (London, UK: The Soncino Press, 1935) p. xiii.
2. Hertz, p. xxi.
3. Hertz, p. xxi.
4. Hertz, p. xxiv.
5. Rabbi Morris Norman Kertzer, “What Is a Jew?”, quoted in LOOK Magazine, 17 June 1952, p. 123.
6. Dr. Benjamin H. Freedman, letter to Dr. David Goldstein, L.L.D., 10 October 1954, “Facts Are Facts” (New York, NY: Benjamin H. Freedman, 1955)
7. Arsene Darmesteter, Henriette Szold, trans., The Talmud (Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1897) p. 7. The Talmud by Arsene Darmesteter was originally published in English in Quarterly Review, October 1867.
8. Darmesteter, pp. 60-61.
9. Harry Gersh, The Sacred Books of the Jews (New York, NY: Stein and Day Publishers, 1968) pp. 104-105.
10. Moses Hess, Rome and Jerusalem, 1862 edition reprinted (New York, NY: Philosophical Library, 1958) p. 78.
11. Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits, Towards Historic Judaism (Oxford, UK: The East and West Library, 1943) p. 26.
12. Berkovits, p. 27.
13. “Talmud,” The New Standard Jewish Enyclopedia (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977) p. 1830.
14. Freedman, p. 26.
15. Freedman, p. 43.
16. Abram Leon Sachar, A History of the Jews (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968) p. 88.
17. Sachar, p. 143.
18. Sachar, p. 148.
19. Sachar, p. 152.
20. Sachar, p. 153.
21. Sachar, p. 162.
22. “Talmud,” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corporation, 1975) vol. 5, p. 594.
23. Archives Israelites (Paris, France), quoted in Monseigneur Maurice Landrieux, L’Histoire et les Histoires dans la Bible, quoted in Douglas Reed, The Controversy of Zion (Durban, Natal, South Africa: Dolphin Press (Pty) Limited, 1978) p. 88.
24. Israel Cohen, Jewish Life in Modern Times (New York, NY: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1914) pp. 183, 228.
Chapter 14 Table of Contents Appendix 2
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