Page 154 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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Judaism owes its origins to the Bible, but Judaism per se, Juda­
ism as we still know it today, does not begin until the age of the
Rabbis. If one is to understand the whole history ofJewish religion
and culture, one must explore the world of rabbinic Judaism.
The historical background of the rabbinic period can be ex­
plored in two fine essays: Judah Goldin, “The Period of the Tal­
mud,” In Louis Finkelstein,
(Schocken, 1970) and Gerson
Cohen, “The Talmudic Age,” in Leo Schwartz,
Great Ages and
Ideas of theJewish People
(Modern Library, 1952). For a portrait of
the remarkable religious ferment of the rabbinic age, see Jacob
Neusner, “Varieties of Judaism in the Formative Age” in
Sprituality From the Bible Throughout the Middle Ages
, edited by
Arthur Green (Crossroad, 1986).
We can turn to the works of rabbinic period themselves. An ex­
cellent short introduction to the Talmud is the essay by Robert
Goldenberg (“Talmud”), in
Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic
Jewish Texts.
This essay combines texts and commentary. For an
interesting, though somewhat controversial, presentation of a
“grand scheme” view of all of rabbinic literature in a very readable
way see Jacob Neusner,
The Oral Torah
(Harper and Row, 1986).
For a general introduction to the Talmud see Adin Steinsaltz’s
Essential Talmud
(Bantam, 1976).
Rabbinic texts are hard to just pick up and read without com­
mentary and assistance. For Talmud one is best off using Jacob
Invitation to the Talmud
(Harper and Row, 1973).
The other great literature of this period is the literature of com­
mentary known as Midrash. For examples of Midrash a good col­
lection is Nahum Glatzer’s
Hammer on the Rock
(Schocken, 1962).
See also Jakob J. Petuchowski’s
Our Masters Taught
As a general introduction to Midrash including the explication
of examples of texts, see “Midrash” in
Back to the Sources: Reading
the ClassicJewish Texts.
The bibliography of the chapter gives fur­
ther guidance for other reading. To see the way that a theme is de-