The Talmud chronicles the early development of rabbinic Judaism through the writings and commentaries of the rabbis whose teachings form its foundation. However, this key religious text is expansive, consisting of 63 books containing extensive discussions and interpretations of the Mishnah accumulated over several centuries. Sifting through the huge number of names mentioned in the Talmud to find information about one figure can be tedious and time-consuming, and most reference guides either provide only brief, ...
The Talmud chronicles the early development of rabbinic Judaism through the writings and commentaries of the rabbis whose teachings form its foundation. However, this key religious text is expansive, consisting of 63 books containing extensive discussions and interpretations of the Mishnah accumulated over several centuries. Sifting through the huge number of names mentioned in the Talmud to find information about one figure can be tedious and time-consuming, and most reference guides either provide only brief, unhelpful entries on every rabbi, including minor figures, or are so extensive that they can be more intimidating than the original text.
In Essential Figures in the Talmud, Dr. Ronald L. Eisenberg explains the importance of the more than 250 figures who are most vital to an understanding and appreciation of Talmudic texts. This valuable reference guide consists of short biographies illustrating the significance of these figures while explaining their points of view with numerous quotations from rabbinic literature. Taking material from the vast expanse of the Talmud and Midrash, this book demonstrates the broad interests of the rabbis whose writings are the foundation of rabbinic Judaism.
Both religious studies and rabbinical students and casual readers of the Talmud will benefit from the comprehensive entries on the most-frequently discussed rabbis and will gain valuable insights from this reader-friendly text. Complete in a single volume, this guide strikes a satisfying balance between the sparse, uninformative books and comprehensive but overly complex references that are currently the only places for inquisitive Talmud readers to turn. For any reader who wishes to gain a better understanding of Talmudic literature, Eisenberg’s text is just as “essential” as the figures listed within.
More than 2,000 rabbis are mentioned in the Talmud (the collection of the teachings of the major Jewish scholars between 200 and 500 CE), and while standard comprehensive reference works, such as the 22-volume Encyclopaedia Judaica, include at least brief references to most of them, searching for more detailed information about these figures can be difficult. Now, Eisenberg, a radiologist at Harvard who has also studied and written extensively on Judaism (his What the Rabbis Said: 250 Topics from the Talmud, Praeger, 2010, is an excellent companion to the present volume), has chosen the 250 rabbis, from the fourth to sixth centuries BCE, who he feels are most important to the text of the Talmud. The alphabetically arranged profiles provide basic biographical information about each man, and then offer illustrative quotations from the parts of the Talmud in which they appear or write. Also included are a glossary, maps, a chronological listing of the 250 rabbis, and a short bibliography. VERDICT This is an invaluable desk reference for readers of the Talmud, but its lively and accessible narrative style also makes it an edifying and enlightening title for general readers interested in the rabbinic foundations of Judaism, who will want to open and peruse it again and again. Highly recommended.—Marcia G. Welsh, Dartmouth Coll. Lib., Hanover, NH
Although Essential Figures in the Bible and Essential Figures in the Talmud were not published as a set, they complement one another nicely....The Talmud is the masterwork of rabbinic Judaism, comprised of the Mishnah—a written compilation of rabbinic oral commentaries and discussions on the first five books of the Hebrew Bible—and the Gemarra, a rabbinic commentary on the Mishnah. Eisenberg’s handy volume brings together information on more than 250 of the more than 2,000 rabbis and scholars mentioned in the Talmud. Entries usually include passages from the Talmud that nicely introduce the wisdom of these Jewish sages in their own words. These A-Z volumes are concise and informative and are recommended for theological and research libraries as well as academic and large public libraries with extensive Judaica collections.
The Talmud has been compared to an ocean that is most difficult to navigate. This handy reference book provides short biographies of all the key scholars of the Talmud, including those of the Mishnah and the Gemara and of both the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmuds. As such, it is an invaluable tool for anyone who studies a “page of Gemara,” which inevitably will make mention of one or more such scholars and will necessitate a biographical reference to such luminaries as Hillel or Akiva, or the hundreds of other less known rabbinical scholars. Written in clear, easily understood language, Essential Figures in the Talmud is a book that will greatly facilitate the understanding of Judaism’s law and lore.
Ronald L. Eisenberg is a Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School and on the faculty at Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston. Dr. Eisenberg has been awarded Masters and Doctoral degrees in Jewish Studies from Spertus Institute in Chicago and has published six critically acclaimed books on Jewish topics, including The Jewish World in Stamps (Schreiber, 2003), The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions (Jewish Publication Society, 2004), The 613 Mitzvot (Schreiber, 2005), Dictionary of Jewish Terms (Schreiber, 2008), and What the Rabbis Said (Praeger, 2010). He has authored more than 20 books in his medical specialty and is also a non-practicing attorney.
List of Abbreviations
List of Rabbis without Patronymics
Essential Figures in the Talmud
Appendix A: Chronological List of Rabbis
Appendix B: Maps of Talmudic Academies
About the Author