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From the Hebrew verb “to learn,” Talmud refers to the central text in the vast corpus of rabbinic literature which serves as a repository of legal discussions, biblical exegesis, theology, philosophy, hagiography, legend, history, science, anecdotes, aphorisms, and humor. The Babylonian Talmud was edited over several generations by the rabbinic authorities of Babylonia, probably attaining a somewhat fixed form in the sixth century. However, individual passages included may be up to several hundred years older having been transmitted orally prior to their inclusion in the text. A second Talmud exists, edited in the land of Israel during the fifth century. Know as the Jerusalem or Palestinian Talmud, it is smaller, more opaque, and less authoritative in later legal debates. The term Talmud unqualified always refers to the Babylonian Talmud which is written primarily in Aramaic though it often cites large passages in biblical or Rabbinic Hebrew.
The Talmud is structured around a second...