One of the main texts of Judaism and the focus of the Rabbinic Judaism that has dominated the faith since the early decades of the Diaspora. In its narrowest sense Talmud is a textual commentary on the Mishnah, the original text of Rabbinic Judaism. There are actually two Talmuds: the Palestinian Talmud, compiled around the end of the fourth century, and the Babylonian Talmud from about a century later. For most Jews the Babylonian Talmud is the more authoritative, and its commentary is much more wide-ranging than its counterpart. Both texts can be divided, in general, into Halakhah, which focuses on rituals and laws, and Aggadah, which is concerned with ethics and stories. The two Talmuds were originally written in the Semitic language of Aramaic. In a broader sense the term Talmud refers to the study of Jewish laws, rituals, ethics and history, and such study is fundamental to the rabbinic Jewish tradition. It analyzes not only the Mishnah but the Torah and other texts as well, and it was originally thought to have been handed down by God to Moses during the Exodus and then preserved orally by an inner circle of elders for many centuries. Believers are still encouraged to enter into this study and dialogue with the past. SEE ALSO: Judaism; Mishnah; Torah

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