Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Uncovered, Polish Jews' pre-Holocaust plea to Chamberlain: Let us into Palestine and 21 Talmud Facts Every Jew Should Know By Menachem Posner

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Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works  with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money,  and spiritual engagement

The POSITIVE THINKER sees the INVISIBLE, feels the INTANGIBLE, and achieves the IMPOSSIBLE.

Winston Churchill

Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.

Walt Whitman

The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.

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Uncovered, Polish Jews' pre-Holocaust plea to Chamberlain: Let us into Palestine

n March 1939, weeks before the notorious White Paper, Polish Jewry sent London a desperate telegram, published here apparently for the first time. At terrible cost, it was ignored By Steven E. Zipperstein

The sordid history of the May 1939 British White Paper, the notorious document with which the British all but slammed shut the doors of Palestine to European Jewry, has been documented many times. Less-remembered is how the (Jewish-owned) New York Times took British prime minister Neville Chamberlain's side the day after the White Paper was issued, incurring the wrath of Chaim Weizmann and the Zionist leadership. Virtually unknown, however, is that the Polish Jewish community had sent a desperate plea two months earlier to Chamberlain — a telegram begging him to keep the gates of Palestine open.

This is the story of that plea.

Although the dispatch of the telegram was reported at the time, this article apparently marks the first time the document itself is being published.

The missive was discovered after 82 years in a British Colonial Office file; there is no evidence that Chamberlain or anyone in his office discussed it or, indeed, ever even saw it.

By late 1938, the Jewish position in Europe, already precarious in Germany and countries under the threat of German invasion, had worsened dramatically. On September 30 of that year Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement, allowing Hitler to annex the Sudeten areas of Czechoslovakia.

Chamberlain naively believed appeasement would bring "peace in our time," but in actuality, the opposite occurred — Chamberlain's weakness emboldened Hitler to launch World War II just 11 months later. By June 1940, Hitler was bombing the civilian population of London.

Chamberlain naively believed appeasement would bring "peace in our time," but in actuality, the opposite occurred — Chamberlain's weakness emboldened Hitler to launch World War II just 11 months later. By June 1940 Hitler was bombing the civilian population of London

The Munich Agreement also paved the way for the Holocaust, which began less than six weeks later with the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9, 1938. Thousands of Jewish businesses and synagogues were destroyed throughout Nazi Germany. Hundreds of German Jews lost their lives in the overnight orgy of violence, a precursor to the fate awaiting six million other Jews throughout Europe. After Kristallnacht, no one could claim ignorance of Hitler's intentions toward the Jews.

As 1939 dawned, the outlook for European Jews had never been worse. The Jewish Agency desperately urged the British government to allow more European Jews to immigrate to Palestine. The Arab Higher Committee, representing the Palestinian Arabs, adamantly opposed any further Jewish immigration.

In Palestine, the Arab Revolt inspired by Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem and acolyte of Hitler, had been raging for nearly three years, costing hundreds of lives. The British government abandoned the Palestine partition scheme its own Peel Commission had urged in a comprehensive 1937 report.

The Woodhead Commission, appointed to conduct a follow-up technical analysis of the Peel Commission's partition proposal, declared the plan unworkable. In a cruel twist of irony, the Woodhead Commission published its report on November 9, 1938, only a few hours before the onset of the Kristallnacht pogrom.

In the wake of the commission's findings, the British government announced it would invite representatives of the Palestinian Arabs and the neighboring Arab states, as well as representatives of the Jewish side, to a conference in London in early 1939 to discuss the future of Palestine.

The London Conference opened on February 7, 1939, at St. James's Palace. Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion, later the first president and first prime minister of the future State of Israel, respectively, led the Jewish delegation.

In his opening statement — made to the British Government and Jewish delegates only, as the Arab delegates refused to sit in the same room with the Jews — Weizmann stressed the extreme danger Hitler posed to European Jewry, prophetically noting "the fate of six million people was in the balance."

But Weizmann's warnings fell on deaf ears. By late February 1939, less than three weeks after the London Conference began, British officials began leaking to the press their intention to propose independence for Palestine in 10 years under majority Arab rule, along with immediate and severe limitations on Jewish immigration to Palestine.

'The Arabs were jubilant about the proposals, the Jews cast down and bitter'

As the Times of London reported on February 28, 1939, "[t]he Arabs were jubilant about the proposals, the Jews cast down and bitter." The same Chamberlain who foolishly believed appeasing Hitler represented the best way to keep the peace in Europe not surprisingly decided that appeasing the mufti was the best way to restore peace to Palestine.

By mid-March everyone realized Britain planned to close the doors of Palestine to all but a small trickle of Jewish immigrants. On March 15, 1939, the Times of London published additional leaked details of the British proposals for Palestine, including capping Jewish immigration at 15,000 per year for the next five years.

That same day, March 15, 1939, Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, and German forces triumphantly marched into Prague.

The Jewish community in Poland followed the ominous developments at the London Conference and in Czechoslovakia with increasing alarm and worry. The German military action against neighboring Czechoslovakia raised the unmistakable and terrifying specter of a potential German invasion of its other eastern neighbor, Poland. That prospect, combined with the news leaks from London indicating Britain planned to virtually close Palestine to further Jewish immigration, plunged Polish Jewry into crisis.

Against this backdrop, two days later, on March 17, 1939, the United Zionist Organization of Poland and Agudas Israel of Poland sent a desperate, two-page telegram to Chamberlain. The telegram begged the prime minister of the United Kingdom to keep the doors of Palestine open to Polish Jewry, to allow them at least a chance of escape from the imminent Nazi threat.

This is the text of the original telegram:

In the darkest and most tragic hours of history and life of Jewry three and a half million Jews in Poland appeal to His Majesty's Government the authority which has undertaken responsibility to create a seat in Palestine for the Jewish people to consider both the confidence which the Jewish people have placed in England and the most sacred hopes of Jewry and not to apply a policy in Palestine which throws the Jewish masses into an abyss of despair.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency's Warsaw office published a brief dispatch two days later, March 19, 1939, headlined "Polish Jews Ask Britain to Keep Faith." The dispatch purported to quote from a telegram from Polish Jewry to the British Government, but the language was different from the original telegram shown above:

In the darkest and most tragic hour of Jewish history, three and a half million Polish Jews appeal to the British Government not to betray the confidence of the Jewish people in Great Britain and not to destroy the sacred hopes of the Jewish people by adoption of a policy bound to drive them to despair.

Perhaps the language quoted in the JTA dispatch was from an earlier draft of the telegram, or perhaps the author of the dispatch failed to record the exact language of the original telegram. In any event, it appears the original telegram has never previously been made public, until now. That is not surprising, given the telegram has sat unnoticed for the past 82 years in a British Colonial Office file marked "Palestine: Original Correspondence."

(Steven E. Zipperstein) A previously unpublished telegram from Polish Jewish leadership urging Britain in March 1939 to allow Jews to flee to Palestine and escape the upcoming Nazi onslaught. (Steven E. Zipperstein)

A variety of experts have been consulted, all of whom reported they had not heard of the telegram or seen it published anywhere.

Prof. Dan Michman, head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research and incumbent of the John Najmann Chair of Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, said he had not previously seen it, but cautioned against "overstating the importance and impact of one telegram."

Prof. David Engel of New York University, a leading expert on the history of Polish Jewry and the Holocaust, said he did not recall any discussion of the telegram in the relevant literature.

The research staff at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, indicated they had not previously seen the telegram either, but brought the above-referenced JTA dispatch to this reporter's attention.

Tragically, the original telegram failed to move the British government. Indeed, none of the relevant British government files reflect any internal discussion of the message, including whether the prime minister or anyone in his office ever saw it. Nor did the British Government offer any response to the Jews of Poland, until it released the White Paper announcing the government's new Palestine policy exactly two months later, on May 17, 1939.

A few days before their hope of entering Palestine was blasted by the British order deporting them to Cyprus, Jewish illegal immigrants line the rail, of a ship in Haifa Harbor on August 8, 1946. (AP Photo)

The White Paper imposed extreme limits on Jewish immigration to Palestine, capping the influx at a maximum of 75,000 total Jewish immigrants for the entire five-year period between 1939-1944.

By the time of the White Paper's publication, the telegram from Polish Jewry had been buried in the files of the Colonial Office, where it remained concealed from public view for the next 80 years, until now.

The result of the White Paper's immigration policy was catastrophic: of the six million Jews on whose behalf Weizmann had appealed in his opening statement at the London Conference, 5,925,000 were condemned to remain in Europe. Of the 3.5 million Polish Jews who had begged Chamberlain for help in March 1939, only 75,000 were still alive by early 1945. Regardless of motive or intention, Hitler and Chamberlain seemed to be operating in a tacit alliance to condemn Europe's six million Jews to death.

'Save our children and our parents!' say placards carried by men in the streets of Jerusalem on January 16, 1939 demonstrating against severe immigration limits.(AP Photo)

The Zionist leadership reacted to the White Paper with fury, sending letters of protest and a comprehensive legal memorandum to the British government and the Council of the League of Nations.

Palestine: Statement of Policy — the White Paper of 1939

Weizmann succeeded in obtaining a symbolic vote of disapproval from the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, but it meant nothing to the doomed Jews of Poland and elsewhere in Europe.

One would have thought the White Paper and the plight of Polish and European Jewry must have provoked an outcry from other influential Jewish voices around the world. But one of the most important channels, the Jewish-owned New York Times, shockingly defended the White Paper in an editorial published May 18, 1939, the day after it was released.

The editorial, written only six months after Kristallnacht; two months after the German invasion of Czechoslovakia and the Polish Jewish telegram; and less than four months before Germany's invasion of Poland, callously proclaimed, "[t]he pressure on Palestine is now so great that immigration has to be strictly regulated to save the homeland itself from overpopulation . . ."

Illustrative: Representatives of seven Arab states including kings, presidents, and princes met in Cairo, Egypt May 29, 1946 at the invitation of King Farouk, to organize a united front against Jewish immigration to Palestine. Lunching at the royal estate are , left to right: Seif El Islam of Yemen, Shek Beshara El Khoury, president of Lebanon, president Shukry El Kowalty of Syria, King Farouk of Egypt, King Abdullah of Transjordan , and Amir Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo)

The editorial agreed with the British government that it was more important to avoid upsetting the Palestinian Arabs than to allow more than a tiny number of European Jews to immigrate to the country.

Weizmann was so furious with the Times that he refused to meet with the paper's publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, during Sulzberger's visit to London a few days later. Weizmann vented his anger in a letter to Solomon Goldman on May 30, 1939, dismissing Sulzberger as a "cowardly Jew." In the same letter, Weizmann asked Goldman, "what I would like to understand however is whether the general attitude and feeling of the [American] Jews is very different from Sulzberger's and his paper."

Even after WWII had ended and the Zionist leadership was begging the British government to allow 100,000 destitute and still endangered Holocaust survivors ("asylum seekers" in today's parlance) to immigrate to Palestine, the New York Times continued urging appeasement of the Palestinian Arabs rather than allowing Europe's surviving Jews to seek a new life in Palestine.

Men, women and children on the upper deck, along with cattle and poultry, aboard the Greek-manned Panama, taken into custody off the port of Jaffa, on July 17, 1947 by the British minesweeper, Sutton. (AP Photo)

Commenting on the plight of European Jewry in a November 14, 1945, editorial, the Times coldly declared, "Certainly there is no indication that the solution will be found in mass emigration to Palestine."

To his great credit, then-US president Harry Truman ignored the Times and publicly pressured prime minister Clement Attlee to set aside the White Paper's restrictions and grant 100,000 immigration certificates to European Jewish asylum seekers.

Same threat, different day

Why should we care about any of this more than 80 years later?

Because history has a way of repeating itself. Anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment has swept across large swaths of Europe and the United States in recent years. More ominously for the Jewish people, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are converging and gaining increasing currency in Europe and the United States, on both the left and the right of the political spectrum.

The perfidy of Chamberlain's Conservative government in issuing the White Paper and condemning millions of European Jews to the gas chambers must be remembered, lest history repeat itself.

For the sake of the nearly 3.5 million Polish Jews and the 2.5 million other Jews from the rest of Europe who perished so tragically and so needlessly, we must never forget what could have been done to save them.


Steven E. Zipperstein is the author of the forthcoming book, "Law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Trials of Palestine." Zipperstein is a former United States federal prosecutor, and now holds the position of senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Development at UCLA. He also teaches in UCLA's Global Studies program and School of Public Affairs, and as a visiting professor at the Tel Aviv University Law Faculty. Copyright: Steven E. Zipperstein 2020.

"The Muslims have the absolute right" to the Western Wall - PA denial of Jewish history persists

Official PA TV narrator: "The historical documents in the possession of the Palestinians of Jerusalem testify that Jerusalem is a city of Arab origin for thousands of years, and its history and culture are Islamic. Since Islam's conquest [in the 7th century], the Al-Buraq Wall (i.e., the Western Wall) has remained an Islamic waqf. The Muslims have the absolute right to it and there is not even one rock there that dates back to the period of King Solomon, as the Jews claim."

The Al-Buraq Wall - Islam's Prophet Muhammad is said to have ridden during his Night Journey from Mecca to "al aqsa mosque", i.e., "the farthest mosque" (Quran, Sura 17), and there tied his miraculous flying steed named Al-Buraq to a "stone" or a "rock."  (Jami` at-Tirmidhi, Book 47, Hadith 3424). In the 1920's, Arab Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini decided to identify the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem as that "rock" or "stone," and since then Muslims refer to the Western Wall as the "Al-Buraq Wall."

The Western Wall – is a small remnant of the large retaining wall built by King Herod to support the Temple Mount of the Second Temple. It is not connected to Solomon's Temple as PA TV claims. There are no known remains of the First Temple itself, but many artifacts from the First Temple period including many stamps with the names of Biblical figures have been found in the vicinity of the Western Wall and the City of David in Jerusalem. The Temple Mount including the Western Wall is Judaism's holiest site.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority does not carry out archeological excavations on or under the Temple Mount itself due to Muslim sensitivities.

Waqf - an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law.

21 Talmud Facts Every Jew Should Know By Menachem Posner

1. The Talmud Is the Link Between Scripture and Jewish Practice

The Hebrew Scripture (also known as Torah) is the bedrock of Jewish practice and beliefs. But the verses are often terse, containing layers of hidden meaning. Since the Giving of the Torah, Jewish people studied Scripture along with a corpus of Divine traditions (the Oral Torah), which elucidated and expanded the Divine wisdom of Torah. These oral traditions, and much more, were eventually recorded in the Talmud. Here's how it happened...

Read: What Is the Talmud?

2. The Talmud Is Based on the Mishnah

Following the destruction of the second Holy Temple and the subsequent breakdown of Jewish life and scholarship, Rabbi Judah the Prince edited the first layer of the Talmud, a compendium of Jewish laws known as the Mishnah in 189. The Mishnah comprises short teachings on virtually every area of Jewish law. Even with the basic laws now recorded, much still remained oral, and teachings that did not make it into the Mishnah (braitot) as well as subsequent scholarship were carefully studied by the rabbis of each generation. This continued for several hundred years until the decision was made that these traditions, too, needed to be written down.

Read: History of the Mishnah

Manuscript of the Mishnah dating to the 10th or 11th century from the collection of David Kaufmann. 3. There Are Two Talmuds

In the Talmudic era, there were two main centers of Jewish learning: The Galilee (northern Israel) and Babylon. There was significant back-and-forth; messengers and letters were regularly sent between them, yet the traditions varied, as did the style of learning, prompting one Babylonian sage, Rav Zeira, to fast for 100 days, praying that he forget the Babylonian way of learning and merit to learn the teachings of the masters of the Land of Israel with clarity.

As Jewish life in the Holy Land disintegrated, the teachings of the Galilean scholars were written (but never properly redacted) in what is commonly known as the Jerusalem Talmud (Talmud Yerushalmi). Several generations later, early in the fifth century, the teachings of the Babylonian academies were finally codified in the Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli).

Both can be loosely described as commentaries on the Mishnah, but are really much more than just that. They begin each section by quoting the Mishnah, which is then parsed and elucidated by the sages of the Talmud.

Read: The Two Talmuds

4. The Babylonian Talmud Is the Main One

The Babylonian Talmud was completed later and under more tranquil circumstances, making for a more seasoned product. Moreover, most rabbis in the years after the completion of the Talmud were students of the Babylonian school. For these reasons (and others), the Babylonian Talmud has become the dominant tradition among Jews today. In fact, due to its scarcity, there are significant chunks of the Jerusalem Talmud that have been lost, and that which we do have is based off just a few surviving manuscripts. Thus, whenever someone says Talmud, without specifying which one, you can be almost certain they are referring to the Babylonian Talmud.

A copy of the Jerusalem Talmud found in the Cairo Geniza 5. Talmud Has Two Other Names: Gemara and Shas

The word talmud means learning, closely related to the word talmid, Hebrew for "student." The Talmudic commentaries on the Mishnah have another name as well, gemara, Aramaic for "completion," thus named because they provide the full context and interpretation for the Mishnah. Since the middle ages, Gemara has become the preferred term for Talmud among learned Jews. In part, this was in order to avoid undue attention from Christian authorities who abhorred Talmud, which they saw as a threat to their traditions.

Shas is an acronym for shisha sedarim, "six orders." In common parlance, when one studies Talmud we say he is "learning Gemara," but when speaking of the work as a whole, it is often referred to as Shas, since it encompasses teachings on all six orders of the Mishnah.

Read: Why Was the Talmud Called "Gemara"?

A complete set of the Babylonian Talmud. (Photo by Wikimedia) 6. The Talmud Is Written in (at least) Two Languages

The Mishnah was written in Hebrew. The rabbis of the Talmud, however, primarily spoke and wrote in Aramaic, with the dialects in the Holy Land and Babylon differing significantly. The text of the Babylonian Talmud transfers back and forth between Babylonian Aramaic discussion provided by the Babylonian rabbis, and Hebrew quotes from sages of previous generations and contemporaneous sages from the Holy Land (who are almost never quoted in their native Galilean Aramaic). Similarly, the Jerusalem Talmud contains a mix of Hebrew and Galilean Aramaic.

Read: Why Is the Talmud in Aramaic?

7. The Talmud Is Arranged (Loosely) By Theme

The Mishnah comprises six sedarim, "orders," each covering another area of Jewish law: agriculture, holidays, marriage and divorce, civil jurisprudence, the Temple sacrifices, ritual purity. Each order is further divided into masechtot, "tractates." A tractate is made up of several perakim, "chapters," each of which contains a number of mishnayot, "paragraphs."

Since many of these subjects (such as most agricultural laws or those pertaining to the Holy Temple) did not apply to Jews living outside of Israel after the destruction of the Temple, the Babylonian Talmud is missing commentary for many of those tractates.

Read: The Six Orders of the Mishnah

8. There Are Two Kinds of Rabbis in the Talmud

A sage from the era of the Mishnah is known as a tana. Conversely, one from the Talmudic era is known as an amora. Following the Jewish tradition that the generations closer to the revelation at Sinai had a more perfect tradition and were gifted with greater wisdom, the general rule is that an amora may not disagree with the teachings of a tana.

How do you know if someone is a tana or an amora? Here's a simple trick:

Although, the term rabbi is fairly ubiquitous nowadays, in ancient Israel, only a Torah scholar who was deemed worthy was conferred this special title in a ceremony known as semichah. Since the Babylonian sages did not live in Israel, they were not able to receive semichah and were thus simply known as rav so-and-so. So if someone in the Talmud's name is preceded by rabbi you can assume he is either a tana or an amora from the Land of Israel. Conversely, if his title is rav, you know he is a Babylonian amora.

Read: A Brief History of Rabbinical Ordination

9. It's a Series of Conversations That Span Centuries

Much of the Talmud is written as a conversation. A statement will be made, questions will be asked, answers will be suggested and rebutted, and more answers will be proffered, often going on for pages. Looking carefully at the names to whom the questions and answers are attributed (and many are simply anonymous), one can see hundreds of years of brilliant scholarship and intense analysis packed together. Like any conversation, things sometimes veer off topic, and can easily turn to things more germane to another tractate for many pages.

Read: Is It Really the Torah, or Just the Rabbis?

Studying Talmud. (Photo: Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago) 10. You Never Know What You'll Find Next

The Talmudic discussion was by real people who were working their hardest to apply G‑d's word to their real life. Thus, the bulk of the Talmudic texts contain analysis of Biblical verses and Torah law, but it's interspersed with everything from medical advice to stories, from folk sayings to fabric dying tips.

Read: 38 Folk Sayings From the Talmud

11. Details Matter in the Talmud

In the Talmud, nothing is trivial or irrelevant, which means the conversation can sometimes center around unlikely scenarios that can never actually happen. Why bother discussing something that you will never encounter, and may not have happened to anyone in history? Because it's the Divine wisdom, and when your mind is trying to wrap itself around G‑d's mind, you're unified with Him in the most intense way.

Read: G‑d in the Talmud

12. Talmud Is Studied in a Yeshivah

The Talmud is almost entirely the product of thousands of discussions that took place in Torah academies. In Hebrew, these can be known as a yeshivah ("[place of] sitting") or beit midrash ("house of study"). The Aramaic counterparts of these terms are metivta and bei midrasha. Until this very day, yeshivah students around the world spend many hours a day poring over the Talmud and its commentaries.

Read: What Is a Yeshivah?

13. Talmud Study Involves Noise and Motion

Talmud is traditionally studied aloud in a singsong, with each part of the "conversation" intoned differently. Questions, replies, and proofs, for example, all have their own unique tunes.

This holds true when someone is learning with a study partner (chavruta) as well as when one studies alone. It is also traditional to sway (shokel) when studying, resembling a restless flame, passionate and full of warmth.

The beit midrash is therefore typically vibrant, noisy and pulsating with lively discussion in a medley of languages.

Read: Why Do Jews Rock While Learning and Praying

Carl Schleicher, "Eine Streitfrage aus dem Talmud" 14. There Are Countless Commentaries

Almost immediately after the Talmud was completed, students began compiling commentaries. The most widely studied is that of Rashi, 11th-century leader of Ashkenazi Jewry, who also composed a commentary on the entire Hebrew Scripture. Second in prominence are those composed by rabbis who lived until the start of the 16th century (known as Rishonim, "first ones"), notably the authors of Tosafot ("Additions"), many of whom were actually Rashi's descendants. Throughout the centuries, thousands of commentaries and supercommentaries have been written, each one enriching the corpus of Torah scholarship.

Read: A Biography of Rashi

15. The Talmud Was First Printed by a Non-Jew

Almost as soon as the printing press was invented, printers (notably the Soncino family) began printing individual tractates of Talmud. The first complete printing was done in Venice by Daniel Bomberg, a Christian, in the early 16th century. The text of the Talmud was printed surrounded by the classic commentaries of Rashi and Tosafot. This layout (and pagination) was found to be so convenient and well arranged that it has remained standard until this very day.

Watch: Introduction to the Bomberg Talmud

The Talmud is a collection of writings that covers the full gamut of Jewish law and tradition. Jewish people devote much time to studying the Talmud. Seen here is an open volume of the Talmud. 16. The Talmud Has 2,711 Pages

The standard edition of Babylonian Talmud fills 2,711 double-sided pages of text, as well as many thousands more devoted to various commentaries.

Each page is referred to as a daf (Hebrew for "board") or blatt (Yiddish for "leaf"), and each side is called an amud ("column"). The pages are typically referenced by Hebrew letters rather than Arabic numerals. Thus, the second half of the 10th page of the tractate devoted to the Shabbat laws, for example is referred to as Shabbat, daf yud amud bet, since yud and bet are the 10th and second letters of the Hebrew alphabet respectively.

Celebrating the completion of all 2,711 pages is known as a siyum hashas. Mastering the entire Talmud is a lifetime's achievement, as one can study the same text again and again, each time finding more meaning and depth.

Read: What Is a Siyum Hashas?

17. There Are Two Fonts in the Talmud

Both Hebrew and Jewish Aramaic are written in standard Hebrew letters. It is interesting to note, however, that the standard edition of the Talmud contains two kinds of lettering. The primary text of the Talmud is in block lettering (also known as ktav ashurit), and many of the commentaries are written in a more rounded font known as Rashi script.

Read: What Is Rashi Script and Where Did It Come From?

The first page of Talmud as it appears in standard editions, the text surrounded by the commentaries of Rashi,Tosafot, and others. 18. The Talmud Was Burned by Christians

In the middle ages, Christians believed that the Talmud was the main obstacle to Jews adopting Christianity, and that it contained insults to their religion. In 1244, King Louis IX (later St. Louis) of France had 24 wagon loads of Talmudic volumes publicly burned outside the famed Notre Dame cathedral. At the time, books were painstakingly handwritten and could not be easily replaced, making it a disaster of massive proportions for French Jewry.

Read: The Talmud Is Burnt

19. People Learn Talmud By Heart

Talmud is not something to read once. Rather it is studied again and again. In the words of the Talmudic sage, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha: Learning without reviewing is like planting but not reaping.

After learning and relearning the same text again and again, with intense concentration, it is natural for people to become so familiar that it is committed to memory. Thus, the accomplished scholars typically know large chunks of the Talmud more or less by heart. In fact, the highest praise one can apply to a Talmudist is that he can pass the pin test, in which a pin is inserted into a tome of Talmud and he would be able to say which word it would meet on any given page of text.

20. Today, It Is Translated Into Many Languages

In recent centuries the Talmud has been translated into multiple languages, meaning that Jews from the US, France, Russia and Latin America (among others) can all study in their native tongue.

Read: The Historic Translation of Talmud Into Russian

Photo: Koren Publishers 21. You Can Learn Talmud Online

In the 1990s, cassette tapes with classes on every page of the Talmud were produced. With the advent of easy and affordable internet streaming, many teachers began releasing Talmud classes online. In fact, master Talmud teacher Rabbi Avraham Zajac has classes on almost the entire Talmud right on Chabad.org.

Watch: Advanced Talmud Classes

By Menachem Posner Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor at Chabad.org, the world's largest Jewish informational website. He has been writing, researching, and editing for Chabad.org since 2006, when he received his rabbinic degree from Central Yeshiva Tomchei Temimin Lubavitch. He resides in Chicago, Ill., with his family.

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