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The Talmud is divided into six major sections, called sedarim (plural of seder, "order"). This is the sequence of the sedarim in the Soncino Talmud:
Each Seder contains between seven and twelve tractates, or books. To see that structure, go to the page, Contents of the Soncino Babylonian Talmud. As you will see, some of the tractates are hot linked. Clicking on any of those tractates will take you to the introductory page for the tractate (e.g., introductory page for the Tractate Sanhedrin).
The introductory page contains the translator's introduction to the tractate. Each tractate is composed of numbered chapters.
The Soncino Talmud contains three types of text: Mishnah, Gemara (for definitions, see More Critical Words of Talmud Law), and footnotes. Most tractates have all three. The Mishnah and Gemara sections are clearly labeled, and of course the footnotes are obvious.
Thus, the structure of the Talmud, with some exceptions, is as follows:
TalmudSEDERTractateMore sedersChapterMore tractatesMishnahMore chapters
One further physical division of the Talmud is most important for the student to understand. Each tractate is physically divided into folios, corresponding to the physical leaves of paper of the Vilna Edition, printed by the Romm family in Lithuania in the 1800s. As with a page in an English book, a folio may start or end in the middle of a sentence. An average folio may span about ten printed pages in the Soncino edition. Folios are numbered, and further subdivided into "a" and "b." Thus, a Talmud passage can be unambiguously cited as "Sanhedrin 18b." In our discussions, we will always use this tractate/folio system when citing the Talmud.
Some commentators do not use the Vilna standard when citing Talmud passages. Instead, they use the tractate, chapter, and Mishnah number. Thus, in Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapter 6, the first Mishnah could be cited as "Sanhedrin 6:1". This is less common, but it is sometimes used among people who take exception to the Vilna printing.
On Come and Hear™, to keep the files small enough for slow modems, each folio is coded as a separate file. Thus Sanhedrin 18a and 18b is one file.
The introductory page for each tractate contains the title page information and the Contents with links to the associated forwards and introductions, links to chapters within the tractate, and links to the individual folios.
The translator's introduction (on the same page) usually contains a summary of each chapter.
The 1961 printing of the Soncino Talmud (from which this presentation was scanned) numbered the footnotes at the bottom of each printed page, starting with the number (1). For this hypertext version, the footnotes have been renumbered. For further explanation, see below.
It was not possible to put the Soncino General Index into hypertext. As a second best, Come and Hear™ provides a number of search engines as a substitute.
As mentioned above, to keep the files small enough for slow modems, each folio pair has been coded as a separate file. The file format is illustrated using the folio Sanhedrin 18. The features of that model file are numbered in green, and explained in the following numbered notes.
The Come and Hear Talmud files contain two other features that should be described. When Talmud text is cited in the Elizabeth Dilling' The Jewish Religion: Its Influence Today, or a page is reproduced in her book as an exhibit, we have inserted a tag in the left margin of the Talmud text, and hot-linked it to the Dilling commentary. Further, the text that is underlined in Dilling's exhibit is highlighted in blue in the tractate file. Examples of this usage can be seen in Gittin 57a.
When a footnote is underlined or quoted in the Dilling commentary, the footnote text is highlighted in blue and the numbered reference in the Talmud text is highlighted in violet.
Examples of all of these features appear in the folio Gittin 57a, and a model Talmud files is shown in an illustration the Appendix.
One other feature that may be of interest: Rabbi Rodkinson, in his New Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, left out sections of the Talmud text. In Do Not Censor the Talmud, Please, we discuss some of those omissions, and underline the missing text for the reader's convenience. An example can be seen at Shabbath 118b.
Thank you for your consideration of the above,
Carol A. Valentine, (Ear at come-and-hear dot com)
July 14, 2003 ( This article is on line at http://www.come-and-hear.com/structure.html )
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Title: Structure of the Talmud Files|
Version: July 28, 2003
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