Item description for Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living by Michael Katz & Gershon Schwartz...
If you have found the study of Talmud daunting, Swimming in the Sea of Talmud is a perfect jumping off point for this central body of rabbinic literature; it helps apply the Talmud's lessons to the issues and conflicts of modern life, including business ethics, sexuality, family dynamics, and their connections to a satisfying and meaningful life.
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Studio: Jewish Publications Society
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 10.06" Width: 7.04" Height: 0.78" Weight: 1.5 lbs.
Release Date May 15, 1997
Publisher Jewish Publication Society of America
ISBN 0827606079 ISBN13 9780827606074
Reviews - What do customers think about Swimming in the Sea of Talmud?
Nice bite sized studies of Talmudic text Nov 18, 2005
Rabbis Katz and Schwartz have wrtten a lucid introduction to talmudic study. Talmud is voluminous, encompassing many tractates divided into six orders of study. If you were to read a page a day (front and back of each) it would take seven and a half years to comlpete the task. Indeed, many people do just that in an nexercise known as "daf yomi" which basically means the front and back of a page very day. The first few pages of this book are an introduction, explaining what Talmud is and the method of study. Then the main body of the book offers short quotations of talmudic text. Each quotation is followed by a few paragraphs explaining, in plain language, what the text means. This explanation is necessary because the text of Talmud is very cryptic and cannot be studied without someone more knowledgable explaining what is going on. Also, the text fits into a very narrow context, at times, and the reader needs help in understanding what this context is. After this explanation, there is another section of "drash" which is commentary that goes beyond the text. The authors write a drash for each of the quotations. This drash makes the text applicable to our lives in the modern world. The authors use modern day examples to illustrate the points that were made so many centuries ago.
If the reader spends a few minutes examining the cryptic language and then learns the meaning by reading further, he/she will gain a good, albeit elementary idea of the method of study talmudic scholars utilize. In fact, Talmud study is even more difficult when studied from the original text. The text is in a mixture of Aramaic and Hebrew. There are words and idioms that relate to the time the text was written over a millenium and a half ago. Therefore, this cryptic text is even more mysterious than the English translations are. This book is a fascinating starting point but any kind of a deep understanding comes through a lifetime of study of the original text, under the supervision of a learned teacher and study partners. There are now several translations of the entire text and, although studing Talmud in the original language is preferable, with the help of this fine book, study of the full translations can be very rewarding.
A Wonderful Introduction to a Central Text of Judaism Aug 16, 2004
Along with the Jewish Bible (the Tanach), the Talmud is central text of Judaism. Consisting of two components, Mishnah (oral law) and Gemarrah (Rabbinical discussion of the Mishnah), the voluminous words of the great Rabbinic Sages expound on every conceivable subject and their rulings make up the whole of modern Jewish practice and belief. It is the Talmud that turned the ancient worship of the God of Abraham by the nation of Israel into the religion of Judaism. Although learned Jews spend their lives immersed in Talmud study, for less knowledgeable Jews it is a sorely and unfortunately neglected area of Jewish study. Indeed, many modern Jews would be hard pressed to explain exactly what Talmud is. Their are many reasons for this of course, but certainly a primary one is that the language style and method of the Talmud is virtually incomprehensible to the untrained mind. (even in translation) Although the Talmud is divided into tractates dealing with broad subjects such as prayer, damages, relations between the sexes, holy things etc., it is not truly subdivided in the way in which we moderns are accustomed. There is no index and laws and rulings on different subjects are found throughout the work. Thus while a "sugya" or section of Gemarrah may begin by discussing a certain mishnah, it will soon be sure to ramble in a thousand directions as the words of different sages with different opinions are recorded with no reference to when they lived or when they spoke or often, whose opinion prevailed. Even the most advanced rabbinic students of Talmud need help comprehending the meaning, turning to the great Rashi or to their own teachers. Immersing oneself in Talmud is truly like being lost in an open sea. And yet the Talmud is chock full of wisdom and exciting insights that have real meaning for our lives, even today. This is why the Talmud should be studied by all Jews (and even non-Jews) who are interested in understanding Judaism.
And yet for most of us, studying the text from a traditional source such as the Steinsaltz translation and commentary, is out of the question. The language of the Talmud is so terse, the style and methods of the Rabbis it quotes so ellyptical, as to seem an elaborate code. This book is an excellent introduction for the uninitiated into the swirling sea of Talmud. After a brief introduction to the style and method of the Talmud, the authors, Conservative Rabbis, divide the book into sections, each one representing a tractate. They then take a sampling of the thousands of sugyot available for each tractate, printing a literal translation of the Mishnah and/or Gemarrah with additional explanatory language in brackets to make it more (although still not clearly) comprehensible. Next is a paragraph that explains what the sugya means, what the Rabbis are trying to say. Often, the explanatory section will fill in details or background that a more advanced student will be aware of that gives the section meaning. Finally in a "drash" or teaching section, the authors put the words of the Talmud into a modern context through use of a story or example that shows how the ruling or discussion can apply to our modern lives. In this way, as Yeshiva students do, we can see how the Talmud is not just a seventeen hundred year old book that we study historically but a living breathing work of art and religious thought that can continue to give meaning to our lives.
Anyone interested in Judaism or the Jewish religion that does not already have a familiarity with the study of Talmud should begin with this book. It is lively, entertaining and easy. You will not be sorry.
A remarkable achievement...When will have have Vol. 2? Nov 23, 2003
I think that most readers who would read this review already know what the Talmud is, so I hope I am right in skipping over that explanation. Having studied some Talmud myself, it is a little like going to law school, but not having the advantage of being able to check things out with your classmates. Here, the authors are your classmates...and teachers. They have selected excerpts from various tractates and given the reader a taste of the legalistic reasoning one finds throughout, but then they take it one step further and relate the excerpt to our own society. One can say that this is a wonderful idea, but like all wonderful ideas, it has no meaning without wonderful excecution. And the authors definitely deliver. Not every excerpt is successful in the retelling. But I have found this a book to read slowly and savor the excerpts and I often come back to some I have already read. The appendices and glossary alone are almost worth the price of the book. Well done, rabbis!
Great book, easy read Jul 12, 2001
While I always viewed the Talmud as being an ancient, archaic document, the authors really bring the text alive and apply it to every-day life. I was really eased into Talmud and hte book served as the perfect stepping stone to futher studying--something I am pursuing rigorously. Thanks Katz and Schwartz!
READ WISELY Jun 8, 2000
A book for the uninitiated, I believe. It's good for me, anyway, that am uninitiated: to tackle with Talmud is just like having the fight Jacob had, when he became Israel (Genesis, 25-29). We don't want it to wrench our mind's hip - thus we need to be led by the hand, carefully and wisely, so that we're not frightened by the task... I think this work achieves its aim: it introduces to Talmud without scaring you off, and you start enjoying it, appreciating the profundity of thought and using it to your benefit. Talmud is teaching, and teaching needs to be done gradually and serenely, otherwise the task becomes ominous and discouraging. Here instead, you "swim" at ease and learn to cope with life - you don't need to be Jewish for that!