Sefer Ha-Hayim Blog
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Publishers Weekly on Students' Guide
The April 27, '05 issue of Publishers Weekly Religion Bookline carried a short review of The Students' Guide Through The Talmud (buy it now) as follows:
Guide to the Talmud Reissued after 45 Years

Yashar Books, a seven-month-old Orthodox Jewish publishing house, thought that the current moment, just after the much-publicized end of the 7 and a half year cycle of studying the Talmud in its entirety, was a good one to re-release a comprehensive guide to the Talmud, the collection of rabbinic laws. Written in Hebrew over 150 years ago by Rabbi Zevi Hirsch Chajes--a noted 19th century Talmud scholar from the Galicia region of Eastern Europe--the guide was last published in English 45 years ago.

"With the fact that there are so many more people studying Talmud today than ever before," said Mordechai Schiller, marketing and publicity director for Yashar Books, "it's important for people to get a grounding in some of the ideas of the Talmud that are mysteries to some."

Translated in the 1950s by the late Rabbi Jacob Shachter, who was the chief rabbi of Northern Ireland, "The Student's Guide Through the Talmud" contains extensive footnotes added by the translator. The book discusses both the legal aspects of Jewish tradition (known as "halakhah") and the non-legal, moral and philosophical
teachings known as "aggadah."

The footnotes are written with the novice in mind, the publisher said, because the original Hebrew text was aimed at rabbinic scholars. The notes give biographical sketches of the rabbis Chajes quotes, and provide other background.

The guide is particularly useful, Schiller said, in helping readers understand the methodology and rationales that the authors of the Talmud had in mind when they first recorded Jewish law around the year 500 C.E.

Chajes "set out a system to explain how to approach these things in a very scholarly and intellectual fashion," said Schiller. "I'm not saying it's a quick read," he added, "but it's very clear."

The Talmud guide will be distributed to trade retail outlets, including and Hebrew bookstores across the country. It can also be ordered at --Holly Lebowitz Rossi

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