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Jerusalem Talmud

The Jerusalem Talmud (תַּלְמוּד יְרוּשַׁלְמִי), also called the Palestinian Talmud, Talmud di-Venei Ma'arava (The Talmud of the West), or Talmud de-Ereẓ Yisrael. Like its better known "eastern" counterpart – the Babylonian Talmud (Bavli) – the Yerushalmi is an extensive literary work consisting of both halakhah and aggadah (see: *Talmud, Babylonian), built upon the foundation, and in the order, of the *Mishnah of Rabbi *Judah ha-Nasi (see *Mishnah, The Mishnah as a Literary Work, Halakhah in the Mishnah, Aggadah in the Mishnah). Neither the Bavli nor the Yerushalmi encompass the entire Mishnah, but rather only four of its six orders – though not the same four. There is both Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi for Moed, Nashim, and Nezikin. Unlike the Bavli, however, the Talmud Yerushalmi includes the entire first order of the Mishnah, Zeraim. Again, unlike the Bavli, which has talmud for most of the fifth order of the Mishnah, Kodashim, the Yerushalmi has none. Neither the Bavli nor the Yerushalmi possess a fully edited and organized talmud, redacted according to the order of seder Tohorot (with the exception of Niddah), though both works contain many talmudic discussions (sugyot) which deal at length with the sources and issues of seder Tohorot. Several chapters of the Yerushalmi are missing from our editions – Shabbat 21–24, Makkot 3, Niddah 4–10) – but these were probably lost in the early middle ages.

Like the Bavli, the Yerushalmi is not primarily a commentary to the Mishnah of R. Judah ha-Nasi. Rather it is an autonomous and comprehensive work of halakhah and aggadah. Building upon the text of the Mishnah, it includes two additional strata of rabbinic sources: (1) baraitot – tannaitic sources which were not incorporated in the Mishnah of Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi, deriving for the most part from the same tannaitic period as the sources of the Mishnah (1st–2nd centuries), and almost equal to them in authority (see *Baraita); (2) the teachings of five generations of Palestinian *amoraim (and a few sixth generation scholars), and the first three generations of Babylonian amoraim. Like the Bavli, the Yerushalmi cites and discusses these sources for their own sake, and not merely insofar as they enlighten some obscure point in the Mishnah.

Also like the Bavli, the predominant literary form in the Yerushalmi is the sugya – a continuous, and sometimes quite lengthy, series of questions and answers, objections and justifications, in which the isolated tannaitic and amoraic sources of the Yerushalmi are combined and unified into a synthetic and dialectical whole. However, unlike the Bavli, the sugyot of the Yerushalmi do not contain a great deal of anonymous editorial additions, comments, interpretations, and explanations. It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that the Yerushalmi was redacted at about the time of the latest amoraim that are mentioned in it, or about the year 400 C.E. There are no explicit traditions concerning the place of the Yerushalmi's redaction, though it is usually assumed that it was redacted in Tiberias, perhaps with material deriving from Sepphoris and Caesarea also included.

Bavli and Yerushalmi – Similarities and Differences

In comparing the Bavli to the Yerushalmi, scholars have frequently pointed out that the discussions in the Bavli are more long-winded and discursive, involving extensive explanation and abstract conceptualization, forced interpretations of early sources, and so on. The sugyot of the Yerushalmi by comparison are more focused, concrete, and succinct. This comparison, while true insofar as the final texts of these two works are concerned, is nevertheless extremely misleading. As later critical scholarship has pointed out, the Bavli is composed of several distinct literary levels – (1) tannaitic; (2) amoraic; (3) stam ha-talmud – i.e. the literary work of several generations of anonymous redactors (cf. Talmud, Babylonian, The Babylonian Talmud as a Literary Work). Nearly all of the most prominent features which differentiate the Bavli from the Yerushalmi belong to the largely post-amoraic stam ha-talmud stratum of the Bavli. As scholars have pointed out, if one isolates the tannaitic and amoraic strata of the Bavli from the literary embellishments of the stam ha-talmud, the Bavli turns out to be remarkably similar to the Yerushalmi. A comparison of these two works as they stand, therefore, cannot contribute much to an understanding of the difference between two different, but contemporary, talmudic traditions, one in Babylonia and the other in Ereẓ Israel. Rather, such a comparison would primarily serve to highlight the difference between two different stages in the development of a single shared talmudic tradition, which was preserved both in Babylonia and in Ereẓ Israel. Since the Yerushalmi was redacted at least one hundred years before the Bavli, it preserves (by and large) a more original form of this shared talmudic tradition, closer in time and in form to the Talmud of the early and middle amoraim (both Babylonian and Palestinian). The Bavli, on the other hand, represents a later version of this same shared talmudic tradition, one which has incorporated later (mostly Babylonian) amoraic traditions and interpretations, as well as additions, interpretations, and revisions of the stam ha-talmud – all of which stem from the period following the redaction of the Yerushalmi (see Talmud, Babylonian, The Place of the Babylonian Talmud in Rabbinic Literature).

There are, nevertheless, a number of real differences between these two talmudim. First of all, the textual tradition of the Mishnah which is presupposed by the sugyot of the Bavli is often different from that presupposed by the Yerushalmi (see: Mishnah: The Later Development of the Text of the Mishnah; and cf. Epstein, Mishnah, 18–25, 195). Second, the Aramaic language of the Yerushalmi differs from that of the Bavli. The language of the Bavli, which is familiar to most Talmud students, belongs to the eastern branch of Aramaic (which includes Mandaic and Syriac). The language of the Yerushalmi, on the other hand, belongs to the western branch of Aramaic (which includes Samaritan and Palestinian Christian Aramaic), and is unfamiliar to most students trained in the Bavli. This dialect was thoroughly investigated by Dalman, whose work was criticized by Kutscher. However, given the fragmentary nature of Kutscher's own contributions in this field, it would seem that his criticism of Dalman was somewhat exaggerated (Macuch, xxxvii). Stevenson's popular grammar of Palestinian Jewish Aramaic is largely based on Dalman's work, and though it too was dismissed by Kutscher, his judgment is relevant primarily for the professional linguistic scholar, and does not relate to the value of this small book for teachers and students. In the field of lexicography, the situation has been vastly improved by the publication of M. Sokoloff 's Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (1990). Third, the technical terminology of the Yerushalmi is very different from the far more familiar and well-documented terminology of the Bavli. L. Moscovitz has already made a significant contribution toward the clarification of the technical terminology of the Yerushalmi, and it is to be hoped that his continued efforts in this field will soon become available to a wider community of Talmud students.

Only about one-sixth of the Jerusalem Talmud consists of *aggadah, compared with one-third of the Babylonian. This may be due to the fact that in Ereẓ Israel the aggadic element was assembled in special collections, out of which the later Midrashim evolved. There are in fact many aggadic passages in the Yerushalmi which closely resemble parallel passages found in the classic aggadic collections – *Genesis Rabbah, *Leviticus Rabbah, *Pesikta de-Rav Kahana, etc. – though the precise literary and historical relationship between these parallel texts is not always clear (see *Genesis Rabbah). For the relative originality and historical reliability of the Palestinian aggadic tradition as a whole, in comparison with the aggadah of the Bavli, see: Talmud, Babylonian – The Aggadah of the Babylonian Talmud. In the Yerushalmi there is a marked lack of demonology or angelology which looms so large in the Babylonian Talmud, although, contrary to the statement of Ginzburg, shedim ("devils") are mentioned (TJ, Shab. 1:3, 3b; Git. 6:8, 48b). There are many references to sorcery (cf. Sanh. 7:13, 25c and even in a halakhic context, Naz. 7:1, 57a); magic (Shab. 6:9, 8d; cf. TB, Shab. 66b) and astrology (Shab. 6:9, 8d) are also mentioned. There is reference only to the two biblical angels Michael and Gabriel.

Yerushalmi Nezikin

It is immediately evident that the text to the three tractates of Nezikin ("Damages") – Bava Kamma, Bava Meẓia, and Bava Batra – differ in a fundamental and striking way from the remainder. The difference extends to style, terminology, and even to the names of the amoraim who are mentioned there. The vast majority of amoraim quoted belong to the first and second generations; those of the next two generations are hardly mentioned at all; and many of those mentioned in this order are rarely mentioned in the other orders. Nezikin has a different terminology and includes old Hebrew words which do not occur elsewhere. It is distinguished by its brevity and shows every sign of being in an unfinished state. Where discussions are found on an identical passage in this and the other orders, that in Nezikin often comes to an entirely different conclusion, or gives different answers to those given in the other discussion. Moreover, discussions left incomplete in this order are found completed in the others.

That the Talmud to Nezikin is fundamentally different from the rest is universally accepted. Originally explanations of this phenomenon focused on identifying a different location for the redaction of these three tractates. The first to suggest that it emanated from a different source was I. Levy (Jahresbuch des juedischen theologischen Seminars, Breslau, 20/21 (1895)). Although it was previously maintained that it was compiled in Tiberias and represents the teachings of the school there, the brilliant research of S. Lieberman argued vigorously against this conclusion. In his opinion, the Jerusalem Talmud to Nezikin represents the school of Caesarea, where it was compiled about the middle of the fourth century C.E., half a century before the compilation of the rest. Among the evidence put forward by Lieberman the following may be mentioned. In the Jerusalem Talmud to tractate Shabbat (which emanates from Tiberias), the "rabbis of Caesarea" are contrasted with "the local rabbis"; R. Nasa, who is elsewhere (Est. R. 2:9; TJ, Shab. 7:1, 9b; Pes. 2:2, 29a, etc.) mentioned as hailing from Caesarea, is mentioned no less than 14 times in Nezikin; the only time the word "here" is mentioned in Nezikin (BM 6:3, 11a) the reference is clearly to Caesarea; and lastly, statements attributed in the three Bava tractates to amoraim without any qualification are in other parts of the Jerusalem Talmud attributed to "the rabbis of Caesarea" (cf., e.g., BB 3:1, 13d with Kid. 4:2, 65d; BK 8:4, 6b with Ket. 5:5, 30a). Recently, however, the focus has moved away somewhat from the aspect of location, and more attention has been given to the aspect of time – that the redaction of Yerushalmi Nezikin represents an earlier stage in the development of the talmudic tradition, before the isolated memrot and baraitot were incorporated into extended synthetic and dialectical compositions (Sussmann, Meḥkare Talmud I).

Acceptance of the Two Talmuds

The Jerusalem Talmud was completed at least a century before the compilation of the Babylonian Talmud – c. 400. Its close was probably due to the situation which prevailed in Ereẓ Israel. In 351 the Roman commander Ursicinus wreaked vengeance on the Jews of Tiberias, Sepphoris, and Lydda, the seats of the three academies, because of their revolts against the army. It was the beginning of the end of organized Jewish learning in Ereẓ Israel. The activities of the main school, that of Tiberias, came to an end with the extinction of the patriarchate in 421, as a result of the troubles and persecution which followed the Christian domination. Although study of the Torah did not cease entirely, conditions were not conducive to the flourishing of halakhot or the creation of halakhic works. It was, in fact, almost a miracle that the Torah of Ereẓ Israel was not forgotten entirely. Until the rise of Islam each Talmud was probably authoritative in its own sphere. With the spread of Islam and the establishment of the caliphate at Baghdad in the eighth century, however, the geonim of Babylon succeeded in establishing the authority of the Babylonian Talmud throughout Europe. Students flocked to the academies of Babylon from Spain, Provence, Italy, North Africa, and the Byzantine Empire. Hai Gaon (d. 1038) had already laid it down that decisions of the Jerusalem Talmud are to be disregarded when they conflict with those of the Babylonian (Teshuvot ha-Ge'onim, ed. Lyck, no. 46; Sha'arei Teshuvah, no. 39; cf. Ha-Eshkol, Hilkhot Sefer Torah, 60b). It was in North Africa that the relationship of the Babylonian Talmud to the Jerusalem Talmud was finally determined. The Jerusalem Talmud was studied intensively in the school of *Nissim b. Jacob ibn Shahin and *Hananel b. Ḥushi'el. It has been suggested, but without any corroborative evidence, that Ḥushi'el, the father of Hananel, brought it from his native southern Italy, where Palestinian influence was strong. Nissim maintained that many passages in the Babylonian Talmud could be understood only when compared with the parallel passage in the sister Talmud. But it was Isaac Alfasi, the most prominent halakhic figure in North Africa following Hananel, who formalized the role of the Jerusalem Talmud in the emerging world of the *rishonim. On the one hand, in his classic and decisive work Hilkhot ha-Rif he quotes the Jerusalem Talmud extensively, yet at the same time he states unequivocally (Er. 104b) that "since our Talmud [the Babylonian] permits it [the causing of sound on Sabbath] it is of no concern to us that the Talmud of the west forbids it, because we rely upon our Talmud since it is later (batra'ei) in time, and they were more versed in that Talmud than we are. Were they not convinced that one need not rely upon that statement of the Jerusalem Talmud they would not have permitted it." The Jerusalem Talmud was not extensively used by Rashi; his quotations from it are very often secondhand, culled from other works. It was, however, better known among some of the tosafists. For example, Solomon ibn Adret and Simeon b. Ẓemaḥ Duran both state that Judah b. Yakar, who lived in France around 1200, wrote a commentary on it. In the 13th century, the talmudic school of Naḥmanides, following the precedents of Hananel and Alfasi, continued to study the Yerushalmi in conjunction with their exposition of the Bavli.

Manuscripts and Editions

The editio princeps of the Jerusalem Talmud is the Venice edition printed by Daniel Bomberg (1523–24), published after the completion of the printing of the Babylonian Talmud (1523) and before he undertook the printing of the Yad of Maimonides which was completed the following year. This edition is based upon the sole extant manuscript of the Jerusalem Talmud, the Leiden manuscript, which was written by Jehiel b. Jekuthiel b. Benjamin ha-Rofe in 1289. The scribe explicitly states that he copied it from a woefully corrupt text, full of errors; although he had attempted to correct it as much as possible, "I know that I have not corrected even half of the mistakes," and he begs the indulgence of his readers. In addition to those mistakes, it is evident from statements and quotations of the rishonim that the scribes in many cases freely changed the orthography characteristic of the original text to make it accord with the accepted spelling and terminology of the Babylonian Talmud. For instance it is specifically stated that in the Jerusalem Talmud אדם is spelled אדן, yet those differences have been eliminated from the manuscript.

This manuscript was the basis of the printed text, but its editor, Jacob b. Ḥayyim ibn Adoniyahu, had at his disposal three other manuscripts, which he calls "accurate" ones. All of these have been completely lost, with the exception of the Yerushalmi to tractate Horayot, which was printed by Bomberg in his edition of the Babylonian Talmud and which, according to Lieberman, is the text of one of those three manuscripts. Jacob b. Ḥayyim was not conversant with the language and style of the Jerusalem Talmud and in many places spoiled the text by amendments due to his lack of understanding. It is clear that he did not examine the text before him with sufficient care, or correct it when necessary. Nor did he hesitate to omit passages which he did not understand or add sentences which are not found in the Leiden manuscript (though possibly their source is the other manuscripts mentioned; see J.N. Epstein, in: Tarbiz (see bibl.) (with additions by E.Z. Melamed), and his Amora'im, pp. 335ff.). An examination of the Leiden manuscript reveals glosses by the scribe and by the editor – both of which have been included in the printed text – and glosses from a third hand which did not find their way into it. When added that printing errors are not lacking, it will be realized that the existing text is hopelessly corrupt.

The task of establishing a correct text is almost an impossible one. Two sources are available. One can be obtained through a collation of all texts in the works of the rishonim, as was done by B. Rattner in his valuable Ahavat Ẓiyyon vi-Yrushalayim. The other is the fragments on the orders Zera'im, Mo'ed, and Nezikin of the Jerusalem Talmud in the Cairo Genizah. These were collected by S. Schechter who gave them to L. Ginzberg; the latter published them in Seridei Yerushalmi, and some in Volume I of Ginzei Schechter. In addition, J.N. Epstein and especially S. Lieberman have done valuable work in the reconstruction of the original text of part of the Talmud.

In addition to the Leiden manuscript and the Genizah fragments there exists a manuscript in the Vatican of Zera'im (except Bikkurim) and tractate Sotah, in all comprising about one-quarter of the Leiden manuscript. It is full of scribal errors. In 1976 E.S. Rosenthal discovered in the margins of the Escorial Manuscript of the Bavli, an almost complete copy of Yerushalmi Nezikin. This important find was eventually edited and published with a commentary by S. Lieberman in 1984. Later, the Academy of Hebrew Language published an exact transcription of the Leiden manuscript of the Yerushalmi, with carefully annotated corrections and an introduction by J. Sussmann.


Until recently the earliest commentator on the Jerusalem Talmud whose work has been preserved was Solomon Sirilio. There has also been published by A. Sofer a commentary to Shekalim by R. Meshullam, who lived in the 12th–13th century and another to the same tractate and belonging to the same period, by "the disciples of Samuel b. Shneor" (New York, 1954). Sirilio was a native of Spain who emigrated to Ereẓ Israel after the expulsion in 1492 and composed his commentary in Ereẓ Israel about 1530, seven years after the first edition was printed in Venice. He apparently never saw that, however, and his commentary is based on a manuscript. His commentary to the order Zera'im and some other tractates was published separately by Dinkels; that to Berakhot and Pe'ah are included in the Romm edition. During the next century only desultory commentaries were written on the Talmud. In 1590 Samuel Jaffe Ashkenazi wrote a commentary on the aggadic portion of the Jerusalem Talmud only, which is valuable for the variant readings he gives from manuscripts in his possession, and for his emendations. An older contemporary, Eleazar *Azikri, wrote one on Berakhot and Beẓah (the latter published in 1967) and possibly on Pesaḥim, which has been lost. R. Yom Tov Lipman *Heller, the famous commentator on the Mishnah, states that his son Abraham wrote a commentary on it, but not a trace of it has been found.

The first extensive commentary was that of Joshua Benveniste of Turkey who commentated on the legal portions of only 18 of the tractates. Part of this was published with the text during the author's lifetime (Constantinople, 1662) and the rest nearly a century later. The revival in the study of the Jerusalem Talmud, especially in Eastern Europe, is due to Elijah b. Loeb of *Fulda. His commentary (Amsterdam, 1710) covers 15 treatises. It stimulated the marginal notes by David *Oppenheim which are clearly a supplement to and a criticism of Elijah's work. Moreover only a few years were to pass before two major commentaries appeared. David b. Naphtali Fraenkel of Berlin (1704–1762) commented on practically the whole of the Talmud which was not covered by Elijah of Fulda (but including Shekalim, on which Elijah also wrote: vol. 1, Dessau, 1743; vol. 2, Berlin, 1757; vol. 3, ibid., 1760–62); his work is entitled Korban ha-Edah with additions entitled Sheyarei Korban.

The first to publish a commentary to the whole of the Jerusalem Talmud was Moses *Margoliot (d. 1780) of Kaidan (Kedainiai), Lithuania. Half was published in his lifetime (vol. 1, Amsterdam, 1554; vol. 2, Leghorn, 1770; vol. 3 (part, no place)) and the remainder in the Zhitomir edition under the title Penei Moshe and Mareh ha-Panim. The commentaries of Fraenkel and Margolies are regarded as the two standard commentaries to this Talmud, and paved the way to an understanding of the text. They fulfill the same function as Rashi's commentary to the Babylonian Talmud. The commentary of Elijah Gaon of Vilna is invaluable.

The No'am Yerushalayim of Joshua Isaac of Slonim contains some brilliant interpretations but it is interspersed with casuistic discussions. A valuable contribution was made by Ephraim Dov Lapp of Jaroslaw who provided a digest of this work which, like all the above commentaries and many others, is published in the Romm edition of the Jerusalem Talmud (1922) under the title Gilyon Efrayim, as is the penetrating commentary of Jacob David *Willowski (the Ridbaz). The Netivot Yerushalayim of Israel Ḥayyim Daiches (BK, Vilna, 1880; BM, London, 1926; BB, ibid., 1927) combines profundity and learning with a highly developed critical sense. Appended to the photostat edition of the Krotoschin Talmud (1969) is what purports to be a complete list of the commentators on the Jerusalem Talmud, compiled by Rubinstein. The list, however, is largely of works in which commentaries on passages in the Jerusalem Talmud occur incidentally. Special mention, however, should be made of two excellent commentaries in the last century, the Sefer Nir of R.M. Kobrin to Zera'im and Mo'ed and part of Nashim, and that of Joseph Engels (1859–1919) in his Gilyonei ha-Shas. Most important is Lieberman's Yerushalmi ki-Feshuto, and his commentary to Yerushalmi Nezikin, mentioned above, as well as the numerous explanations of difficult passages from the Yerushalmi that can be found in Lieberman's monumental commentary to the Tosefta, Tosefta Kefshuta.


S. Lieberman, Al ha-Yerushalmi (1929, 19692); idem, Talmudah shel Keisarin, Suppl. to Tarbiz, 2, issue 4 (1931); idem, Yerushalmi ki-Feshuto (1934); idem, in: Tarbiz, 20 (1949), 107–17; idem, in: Sefer Yovel… Alexander Marx (1950), 287–319 (Heb. sect.); idem, Yerushalmi Nezikin (1984); idem, Studies in Palestinian Talmudic Literature, (1991); Frankel, Mevo; J.N. Epstein, in: Tarbiz, 5 (1933/34), 257–72; 6, issue 1 (1934/35), 38–35; Sefer ha-Yovel… Ḥ. Albeck (1963), 283–305; H.J. Dinkels (ed.), Talmud Yerushalmi…, 11 vols. (1934–67); L. Ginzberg, Perushim ve-Ḥiddushim ba-Yerushalmi, 1 (1941), introduction (Heb. and Eng.); the Eng. text reprinted in his: On Jewish Law and Lore (1955), 3–57; J. Rubinstein, Kunteres ha-Shalem shel Mefarshei ha-Yerushalmi, in: Talmud Yerushalmi (1949). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: L. Moscovitz, The Terminology of the YerushalmiStudies in the Dialectical Terminology of the Amoraim (Heb.) (1988); idem, in: JQR, 91:1–2 (2000), 101–42; idem, in: AJS Review, 27:2 (2003), 227–52; idem, in: The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman Culture I (1998), 83–125; idem, in: Proceedings of the Eleventh World Congress of Jewish Studies, 3a (1994), 22–53; idem, in: Sidra, 10 (1994), 69–82; idem, in: D. Boyarin et al. (eds.), Ateret Le-Ḥaim (2000), 129–44; idem, in: Tarbiz, 66:2 (1997), 187–221; idem, in: Asufot, 11 (1998), 197–209; idem, in: Tarbiz, 64:2 (1995), 237–58; idem, in: Sidra, 8 (1992), 63–75; idem, in: Tarbiz, 60:1 (1991), 19–66; idem, in: Teudah, 10 (1996), 31–43; idem, in: Tarbiz, 60:4 (1991), 523–49; J. Sussman, in: Meḥkare Talmud I (1990), 55–133; idem, in: Meḥkare Talmud II (1993), 220–83; M. Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (1990): G. Dalman, Grammatik des Judisch-Palästinischen Aramäisch (1905); Wm. B. Stevenson, A Grammar of Palestinian Jewish Aramaic (1924); E.Y. Kutscher, Studies in Galilean Aramaic (1976); R. Macuch, Grammatik des Samaritanischen Aramäisch (1982); Strack-Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (1996), 164–89; A. Goldberg, in: S. Safrai (ed.), The Literature of the Sages (1987), 303–22; B.M. Bokser, in: J. Neusner (ed.), The Study of Ancient Judaism II (1981), 1–119; M. Assis, in: Tarbiz, 56:2 (1987), 147–70; idem, in: Tarbiz, 53:1 (1984), 97–115.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.