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Solomon's Wall, Jerusalem (The Wailing Wall), by Jean Leon Gérôme, 19th century (Public Domain Image)
Solomon's Wall, Jerusalem (The Wailing Wall), by Jean Leon Gérôme, 19th century (Public Domain Image)

The Talmud: Selections

by H. Polano


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If you have browsed the Rodkinson 10 volume abridged translation of the Talmud (the full text of which is also available at sacred-texts), you probably know that the work is a vast expanse of wisdom literature, with huge stretches of incredibly dry legal debates and minutiae interposed with rich oases of fascinating lore. It is difficult to find these islands without a map. Polano's Talmud: Selections, is just such a guide. This was one of the first English anthologies of Talmudic literature. The early Biblical lore is organized as a continuous narrative, which makes an interesting supplement to a reading of the Bible. Polano includes a selection of the best stories of the Rabbis, some reminiscent of tales of the Zen monks. The humor of the Talmud is also well represented (particularly the tale of the Emperor and the Aged Man, with its archetypal Jewish punchline). And there is a wonderful list of Talmudic Proverbs. If you are impatient to get to the interesting parts of the Talmud, this is the book for you.

--J.B. Hare

Title Page

Part First: Biblical History

Chapter I. From Cain and Abel to the Destruction of Babel's Tower
Chapter II. From the Birth of Abram to the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
Chapter III. From the Birth of Isaac to the Wars of Shechem
Chapter IV. From Joseph's Youth to His Elevation Over Egypt
Chapter V. Joseph's Greatness and Jacob's Entry Into Egypt
Chapter VI. Death of Jacob and His Sons--Moses--The Deliverance From Egypt

Part Second: Biblical Commentaries

I. The Deliverance From Egypt
Chapter II. The Ten Plagues
III. The Death of Moses
IV. The Book of Esther
V. King Solomon, the Wise

Part Third: The Rabbis, their Teachings and Lives

Rabbi Judah, the ''Chief''
Simon, the Righteous
Rabbi Ishmael, the High Priest
Rabbi Meir
Hillel Hannasi.
Rabbi Ammon, of Metz

II. Teachings of the Rabbis

The Fear of God
Honour thy Parents
The Law and its Study
The Sabbath
Rewards and Punishments
Funeral Sermon over a dead Rabbi

III. Incidents in The Lives of the Rabbis

Rabbi Akiba
Elishah ben Abuyah
Rabbi Simon

Part Fourth: Proverbs and Sayings of the Rabbis

Sayings of the Rabbis
The Desert Island
The Emperor and the Aged Man
Proving a Claim
A Payment with Interest
The Weasel and the Well
The Lawful Heir
Nothing in the World without its Use
The Reward of Faith
Abtinoss and Garmah
Trust in God
The Bride and Bridegroom
The Destruction of Bithar
The Destruction of Jerusalem
Second Destruction of Jerusalem
Hannah and her Seven Sons

Part Fifth: Civil and Criminal Law--The Holy Days

Sketch of Civil and Criminal Codes
New Year, or the Day of Memorial
The Day of Atonement
Feast of Tabernacles
''Hannuckah,'' The Feast of Dedication