Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Gemara literally means “learning” and it’s used to refer to the Talmud, especially the Babylonian Talmud, the primary textual basis for Jewish tradition.

Those of us who learn Gemara tend to talk about Gemara differently from the way people talk about other books. We don’t just read the Gemara; we learn it. We’re in constant dialogue with the Gemara, working through its myriad statements, questions, proofs, and disproofs.

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Academics (and, to be fair, the Rishonim before them) refer to the “anonymous voice of the Talmud,” the “Stama de’Gemara” or “Stama de’Talmuda.” But it seems best to refer to this omniscient voice of Jewish tradition simply as “the Gemara.”

Although many Tannaim and Amoraim are cited throughout Shas, most of what appears in the Talmud is the Gemara talking, narrating those sources and giving a play-by-play. When we learn, we continue the process: “What’s the Gemara asking here?” “A huge chiddush by the Gemara!”

The Gemara becomes our partner in study, always a step ahead, guiding the way. As many of my teachers described it: “frekt di Gemara,” “entfert di Gemara” – the Gemara asks, the Gemara answers.

More than a text, the Gemara is a living, speaking document. The Gemara is our friend, who we join with in the time-honored tradition of Torah learning.

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Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier is a Research Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Philosophy of Religion. A Yale PhD in Judaic Studies, he recently completed YU’s Kollel Elyon.