Rabbinical literature

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In the broadest sense, rabbinic literature encompasses the entire spectrum of religious writings by Jewish scholars from the emergence of rabbinic Judaism to the present day. However, the term is often used as the exact equivalent of the Hebrew term Sifrut Chasal (ספרות חז"ל; "Literature of [our] sages, blessed memory"), which specifically refers to the literature of the Talmudic era, and in this more specific sense the term is used usually used in medieval and modern rabbinical writings (where Chasal usually only refers to the sages of the Talmudic era) and also in contemporary academic writings (where "rabbinical literature" refers to the Talmud , Midrashim and related scriptures, but rarely ever later works).

This article deals with rabbinical literature in both senses. He begins with the classical rabbinical literature of the Talmudic era ( Sifrut Chasal ) and then adds a broad survey of the rabbinical writings of later periods.

The terms Meforschim or Parshanim are also used in modern yeshivot ( Talmudic schools ) and mean “rabbinical commentaries by the commentators”, see below for a more detailed explanation.

Oral law

The Mishnah and Tosefta (compiled from material prior to 200) are the earliest detailed works in rabbinical literature and explain the oral law of Judaism. Mishnah and Gemara together form the Talmud, which has come down to us in two versions:

  • Jerusalem Talmud
  • Babylonian Talmud

The midrash

Midrash (pl. Midrashim) is a Hebrew word for the interpretation of biblical texts. The term midrash can also be used for a compilation of midrash teachings in the form of legal, exegetical or homiletic commentaries on the Hebrew Bible.

Later works by category

Jewish law

Halacha describes the legal regulations of Jewish life. Important works in this category include:

Jewish thought and ethics


Later works based on historical periods

Works of the Geonim

The Geonim are the heads of the Talmudic Academies of Surah and Pumbedita , in Babylonia (650–1250)

Works of the Rishonim (the "early" rabbinical commentators)

The Rishonim are the rabbis of the early Middle Ages (1250–1550)

Works of the Acharonim (the "late" rabbinical commentators)

The Acharonim are the rabbis from 1550 until today.


Mefarschim is a Hebrew word and means classical (rabbinical) commentators, exegetes; it is used as a substitute for the correct word perushim , which means "comments". In Judaism, this term is used for commentaries on the Torah , Tanakh , Mishnah , Talmud , Responses , Siddur and others.

Classic Torah and / or Talmudic commentaries were written by:

  • Aharonim
  • The Gaon of Vilnius , Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, 18th century, Lithuania
  • The Malbim , Meir Loeb ben Jehiel Michael

Classic Talmud commentaries were written by Rashi . After Rashi there was Tosafos , a general commentary on the Talmud by the students and successors of Rashi; This comment was based on discussions in the rabbinical academies in Germany and France.

Some of the modern Torah commentaries that are widely accepted in the Jewish community include:


  • Ha-Ketav veha-Kabbalah by Rabbi Jaakov Zwi Meckelenburg
  • Haemek Davar from Rabbi Naftali Zvi Jehuda Berlin
  • Torah Temimah by Baruch ha-Levi Epstein
  • the Torah commentary by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch
  • Sefat Emet ( Lips of Truth ), Jehuda Arjeh Leib von Ger, 19th century, Europe
  • Pentateuch and Haftaroth by Joseph H. Hertz
  • Soncino Books of the Bible
  • Nechama Leibowitz , a well-known Torah scholar
  • the Chofetz Chaim

conservative Judaism:

  • the five-volume JPS Commentary on the Torah by Nahum M. Sarna, Baruch A. Levine, Jacob Milgrom, and Jeffrey H. Tigay
  • Etz Hayim: A Torah Commentary by David L. Lieber, Harold Kushner and Chaim Potok

Modern Siddur Commentaries were written by:

  • Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan HaCohen, The Chofetz Chaim's Siddur
  • Samson Raphael Hirsch, Hirsch Siddur
  • Abraham Isaak Kook , Olat Reyia
  • The Authorized Daily Prayer Book with commentary by Joseph H. Hertz
  • Elie Munk, The World of Prayer , Elie Munk
  • Nosson Scherman, The Artscroll Siddur , Mesorah Publications
  • Reuven Hammer, Or Hadash , United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
  • My Peoples Prayer Book , Jewish Lights Publishing, written by a team of non-Orthodox rabbis and Talmud scholars