Essays on how to learn Gemara

By Jamie Small

          Learning Gemara can be fun and educational and all you have to do is learn how to learn it right. The Gemara is a commentary on the Mishnah. Now to most teenagers and pre teen children this wouldn’t sound like a barrel of monkeys. But they are wrong.

          The first step is to understand the Mishnah. Once you do that you’re ready to go on to the next step: The Gemara. You have to know all the vocabulary inside the Gemara and problems they’re trying to deal with. Once you know that it’s all a matter of review and help by the commentaries to help you understand the deeper meaning behind all this.

          It’s important because it helps us deal with the halachot that we deal with everyday and it gives it a deeper meaning and now we will be able to understand the halachot and the reason behind them better and more clearly.

The following next two paragraphs I found on the web and I think they are very important and well written.


When you start looking into any of the Commentaries, see exactly which part of the Gemara is being explained. Look into what the Commentator adds and what is the exact wording of the Gemara. Understand the Commentaries intention. Is the Commentator fixing up the language, explaining a subject, or answering a question? Is the Commentator working on a problem or guarding you from another way of explaining the Gemara? Check if there is a difference between the Commentator's text and the one in your Gemara. After you know their intention or their explanation, examine it carefully and see what you would have thought without their explanation. Then you will know what Rashi guarded himself against or what explanation he rejected.

The correct way to learn is first to derive everything you can from the Gemara, and then research the Commentaries. See whether or not what you understood agrees with Rashi’s explanation. Then, after you understand what Rashi’s intention is, figure out what explanation he is avoiding and guarding him from, and what forced him to explain it this way. Before you understand what Rashi’s intention is and what he is saying, how can you know what explanation he is rejecting?

In the beginning you should go over the whole unit, know its intention, and study it in a general way. Afterwards, go back and look into each part of it, in detail, to see who is asking the question. Always keep in mind the general concepts, which you (originally) derived from this section. Then, go over it again to see if what you have derived fits into the language. Now, you are ready to delve into the roots and reasoning of the subject, investigating all of its details and sources, as it says "Then he saw and told it; he prepared and also searched it." - Iyov 28:27. This means that in the beginning you should look at it generally. Next, analyze it in your mind, which refers to the words in the "Pasuk" - and told it."" Then, return to see if what you have learned fits the language; this is what is meant by the words "and he prepared it". Afterwards, check to see whether your explanation is correct. Make sure that you understand the reasoning of the subject with its sources and roots. This is what is meant by "and also searched it." Only then does it say: "and He said to the man". Now, you have a solid understanding of the entire unit.


For more information about how to learn Talmud you can click on the following websites, which I personally found.


By Jessica Abergel


The Talmud or Gemara is composed in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic.  The main body of the page is printed in formal block letters. The beginning of a Gemara passage is followed by the Mishnah passage. There is then, in Hebrew (GM') printed in large bold letters. The Talmud as a whole covers every topic imaginable.


A very intelligent but uneducated in Talmud man asks...

How do I begin learning Gemara?

Rav Yitzchak Kanpanton answers this question...


          At the beginning of your in-depth examination you should realize that each one of the speakers involved, the one who asks the questions and those that answer, are very intelligent people. All their statements are well thought out. Their words do not show a lack of education or knowledge.  Therefore, you should look into each of their statements and see if it makes sense.  Analyze their words and try to understand them properly. Make sure that you understand the logic, and that it is not built on bad reasoning. When you start looking at any of the commentaries, check exactly which part of the Gemara is being explained. Look at what the commentator is adding and it will help you understand the Gemara’s intentions. The correct way to learn is always to first try and understand the Gemara, and then to look at the commentaries. After you do that, go back over the Gemara to fit this explanation into the text. Usually you will soon come to a section where all the rabbi’s are disagreeing.  Do not make light of any problem, difficulty, or questions you have while you are learning.  Do not go further until you clarify it. Also, do not rely on your own understanding. Ask your study partner and with their opinion, things usually become clearer. O CHAVRUTA O METOOTA! (GIVE ME CHAVRUTA OR GIVE ME DEATH!) After you feel that you completely understand the subject, review it and see if thee is any question or problem with it.  In this way, what you learned will remain with you forever.

The Gemara is an amazing book that has taught me, and can teach you so much about life.  It is very important in our everyday lives. It also provides many opinions of our holy Rabbi's about conflicts that we, ourselves, may go through .  That is why while learning Gemara, it is so important to completely understand the situation.  If you don’t understand something, never give up! Keep on trying! I love learning Gemara. I can always apply what I have learned to my every day life. The only thing I do not enjoy about it is learning syntax and vocabulary!!!


By Melissa Srolovits

          There are many books of Gemara to learn from.  Gemara teaches us many halachot that apply to our every day life. Talmud takes the laws listed in the Torah and applies them to different circumstances. As it says on

Gemara actually means addition because it is the addition to the Mishnah.


Before opening the Gemara figure out which Gemara you are interested in learning. Then start reading.  To understand what you’re reading it would be a good idea to try to figure out as best you can where are the stopping places.   


Most of the words you’ll probably understand because they’re Hebrew.  A good tool for learning is Practical Talmud Dictionary by Rabbi Yitzhak Frank, that can help you understand the hard words. This dictionary can also tell you the syntax of words.  When you know the syntax of a word, the next time you see it you could know that it introduces a question or other things. 


Another step in learning Gemara and understanding it is breaking up the Gemara lines into grammatical form.  There are different types: an attacking question, the answer to an attacking question, regular question, regular answer, a statement, and a proof.  An attacking question only appears after a rabbi’s opinion and the Gemara or another rabbinical source attacks him and his opinion.  Beyond breaking up the Gemara, the commentaries on the side of the page can help you.  Some of the commentaries are Rashi, and Tosphot.

 As it says at :   When you start looking into any of the Commentaries, see exactly which part of the Gemara is being explained. Look into what the Commentator adds and what is the exact wording of the Gemara. Understand the Commentaries intention. Is the Commentator fixing up the language, explaining a subject, or answering a question? Is the Commentator working on a problem or guarding you from another way of explaining the Gemara? Check if there is a difference between the Commentator's text and the one in your Gemara.


For example the Hagot Habach 98% of the time will change the wording of the Gemara because it changed over time.  The Gemara itself is like someone’s notes from the halachic discussions, they don’t have everything so the missing pieces have to be filled in. Once you get used to how the gemara works and getting a feel for where the lines end and broadening your gemara vocabulary you’ll be well on your way to understanding the gemara very easily and it will be a lot of fun!!


By Jacqui Rabkin

The standard printed Talmud page, spans many centuries of Jewish religious scholarship, from the Bible to the beginning of the twentieth century and serves us as a port of departure on a voyage through the history of Jewish religious literature. However, not many people can look at a page of Gemara and understand it completely in their first try. So here are some basic steps you should take when undergoing the study of Talmud:


First, you should look into the Gemara of the verse by yourself, being very precise in your “reading” of the text. Try to look for stopping points. This becomes easier if you look up words you don’t know in the Talmudic dictionary (such as Jastrow or the Practical Talmud Dictionary by Rabbi Yitzhak Frank). And when you find words, don’t only look for their simple meaning, but look at their syntax. When you know the syntax of words, it easy to know where to stop and start the line.


          Now that you know some vocabulary, syntax, and phrasing, you are ready to decipher the text. In each statement (The Shemya Yisrael website suggests:) be aware who is speaking, who is answering, who is asking, who is being asked, and who gives answers. Know their names and do not confuse Tannas, Amoras, Ravs, and their students. Shema Yisrael goes on to say that is it important to examine WHY the rabbis made certain statements and asked certain questions. See what problem might have forced him to make his statement, why is it a problem to us? And if there appears to be NO problem, why did the Tanna bother saying it? There must be answers to all these questions, because nothing in the Torah is ever superfluous or unnecessary.


          Do not make light of these problems and other difficulties, or questions you have while you are learning. Just the opposite—do not go further until you clarify it. You can do this by looking at the commentaries (such as Tosafot and Rashi, on the right and left of each Gemara page, hugging the main text). Rashi’s commentaries cover almost the whole Babylonian Talmud and Daf Yomi trusts it as one of the best sources to answer our questions. The reason Daf Yomi gives, is because Rashi provides and full and adequate explanation of the words and a logical structure of each Talmudic passage, without sacrificing brevity and clarity. In addition, Rashi also exerted a decisive influence on establishing the correct text of the Talmud. He compared different manuscripts and determined which readings should be preferred.


          The Tosafot, another great source for helping in the understanding of Gemara, is really an addition to the Talmud itself. It focuses on particular issues and contradictions in the Talmud or in Rashi's commentary, which they explore in depth—which helps the reader by pointing out intricate new conceptual and legal distinctions that enhance our understanding of the text (Explains the Daf Yomi)


          After you have looked at commentaries, go back and fit this explanation into the text. Go back over the whole unit, know its intention, then go back and look at each part of it in detail. Now you are ready to delve into the roots and reasoning of the subject, investigating all of its details and sources. The Chazon Ish explains that: “As a result of all this toil, a Gate of New Light will open, wherein the mind will find endless pleasure. Be careful not to spend too much time explaining the logic. Rather, spend your time in the Gemara itself, looking over the simplest meaning and clarifying the end results.


By Gabrielle Bader

                The first step a person should take in order to learn Gemara, is acquaint your self with the page. Here is a list of the things that appear on the Gemara page:

1-     Mishnah is the first major transcription of the oral law. Foreseeing the advent of the dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the world, Rabbi Judah the Prince composed the Mishnah around the year 200.

2-     Gemara is a written record of analytical discussions of the Mishnah, along with philosophy, ethics, and practical advice, by the rabbinic authorities who lived between 200 and 500.

3-     Rashi explains the difficult terms and helps students understand the Gemara’s analysis and reasoning.

4-     Tosfot are collections of comments that discuss conceptual issues raised in Gemara and contrast these with the concepts raised in other Gemara texts.

The next step you should take to learn Gemara is to read each verse carefully and get an idea of what you understand. Then consult a Talmudic dictionary and look up any words you don’t understand. 

Then try to divide up the page into sentences and identify whether or not that sentence is a Maamar (statement), Kushiah (attacking question), Tarutz (answer), Basis (proof), Shelah (information question), or Teshuvah (answer).

          After you’ve done this, try and figure out what the rabbis are arguing about. In each sentence be aware of who is speaking, who is answering, who is asking, who is being asked, and who gives the answer.

           Then, look into the commentaries such as Rashi and Tosfot and see what their interpretation of the verse is. Then, take the commentaries and your explanations of the verse and plug it into the text and see if it makes sense.

          Lastly, read over the Gemara one more time to bring everything together.  A website lists the following steps one should take to learn Gemara. “ In the beginning you should go over the whole unit, know its intention, and study it in a general way. Afterwards go back and look into each part of it, in detail, to see who is asking the question. Always keep in mind the general concepts, which you (originally) derived from this section. Then go over it again to see if what you have derived fits into the language,”

          I feel that Gemara is very interesting and important to learn. Many of the teachings we learn out from the arguments in the Gemara still apply today, in our everyday life. I feel it’s important to understand the reasons behind the laws we follow. It is for this reason that even though learning Gemara is difficult and at times frustrating, I feel it’s worthwhile to learn.       


By Lindsay Spitz


          Hi my name is Lindsay Spitz. I have been learning Gemara since the sixth grade. But as in many subjects in elementary school you don’t learn the subject all on your own rather the teacher basically does all the work for you. It wasn’t until ninth grade when Rabbi Pittinsky taught his class how to learn Gemara all on their own.


          The ingredients to learn Gemara on your own are, to go to the nearest Judaic store and purchase a Gemara and the Talmudic dictionary. You may also need a tanach to look up specific pesukim to get the feel of what you are learning from. Go home to a quiet room and open the Gemara. You may learn on your own or with a group of friends- called a chavruta, (but make sure if you choose to learn with friends that they have the same momentum as you do and wont disturb your learning).

          On your desk have the Gemara open, your handy Talmudic dictionary and your tanach. Find the spot where you would like to start to read, preferably the first page of the Gemara, and start to read. Stop where you believe the sentence makes the most sense. Look where you stopped and find words that you don’t know the full meaning to and think will help you understand the sentence.

Open up your handy Talmudic dictionary and find the word. The way you look up a word in your handy Talmudic dictionary is by the Hebrew alphabet. Look at the first letter of the word and flip through the pages until you get to that section that starts with that letter. Then flip through the pages (the words go Hebrew alphabetical order) and you will find the word. Once you have successfully found the word, right across from it will be the meaning. If the handy Talmudic dictionary gives more than one meaning try to choose the word that will make sense best. Below the meaning of the word is the syntax of the word. Syntax is the way you use the word in the sentence. For example meimaty introduces a question and is followed by an answer.

Once you have looked up all the words from that sentence that you did not understand go back and read it again. This time say to yourself, does this sentence make sense where I stopped and where I put commas? If it does than good for you because people usually do not know where to stop the first time they read the Gemara, if you said to yourself this sentence doesn’t make sense where I paused, then go back and try to find the appropriate spot to stop at. So if you went back and now found the right spot to stop at then look at the sentence’s explanation.

Try to find what the sentence exactly means. And to help you, look at our friendly neighbors on the right and left columns on the page- Rashi and Tosphot. If you found a Rashi or Tosphot on the sentence you are in the middle of learning then go to step one and read the commentary to help you understand the line you are reading.

          When you start looking into any of the Commentaries, see exactly which part of the Gemara is being explained… Is the Commentator fixing up the language, explaining a subject, or answering a question? Is the Commentator working on a problem or guarding you from another way of explaining the Gemara? Check if there is a difference between the Commentator's text and the one in your Gemara. After you know their intention or their explanation, examine it carefully and see what you would have thought without their explanation… The correct way to learn is first to derive everything you can from the Gemara and then research the Commentaries…

-Rav Yitzchak Kanpanton

Once you finished reading the commentary go back to the sentence you are on, read it, explain it to yourself (using the commentary to help you) and you’ll most probably understand the line. (If you are having a lot of trouble after trying so hard- call your neighborhood rabbi, ask your father or anyone that you think will be able to help you understand the gemara better). Now that you’re done with the first line go to the next and start all over again from the beginning of  the instructions.

          You might be thinking to yourself, wow this is a lot of work, but you can  take my word for it, after time it will come naturally to you. You will be able to open any Gemara, to any page, and read a sentence, stop in the right exact spot and understand it perfectly.

"If you want to become wise, you should increase in sitting." This means, you should spend time carefully studying the words of the Book. Reviewing it once or twice is not enough. Rather, study it time after time and each time you go over it you will see something "new". This is what Chazal meant when they said, "One who learns 100 times is not like the one who learns 101 times." Another possible explanation is that you should spend less time with your business dealings and more time concentrating on your learning. Included in this is, not letting yourself be distracted while you are learning, as Chazal have said, ("not everyone who increases his business dealings becomes wise.")

Gemara in school is very important for many reasons. One in particular is because it opens you up to a different language than English and Hebrew, Aramaic. Also it is important because it teaches us, the Jews, the laws and regulations about our daily lives. And fully explains the torah.

          There is not a word to use to explain how much I love learning Gemara. It makes me so happy to be able to learn it each and every day and to learn about the laws that one should do in their daily life. It aspires me to G-d willing, one day teach it to my own children and to bring the same joy to their lives that it brings to me each and every day.


By Danny Gill


Talmud is important for it is a comprehension of the Mishnah, which is a comprehension of the torah. It is important for it tells the laws of the torah in depth and perception.


The Talmud itself is the center of the page there is also other commentaries such as Rashi and Tosafot. Talmud is exceptionally hard to understand for it is written in Aramaic, and you must look up every single word and syntax you may not understand because words can play tricks on you and also be extremely puzzling at times. But actually learning and understanding the text of the Talmud is so rewarding and plus in the process you will become a better Jew and are able to follow the torah laws better and they become more significant.


There are different techniques of studying like one good one is to color coordinate using different highlighters and highlight each question, each attacking question and other color, each answer, each statement and each proof all in different pretty neon colors.


Also looking at other peoples commentaries helps and gives many points of views as well as understanding of the Talmud, for it is very hard to understand for it very foreign to our ears.


It helps greatly to shtige away with a fellow chavruta (any friend or intelligent person who would be your partner in studying Talmud), you can help each other out and explain stuff to each other when doubts have entered each others mind on the exact translation of Talmud.


Wherever you learn Talmud you should always have an English Aramaic dictionary for words or phrases that are absent in your vocabulary.




1) A page of Talmud explained.


2) What is the Talmud?

By: Michelle Schwarzbaum


What is the Gemara? Its means addition; the Gemara is an addition to the Mishnah. Now that you know what the actual Gemara is, you can begin the process of learning.

    First, you open the Gemara. Then you seek information about the different topics of Halacha, and decide what you are interested in learning about. Once you have found the section and page, you start to read. If while you are reading you come across words you do not understand, take out a Talmudic Dictionary and it will tell you the meaning and syntax of the word. This method should help and improve your learning experience. You should look into each of the statements and see if it makes sense to you. You should ask yourself the following questions? Is the reasoning logical, and is the proof weak and unreasonable? Does it seem reasonable to you or not? Analyze the statements and try to understand them properly. Make sure that you understand the logic, and that it is not out of order or weak evidence. You should read the Gemara carefully by  yourself, and then look into the commentaries. When you start looking into any of the Commentaries, see which part of the Gemara is being explained. Understand the

Commentaries purpose. Is the Commentator fixing up the wording, clearing up a subject, or answering a question. Is the Commentator working on a problem or giving you another way of reading or looking at the Gemara. After you know the intention or the explanation of the Commentator, study it carefully, and see what you would have thought without the clarification. When you think you understand what the Gemara is trying to say, consult with a partner? go into Chavruta. Having another opinion and point of view is important in learning and understanding the Gemara properly.

While you are going through the Gemara, ask yourself obvious questions in your mind that will help and strengthen your study, like? whose opinion is this? Why did he say this? What's the logic behind it? You also always have to understand and realize who is asking and answering questions. Do not confuse the names of the Tannaim with each other. Review the concepts repeatedly to remember what you learned previously, and what the conclusion of the Gemara is. Click here for more information on this.

When learning Gemara, applying and relating the topic to your every day life makes it a lot easier and realistic.   After you totally understand the topic and questions you have come across, go back, and review it again. This way, you will fully understand and remember the concepts forever.

By Daniel Goldstein


             There are many different basic skills that one should have to learn Gemara. I am only going to talk about 3. The first is that one who is starting out Gemara should know the basic vocabulary and syntax that is used commonly in the Gemara. This will make it much easier to break down a simple piece of Gemara, and basically if you know all of the common vocabulary and syntax, in my opinion you can break down anything.

             The  2nd step for breaking down a piece of gemara, is that one should know what a koishia, tayrutz, shiaila, teshuva, mamar, and a basees is. For example a Koishia is an attacking question, a tayrutz is an answer to an attacking question, a Shiaila, is a regular question in the Gemara. A teshuva is an answer to a regular asked question, a mamar is a statement in the Gemara, and a Basees is a proof brought that is brought in the Gemara.

              By knowing what all of these things are, it will make breaking down the Gemara much much easier, and it will help you a lot. What you can also do to make it easier you can color coordinate each thing.

For example a Koishia you can make green, you can make a  tairutz orange and etc. You can do whatever helps you the most but for me color coordinating the Gemara has helped me a lot throughout learning Gemara.

              I think that Gemara is very important to learn because it gives you explanations of what it says in the torah but in more detailed. The Gemara can help you a lot when you do not understand something in the torah. What's also very good about the Gemara is that there is a not only 1 side commentary, but there are at least 4. This makes it easier because if you are having trouble understanding the Gemara you don't only have to check out 1 side commentary. You can check out all of them! This is why I think that Gemara is so important to learn, and how much use it really has.

By Avi Lichtschein                                                                 


1} The thing someone needs to know about learning Gemara is how to read


it. There are 6 different types of sentences that divide up the Gemara.


They are:


1. Kooshya - an attacking question

2. Me’amar - a statement

3. Sheilah - a question

4. Teshuvah - an answer

5. Teirutz - an attacking answer

6. Basis - a proof



2} Using these 6 lines someone should to break up the Gemara into 6


categories using their best judgment.



3}Then you should buy an Ariel Talmudic dictionary. Using this you can try


to define hard and complex words. Then make a list of the common hard


words so you can keep it as a reference.


4} Find a person to be your partner in learning gemara. Both of you can


explain the stuff  you don’t know to each other, and help each other out.



5} Keep trying hard to learn the gemara and it will become an instinct.


Influence people to learn gemara, and keep studying, because the more you


study the more you will know.



6} To get more acquainted with the gemara,

 Click here for a virtual tour of the Talmud page.

Click here for another good source for Talmud.


By Ari Sofair Fisch

A long time ago in a land far away, the Talmud Bavli was created.  Throughout the years it has guided us throughout our every day lives.  This essay will explain how to learn the Gemara.

The first thing you must know in order to learn the Gemara, is the basic outline of a daf or page of Gemara. In the middle of the page is the Mishnah and the Gemara. All around the Gemara are different commentators. However, the two main commentators, Rashi and Tosfot, surround the Gemara on either side. On the side closest to the binding of the book is Rashi, and on the outside of the book, is Tosfot.  Click here for an example of a page of the Gemara.  Click on the different parts of the daf for an explanation of each part.

The second thing that you must know about the Gemara is that there are six main line types. They include: statements, informative questions, an answer to the informative question, an attacking question, an answer to the attacking question, and a proof. Using these six line types, you will easily be able to put quotation marks into the gemara in order to help you translate. You will also learn different syntax words that will also help you break up the Gemara into different lines.


The third part in translating the Gemara is to understand the Aramaic itself. If you know Hebrew, it will help greatly because almost every word in Hebrew is the same as Aramaic. The only difference is that some letters are switched. An example of this is that if you have a shin in Hebrew, it becomes a tof in Aramaic and visa versa. You must also memorize many words that repeat themselves in repeatedly throughout the Gemara.

The last step in understanding the Gemara, is using the commentators to explain the hidden meanings of the Gemara. If you can use these amazing Rabbis in your study, it will greatly help you in your quest for knowledge.

Now that you know the basic rules for learning Gemara, go and enjoy. The fascinating world of the Oral Torah is waiting for you! 


Two other great websites on how to learn Gemara are: and


By: Candy Dahan

Learning Gemara can be a pleasant experience, if you follow some easy steps. But before we do that we must first try to understand what the gemara is and comprehend the history behind it. (Question 3.14: What is the Gemara and what is the Talmud?) The meaning of the word gemara is addition. The reason for this name is because the gemara is an addition to the mishnah, the organizer of all Jewish halachos and dinim.

        Now we will try to take the “easy way to learn gemara” steps. The first step to learning a daf, is to find words or phrases you don’t understand. This is vital, because if you do not look up words, you’ll end up reading gibberish. That’s not good! "If you want to become wise, you should increase in sitting." This means, you should spend time carefully studying the words of the Book. (rav yitchak kanpanton)How to Learn Gemara.

        Next you will need to find the stopping point which in the beginning will be hard, but as u get better, you get accustomed to it. Also, when looking up a word, you should really take a look at the syntax . The syntax will tell you if the statement is a question, answer or proof. This is basically the next step, figuring what the gemara is doing. For example, you need to know if the Tannaim are in the middle of an argument or a discussion or just pshat Halacha. If u find a phrase difficult to comprehend, there’s always Rashi! Rashi is always located on the inner side of the p gemara is doing. For example, you need to know if the Tannaim are in the middle of an argument or a discussion or just pshat Halacha. If u find a phrase difficult to comprehend, there’s always Rashi! Rashi is always located on the inner side of the page. He will be glad to help you out. On the other side of the page you will find tosofot. Tosfot is located on the outer side of the daf. It is a little more difficult than Rashi. He will be glad to help you out. On the other side of the page you will find tosofot. Tosfot is located on the outer side of the daf. It is a little more difficult than Rashi. Well that’s all the basics u need to know about reading a daf. Piece of cake! If you have any questions you can always ask your rabbi.


By Sharon Feder


The Gemara is compiled of many different sources and arguments that we can learn from to use in our daily lives. The Gemara is a great source of learning new things that can be taught from generation to generation. We need the Gemara so we can serve Hashem wholeheartedly.


There are many smart and famous Rabbis that teach us halachot through arguments. Rabbis like Rabbi Yossi, Rabbi Yehuda, and Rav Ashi etc. When you want to go in depth it the argument you can always rely on Rashi, Tosfot, Rashbam and many more. Although their debates don't apply to us as people anymore, we still find values through those debates.


The Gemara is not an easy source to understand. It is in Aramaic and most words need to be translated by a Talmudic dictionary. By using the common sheayla (question), t'shuva (answer), kushya (attacking question), teyrutz (answer to an attacking question), and a bas‑is (a proof), its makes it much easier to understand to understand the text of the Gemara and put everything together so it can make sense.


We learn so many different things in the Gemara. For example, we learn about the time of reciting the Kreat Shemah. We learn about Arvey Pesachim. There are so many little things that you can learn from one huge topic. Each year we learn a different Gemara, it gets more interesting each year. Not only do we learn the actual text, but also we learn a new word almost each day. We can either learn a new vocabulary word, or a new syntax. Syntax is much harder than vocabulary because it is more memorization but once you read it over again, because it appears more than once in the Gemara, you get used to that one syntax word and it makes it easier to understand the Gemara.


Gemara is Judaism's second most important body of literature, next only in importance to the written Torah of Moshe. Indeed, some even put it on a tie for first.


The Talmud is a huge multi-volume work that contains several different types of rabbinic literature. It is divided into two main sections.

                The Mishnah: The Mishnah is the more authoritative part of the Talmud. It is the sum total of Jewish Oral Law. It is also the shorter of the two parts of the Talmud. This body of literature, the Mishnah, was handed down orally for centuries and finally edited and codified between 200 and 250 CE, by Rabbi Yehudah haNasi, who in the Talmud is usually referred to simply as "The Rabbi."


The Gemara: The Gemara is the second and lengthier section of the Talmud. While the Mishnah is a commentary on the Scriptures, the Gemara is a commentary on the Mishnah. The Gemara contains  arguments of rabbis as they attempt to decide on legal issues or interpretations. It contains stories, parables, and even provides a record of some very important historical events. It is a very rich body of Jewish literature.

               Two Talmuds: There are actually two versions of the Talmud. One was produced in Babylon and called the "Babylonian Talmud." It is considered to be more authoritative than the second, called the "Jerusalem
Talmud," which was produced in the land of Israel. Both Talmuds were completed sometime around the year 500 CE, the Babylonian one having been finished first.

                        The Talmud follows the organizational arrangement of the Mishnah. There are six main sections, orders or books. It is important, at the least, to know the six orders of the Mishnah.

                        Zeraim (ohgrz)--"Seeds"
                        Moed (sgun)--"Set Feasts"
                        Nashim (ohab)--"Women"
                        Nezikin (ihehzb)--"Damages"
                        Kodeshim (ohasue)--"Holy Things"
                        Tohorot (,urvy)--"Cleanliness"

                        Each book of the Mishnah has several subdivisions. The Talmud follows the divisions of the Mishnah.
If you want to know where I got this information from on the web click here.


The Gemara is a very fun and interesting thing to learn. It may seem hard at first but once you learn it over and over again it becomes easier and more interesting. You learn so many new things and it is a very fun experience to learn the Gemara.


By Victoria Stone

What is Talmud? You would think that since I have been learning it since sixth grade I would understand it, and I thought I did. Yet, only recently I learned what it really was, what it really means. It means that who ever you are, wherever you have come from you can ALWAYS learn something and get something out of the Talmud. You have a question, you're unsure of something? No matter where you're spiritually the Talmud can help you sort it out. You can explore it on a basic level or the most complex level. What does Talmud  mean to me personally? To me, Talmud is not just a book, it is not just a set of laws to go by. "It is life.. it is an entire life style what you learn in the Talmud never leaves you. Talmud is not just a book, it is a way of life( Leonard C.Mishkin)." The only way to successfully learn the Talmud... understand that this book is the glue that connects the Jewish people. Where would the Jewish people be without it? Think of it as your ID card or membership to Judaism. You enter the club the purpose of being there: to learn, to understand, to experience.  If you want to understand Talmud and appreciate it to the fullest- do not treat it like any other book on your shelf. Don't compare it to an English encyclopedia because an encyclopedia gives you definitions, guidelines. Talmud explains everything you need to know about life, what your expected to do as a Jew, along with information about anything else that you may need. There is a clear distinction between learning Talmud and experiencing Talmud. Learning Talmud without really feeling it will not help you in life. When you learn it open yourself up to the spirit of the Talmud. If you understand when you open that holy book that your life will be improved for the better because of it, and that by reading those words you are gaining the knowledge of Rabbanim hundreds of years past. Then you could say that you experienced it that it is a part of you. So, the first step to learning Talmud is to fully comprehend what the book means how it came about. " How lucky we are to have an Oral Torah a tradition explaining what the scriptures mean how to interpret them, and how to apply the laws learned to your own daily life. For more information about the Talmud click here.


By Justin Kohlhagen

          Our ancestors have learned the ancient text of the Gemara for generations. Like any subject the first thing you need to do is read it over several times looking for familiar words and breaking the text into small easy to understand segments. There are certain words that are extremely similar to Hebrew and many that have interchangeable letters like the “taf” and the “shin”. Words that are absolutely not understandable can be translated by one of many Talmud handbooks or dictionaries. Also the commentary of Rashi or other Rishonim can be used.

Once we have out text in a comprehendible language we have to organize our thoughts and segment phrases into a whole text that isn’t always so easy to do. Thoughts usually have a logical order between questions, answers, statements, attacking questions, answers to those, and proofs. Once you find the pattern to your Gemara the rest will be relatively easy, if all else fails ask your friendly Gemara Rebbe.

By Davidi Jonas


          From Rebbe Akiva to Rav Aharon Soloveitchik, the Talmud (an explanation of the Mishnah) has been the guideline to a full and spiritual Jewish life. Understanding the Gemara is a hard task for an amateur but then again we’re all amateurs. Although an answer or idea may seem very blunt or obvious, you must remember these Holy Scriptures were written long ago and the writers thought much differently. I recommend taking your time and thinking abstractly, this is the method of study of many of the great rabbis of our time.

          To learn Gemara you must understand the structure, vocabulary and syntax of the Gemara. An amateur who knows the structural setting, vocabulary and syntax can easily become a wiz in the world of Gemara. There are six types of sentences that make up the Gemara, they are: she’ela, te’shuva, ma’amar, ba’sis, ku’shya and teirutz. The way a sh’ela works is it is an information question, usually between two rabbis. A te’shuva is an answer to an information question. A ba’sis comes as a proof for something, usually an answer to either an attacking or information question. A ma’amar is a statement, usually made by an Amorah (a rabbi in the Gemara). A kush’ya is an attacking or rhetorical question. And a teirutz is the answer to an attacking or rhetoric question. If you understand this structure, the vocabulary and the syntax, you can be a Gemara maven. I recommend purchasing the Practical Talmud Dictionary by Rabbi Yitzhak Frank.

          It can take weeks, maybe even months before you are able to clearly read a daf (page) of Gemara. Do not be discouraged, just stand strong and keep trying and one day, you , can be a great talmudic scholar or even one of the gedo’lei ha’dor (great teachers/rabbis of the generation). Learning Talmud may change your perspective on life, but I hope it will lead you to a life of purity, holiness, understanding of Hashem (the one and only God) and love of life. Also when studying Gemara, you should study with a partner or a group, as it says oh chavruta oh mi tuta. (Give me group learning or give me death). If you don’t understand something look in the Rashi or the Tosafot, which are commentaries on the Gemara.

          For more go to: 



By: Daniel Granovsky


          The Talmud is an ancient text, whose purpose is to teach us the laws and traditions of the Jewish people. A page of Talmud basically consists of the Mishnah and the Gemara in the central column surrounded by various commentaries who do many things like providing their opinion or putting in correction to what they think are errors.

   To learn a page of Talmud one would require the following materials:

1)     A Gemara

2)     The ability to read and understand basic Hebrew

3)     A Talmudic dictionary in case there are some words you don’t know particularly in the Gemara which is written in Aramaic a language used in the exile which is similar to Hebrew.


   The first thing you do is open the Gemara to the M’sechta which you would like to learn. Starting from the Mishnah, work your way down towards the Gemara. Commentaries can be extremely helpful when learning Talmud. The use of a Talmudic dictionary is almost always needed unless you are already fluent with the words. The good part about learning Talmud is it allows you to learn the Jewish law and traditions and how life back then influenced Halachic decisions. The bad part is it’s a pain to read something in another language and after a while one may get tired of reading about a bunch of Rabbis arguing. This web site really helps my studying Gemara is: .

By Ilana Sapadin

          The Talmud or Gemara is compiled of many different sources and arguments. There are many great rabbis that teach us through there arguments how to live our daily lives as a Jew.  Although sometimes we don't  use the morals taught in debates discussed in the Gemara, we still find a vital value in the debates.  By using the common, she’ela, tshuva, kushya, teirutz, and basis, it makes it easier to interpret the Gemara.  In order to learn the Gemara you must have the correct hashkafa- outlook and treat the Gemara with wholehearted respect.

The Gemara interprets the Mishnah.  Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi wrote the Mishnah, The Gemara interprets the Mishnah and Rab Ashi completed the Gemara.  Many Amoraayim are mentioned in the Gemara, and those who interpret the Gemara are Rishonim, like Rashi for instance.  Rishonim decide what we go by and which rav we follow.  But ultimately we follow the Shulchan Urich. 

The Rashi is found on the inner page, the Tosfot is found on the outside.  In the beginning of each Gemara it starts off with a Mishnah by quoting it, then in the middle of the Gemara it'll discuss it, semi colons will set the line aside.  It is written in Aramaic words and the common terms used are, Hacha- here, Hatam- there, Salem- daven, TuShmu- come and hear, this is called a Roshey Teyvot meaning an abbreviation on words. 

A famous discussion written in the Gemara is when to recite the shema.  All the discussions are brought up in a machloket.  The famous Rabeyim quoted are, the Rav, the Raba, and Abayay. 
There is a famous mashal about Rav Lakish, he was explained as a handsome and attractive young boy. He was kidnapped when he was but a young boy and he was brought up to the Jew.  He was Rabbi Yochanan swimming in a sea, and the Rav Lakish was out to kill him.  Rav Yochanan says to the Rav Lakish "please use your beauty for Hashem and the mitzvoth"; the Rav Lakish says " and use YOUR beauty for women" this was very disrespectful for him to say to such a great rabbi.  The Rav Yochanan tells Rav Lakish that if he returned to Judaism then he could marry his sister.  From then on the two rabbayim were best friends and soon became chavrutas.  After the Rav Lakish dies, the Rav Yochanan couldn't bear with out him and he soon dies following him.  Rav Yochanan couldn't find another chavruta that he could relate to, or as intellectually stimulating as Raish Lakish.  That's how we derive the famous quote " give me chavruta or give me death".

A famous rabbi by the name of Rab Yishmael said, there are 13 ways to explain a pasook and each one is correct.  But only the Tannaim and Amoraayim can use the 13 tools that Rav Yishmael uses in his passage.  A main question that is commonly discussed is, if we cannot write down the torah shebaalpeh- the torah that is by heart, by mouth, than how was it written?  The sebarim explain that the fear of forgetting the torah was too great and that is why we ended up writing it.  Mesora is another way of saying the torah shebaalpeh.  There is a klal- a rule, brought from the famous quote "ayloo ayloo elokim chaim".  Meaning, even though we may not paskin- go by or follow, the opposer in the Gemara, we still make it very clear that he is still correct and we still show respect to him.  He is not wrong.  The Amoraayim don't argue with the Tannaim, they are not entitled to.  Meaning, the Gemara writers and the Mishnah writers are not allowed to argue.  The Tannaim were by far much wiser, besides for the Rabbayim Tana Opalig.  These were the Amoraayim who had duel status, meaning they argue with both sides.  So we learn form this three rules, 1- two people pf the same Mishnah can not argue, 2- Amoraayim don't argue with the Mishnah/ Tannaim 3- Mishnah can argue with the Amoraayim. 


With the help of Rabbi Genack, and his daughter Ora Genack I was able to fulfill the assignment as a student.  The mashal was taught to me by Rabbi Genack that enabled me to add it in my essay.  I derived the following information from the website given in class- The dafyomi is actually interpreted to be a page a day.  It refers to the Talmudic learning of Rabbi Shapiro whose ideal goal was to aim Jewish people to be able to learn a page of Talmud a day while at the same time, completing the structure of the Talmud.  Because of the Talmudic depths, it takes a period of seven years to fully master the completion of the Talmud.  A full devotion is needed to study they depth of the Talmud.  The Talmud is the actual essence of traditional Judaism.

By Oren Hason

Talmud for dummies: what is the Talmud.


Talmud, or Gemara is very old Jewish law that has been passed down for many generations. At the early formation of Talmud it was an oral law rather than written but due to persecution our Jewish

 Sages decided to write down the text. The text is constructed in a strait forward form of Mishnah, which is followed by Gemara. Mishnah, which means the direct law, and Gemara, which are many opinions on how our sages held on the topic (strictness). Here is an example of a page of the Gemara. The middle part of the page would be where the Mishnah is. The Gemara is quoted presiding the Mishnah. In the other part of the page are the later quoted opinions. This area is shared mostly by three opinions. Rashi, who also comments on the torah (five holy scriptures) has many insights on the torah. Rashbam, which is the grandson of Rashi, also comments on the Gemara. The third opinion is Tosfot. Tosfot is also a very important opinion. He is also the grandson

of Rashi. There are many other sources such as the Hagot Habach and Rabenu Hananel who are located at the bottom and the outer side of the page. I hope that this introduction to Gemara helped you understand a little more about the huge world of Talmud.


By Erica Kershner


    First looking at a page in the gemara, you think to yourself what is this?  How am I supposed to read this?  The text looks very complex; especially considering that there is absolutely no punctuation.  It looks like an on going sentence.  This is how I felt before actually getting into it.  Soon after I realized it was not complicated at all. Basically, the Gemara is many arguments from different Rabbis on how to follow the halachot.  We need the Gemara in our every day lives.  Once you know the basics you can do whatever you want.  And of course, practice makes perfect.  You must have interest in learning the Gemara, other wise you won't succeed. 

    Before even opening the Gemara, I learnt that there are six different types of sentences.  There is a ma'amar (which is a statement), a she’ela (a question), a teshuva (an answer), a kushya (an attacking question), a teyrutz (an answer to the attacking question), and a basis (a proof.)  Knowing this, the Gemara is much easier to interpret.

    After this, I learnt many vocabulary words and syntax.  They help you in finding the correct places to stop.  They also help you figure out what tone of voice you should use while reading it (meaning, what type of statement it is.  For example, if it's a question, you read it as a question. 

    There will be times when you won't be able to figure out what the context means.  This is when our great Rabbis come in.  For example, there is Rashi, which is found on the inner side of the Gemara, and there is Tosphot, which is found on the outside.   These Rabbis and many other Rabbis are there to help us in our learning and to explain what is too difficult for us to comprehend. 

    I have also found that learning with a friend makes everything much easier.  Everyone thinks differently and you might interpret something a different way than one of your friends would.  The more ideas you have the better your learning will be.

    Once you have the basics and the more you practice, reading the Gemara will just come naturally to you.  It's just like anything that you put your heart to.  If you have the will power to succeed, then you will.  and

By Noah Falkenstein

The gemara has been taught for a very long time. Students all around the world learn it today and go on and teach it to their children etc. rabbi pittinsky's 9t2’s gemara class decided to teach people who weren’t privileged to learn gemara all their lives how to make it easier to learn it on their own.

In order to start learning gemara one must understand what is written around the page. The page of gemara is divided into sections, the middle with the mishnah and gemara and surrounding the mishnah and gemara are the commentaries. The two most famous commentators on a page of gemara are Rashi and Tosphot. Throughout learning the gemara you can always look at one of the commentaries on the side to find out what something means if you do not understand it.

The second thing that you must know to learn gemara on your own is that the vocabulary and syntax to help you understand the gemara you are learning. Our class went to the judaica store and brought the talmudic dictionary. So when we have a question on the word instead of asking our rabbi we open our dictionary and find the word on our own. You must also know that the lines in the gemara can be split up into six different types,

-information question,

-answer to the information question

-attacking question

-answer to the attacking question

-a statement


Understanding the commentators is the last step in the understanding the Gemara.  If you are able to understand the words of the mishnah and gemara, you will be able to look at the commentaries and find the meaning of some words or phrases you didn’t understand that were holding you back from understand your gemara.

Now that you know how to learn gemara on your own, go for it and try your hardest to understand what you are doing. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself while doing it. Two other great websites on how to learn Gemara are:


Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky's 9T2 Talmud Class
The Frisch School
120 West Century Road
Paramus, NJ 07652
(201) 267-9100
[email protected]

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