Cornerstones of Jewish Religious Life אבני יסוד
The “People of the Book” were, in fact, a people with many books, and these served as cornerstones of Jewish life through the ages. The Bible contains the Written Law, but an Oral Law, handed down from generation to generation, existed alongside it, most noticeably in the set of books known collectively as the “Talmud.” This huge compendium of Jewish law and lore was written in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic. Although it probably received its final written form in the middle of the fifth century C.E., the Talmud has generated a flow of commentaries and super-commentaries that continues to this day. It is no coincidence that the first Hebrew book printed in the United States was a commentary to one of the Talmudic treatises, or that survivors of the Holocaust, only just released from the Nazi concentration camps, found it important to print a complete Talmud for their ravaged community—a feat which they accomplished through the active help of the United States Army. Over the millennia, a great variety of literary genres grew up alongside the Talmud and its commentaries. These include legal responsa written by prominent rabbis on questions of law and religious practice, calculations of new moons and Jewish holidays, Jewish marriage documents, and commentaries on the Bible. All of these works have helped Jews the world over to found their communities on the cornerstones of Jewish law and tradition.
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