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           life and the naked human body and were shocked by profanity, there was no taboo on study of the
           minutest details of these subjects. Discussions were based on euphemisms and used the most
           delicate terms; however, the scholars could dwell on both normal and deviant details as long as
           these were considered pertinent.

22 For instance, in BABYLONIAN TALMUD, supra note 3, Menahoth 29b, in the middle of a discussion about the
circumstances in which an imperfection in a letter of the alphabet inscribed on a religious object renders that object
invalid, one of the Rabbis introduces a poignant story that raises the most basic questions about good and evil,
reward and punishment, and God's inscrutability. Moses ascended to heaven, saw God affixing crowns to the letters
of the alphabet and asked the reason for His doing so. God told Moses that there would come a man named Rabbi
Akiba who would expound the law on the basis of these crowns. Moses was then permitted to see Rabbi Akiba
engaging in a legal discourse with his disciples, one that Moses had difficulty in following. On his return to heaven,
Moses asked God why, if there were a man such as Rabbi Akiba, He had chosen Moses to give the law. God replied,
"Be silent, for such is My decree." Moses then asked that God, having shown him Rabbi Akiba's learning, should
show him his reward. God told Moses to turn around, and Moses saw the flesh of Rabbi Akiba (who suffered a
martyr's death when his skin was repeatedly raked with iron combs by the Romans) being weighed in the market
place. Moses cried to God, "Such Torah [learning], and such a reward." God answered, "Be silent, for such is My
decree." Id.
23 An example of Gemara logic is BABYLONIAN TALMUD, supra note 3, Baba Mezia 218, which discusses with
almost mathematical precision, whether a finder of scattered fruit may keep this produce or must instead make a
public announcement of the discovery, factoring in the acreage and the amount and type of produce.
24 Approximately one-quarter of the Talmud is aggadic, that is, it consists of anecdotes, legends, history, and
interpretation of a nonlegal nature. See STEINSALTZ, ESSENTIAL, supra note 15, at 251–58. There is thus an
embarrassment of riches. See, e.g., BABYLONIAN TALMUD, supra note 3, Shabbath 88b–89a (where Moses
successfully argued with angels concerning why Torah should be given to man). Perhaps the most famous example
with regard to mysticism concerns what happened to four Sages who entered pardes, which usually means orchard,
but which in this context means paradise, heaven, Kabbalah or the mystical secrets of creation. The story tells that
only Rabbi Akiba emerged unscathed. Of the others, one died, one went insane and one became an apostate. Id.,
Hagigah 14b.
25 See ME’IR TSEVI BERGMAN, Rashi As Commentator, 1 TRADITION 104 (Fall 1958).
26 The two most important of these codes are the Shulchan Aruch and the Mishnah Torah. The Shulchan Aruch, by
Rabbi Joseph Caro, a sixteenth century codifier and mystic who lived in Turkey and Israel, is the basic and most
widely used codification of Jewish law.

           The Mishnah Torah is by Maimonides, or Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, also known as the Rambam, the
noted twelfth century commentator, codifier, philosopher, and physician, who lived in Spain, Morocco, and Egypt.
The fourteen-volume Mishnah Torah arranges its codification of Jewish law by topic, spanning theology, ritual law,
civil law, and criminal law. The code as a whole is an overarching work. According to one modern scholar, the
Mishnah Torah "changed the entire landscape of rabbinic literature. . . . The Mishnah Torah was like a prism
through which practically all Talmudic study had to pass." ISADORE TWERSKY, A MAIMONIDES READER 33 (1972).

           The other major codes cited in the Talmud are the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol by Moses ben Jacob of Coucy
(known as the SeMaG, after his codification), a thirteenth century French scholar and Tosafist; and the Arba'ah
Turim by Jacob ben Asher (also known as the Tur, after his masterwork), a fourteenth century legal scholar who
lived in Germany and Spain.
27 One commentator writes: ''Some writers speak of the sphinx-like nature of the Talmud. They are baffled by its
enormous size, its intricacy, and its mysterious architecture." JULIUS KAPLAN, THE REDACTION OF THE BABYLONIAN
TALMUD 1 (1933); see also ABBA EBAN, HERITAGE: CIVILIZATION AND THE JEWS 93 (1984) ("A page of the Talmud
in Hebrew and Aramaic goes on and on, without any periods or commas or other punctuation. The Talmud cannot
be read. It has to be learned, or studied . . . .").
28 Although the standard edited versions of the Gemara do include cross-references in the page margins to other
parts of the Talmud dealing with the same material, it is impossible to find all conceptually related materials on any
given issue, unless, of course, one is already familiar with and understands the entire Talmud.

           There are, however, Hebrew-language topical indices available. See, e.g., M. SAVOR, MICHLAL
HATALMUD [A TREASURE OF THE TALMUD] (2d ed. 1965). In addition, THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD (I. Epstein ed.
1935), an English-only translation published by Soncino Press, includes a good index for each of its 35 volumes.

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