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I would like to start to study Talmud, BUT do not know how, where to start. My Jewish training is basicall non-existant. I learnt how to read the Hebrew words in the Siddur, Machzor, and Chumash - - - But do not know what they mean unless I read the translation on the adjacent page. AND then I only understand the meaning of the whole and not the parts. I sort of learnt to daven when I said Kaddish in honor of my Dad when he died twenty-five plus years ago. I continue to read. I continue to seek out info and I am much more knowledgable that many Jews I am around and in contact with. I still want to learn about Talmud and learn what is in it. HOW - WHERE - WHO do I learn??

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MoNoodles, welcome to mi.yodeya, and thank you very much for the truly excellent question! –  Isaac Moses Feb 17 '10 at 3:30
    
See also: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/10857/… –  Isaac Moses Aug 16 '13 at 16:03
    
It sounds like you can read Hebrew but have no understanding of it. I'd suggest learning Hebrew before beginning Talmud study. –  Ze'ev Felsen Nov 4 '13 at 5:50
    
Hello MoNoodles. An excellent resource is iTalmud with English translation available for iOS devices. Not sure if there is an android version. The app contains the entire Babylonian (Bavli) Talmud. More to the point---it has the option to default to Daf Yomi, a world-wide project that unites Jews all over the world to study the same tractate (passage) each day. Chabad.org also offers Daf Yomi throughout nits internet site. Just be aware that it is better to study with at least one knowledgeable partner as many passages cannot be taken out of context. Local synagogues also offer Daf Yomi. –  JJLL Jul 2 at 13:42

9 Answers 9

If you can't find a partner with which to study, or prefer to go it alone, I recommend the ArtScroll Talmud. Its translation and explanatory notes are excellent.

In terms of which tractate to start with, traditionally, children are initiated into Talmud study with the 2nd chapter of Bava Metzia, which deals with the laws of returning lost objects.

Starting from the very beginning, ie. Berachos, which deals with various laws of prayer, is a fine choice as well.

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I think a short tractate, like Megillah (or Rosh HaShanah, Taanit) can also be a good starting place. The material is not too difficult, so you can get a good sense of words and structure without the added difficulty of very intensive concepts, and you can complete the whole tractate within a reasonable time frame. Barry's suggestions are also classic starting spots, and are great ideas, too. –  JewishJon Mar 23 '10 at 2:26

I am hardly an expert, but was once in a situation similar to yours. I agree with the other respondents that finding someone knowledgeable to work with one-on-one, or in a small group, is ideal. Larger groups don't tend to work as well.

No matter who you study with, though, it might be valuable to get your feet wet with Mishna first. Mishnayot are generally fairly straightforward and can give you a gentle introduction to the scope of the Oral Law. They are in Hebrew, which will help build your vocabulary more quickly, and you can easily work through a whole tractate in a reasonable amount of time.

There are several good Mishna translations, with commentary, in English (such as the Pinchas Kehati editions).

Just some food for thought.

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Excellent idea! In fact, I've seen more than once the advice that one should learn an entire tractate of Mishna before trying to tackle any of that tractate's Gemara. –  Isaac Moses Mar 29 '10 at 3:57
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I would add not to just read the Kehati in the english. Learn from the hebrew version and look to the english when you don't know the meaning of the word, or to ensure that you understood it correctly. –  Menachem Aug 19 '11 at 16:14

I echo Isaac's suggestions. The best way is to study with someone one-on-one if you can find someone to study with you. Beginners classes are also a good idea. Even still, I recommend suplementing studying in a class or partner, or an english transaltion with review time. The second time you see the same words it becomes easier and easier. I also recommend getting a talmud you don't mind writing in, or photocopying a page of Talmud and marking it up with punctuation, vowels, and translation until you can clearly read it.

But, for starters, try to find a partner to study with you.

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Your best bet is to find a teacher who will learn with you one-on-one. That way, he/she will be able to gauge what you understand already and how your understanding grows. One way to find such a person would be to ask your Rabbi if he could learn with you or if he knows someone appropriate. Depending on where you live, there may also be local adult education or outreach organizations that could provide a referral.

Another possibility is to sign up with a program that will set you up with a phone study partner. Partners in Torah is one such organization that I know of. The advantage is that you're not bound by geography in finding a partner. The disadvantage is that you're studying over the phone, which is a cramped communication channel, compared to face-to-face.

A third option would be to find a beginner's Talmud class to attend. Again, your Rabbi or a local congregation or adult education / outreach organization may offer one. One issue to be aware of is that some of these classes are more oriented toward building skills, while others are more about spoonfeeding the material to participants. So, if you're particularly interested in the former, make sure that that's what you're getting.

Finally, no matter what route you go, one book that should prove invaluable is the Practical Talmud Dictionary, by R' Yitzhak Frank. It's perfect for beginners because it presents phrases as they're actually found in the Talmud and explains what they really mean, in context. I have used mine a great deal.

Good luck!

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Another good resource for a phone study partner is JNet (jnet.org). –  Alex Feb 17 '10 at 15:24

From this Mishnah in Avot it seems you should have five years of training in Tanach and five in Mishnah before you begin Talmud at all. I'm not sure why it isn't practiced in our education system today. But these numbers were given for a child, possibly for an adult it would be less.

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The Baal Hatanya (Hil. Talmud Torah 1:6) points out that since nowadays the Torah Shebaal Peh has been written down, it's not necessary for a child to learn all of Tanach - which includes the (formerly oral) vowels and trop - and therefore, he seems to be saying, the five-year period for that is no longer needed. (Presumably, then, the same is true for the five years of Mishnah: part of the reason it took so long was because it had to be memorized.) –  Alex Jan 30 '12 at 21:56
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@Alex, What would the Baal Hatanya say now that we have digitized versions of everything and search engines? By his reasoning with respect to previous technological innovations, one might advocate for skipping all bekiyut-oriented learning altogether in this day and age! –  Isaac Moses Jan 30 '12 at 22:04
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@IsaacMoses: okay, but you still have to learn the derech halimud, and at least a reasonable cross-section of the sources (if nothing else, so you'll know where to look for things). That takes time. –  Alex Jan 31 '12 at 4:54
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@IsaacMoses indeed, there are lots that learning this way. They discuss Ktsois and Netivos very deeply while they are not closely familiar with basics like book of Shoftim. I don't think it's a correct way, but it exists. –  jutky Jan 31 '12 at 22:36

You could also download lectures - usually from the Daf Yomi program - which explain the Gemara in some detail.

One site with many links to such sites is http://dafyomi.co.il/central.htm#videoaudio

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Daf Yomi classes are often trying to fly through the Talmud, occassionally at the expense of sufficient understanding. This can be particularly poor for a beginner. In addition, This is unlikely to help with skills. If one wanted to use this as a review strategy after having learned a whole page, it may have use. –  Ze'ev Felsen Jun 27 '11 at 18:19

http://www.mastertorah.com/newsite/general/home.php

Is a great study program. If you want to start with Talmud there is a Talmud Program.

I would advise to begin with the chumash program fisrt

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Go to a yeshiva, of course that depends on where you live (and not how old are you) in a yeshiva the rav there will get to know you and find what is more suitable for you, either classes or havruta, ideally when people to to a yeshiva they live there, but depending on you age or level of commitment you can afford (time wise not money) you can go for a couple of hours each day (or once, twice a week)

Of course maybe you live in a city that don't have any yeshivot, If this is the case you are living in the wrong place, you really should move. As a temporary solution you could start analyzing other options like phone havruta, learning alone with Artscroll or online shiurim.

Of course it's harder this way and it takes more time.

You could also spend a year (or a couple or months depending on you vacation time) in Israel as a starter to your studying. This is the best way to learn how to learn.

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I don't think it is necessarily good advice to tell someone to move... People have jobs and families and it is just not practical. It gives a bad name to the Orthodox world (Chillul HaShem) that somebody is saying this because nowadays there are so many resources that exist online that can assist a person with learning. You can access the tzurat hadaf online. Also, things like Skype make long-distance chavruta-style learning possible. Now, I think that by using Hebrewbooks.org one can even access the Jastrow dictionary online! And you can also ask questions about pshat in gemara on j.se! –  Adam Mosheh Apr 16 '12 at 19:13

pirkei avoth. Its significantly easier, fun and useful. Although it is not considered to have the 'heft' of other parts of the talmud and is concerned with ethical apothegms (as opposed to the rich minutia and argumentative process associated with Jewish Law), it is still Talmud. Start here and then follow some of the suggestions above.

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