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The Soncino has an introduction to a) The Talmud, b) Each Order, c) Each Tractate. You can see most of them here: http://halakhah.com/


Look at the introduction of the מאירי to each masechta, where he breaks down the topics of the masechta in general as well as perek by perek. (He also does that in a more perek-specific manner at the beginning of each perek.) While not usually online (and not either in English, which was not specified in the original version of the question), the ...


The Rashb"o in Chindushai HaHagodos (Mosad Horav Kook) to Brochos 54b states that after a long halachik discussion the Ameroim switched to Agadato to awaken the students.


Its none other than Eliyahu Hanavi as you can see from Berachos 6b : ההוא גברא דקא מצלי אחורי בי כנישתא ולא מהדר אפיה לבי כנישתא חלף אליהו חזייה אידמי ליה כטייעא ,that Eliyahu appeared as an Arab merchant. There are more sources which indicate him as such. The gemara in Bava Basra 73b brings this story: ואמר רבה בר בר חנה זימנא חדא הוה קא אזלינן במדברא ...


I can answer only 1 of your questions, as I have memorized the names of all the 63 tractates ... unless you want to include the "small tractates" that appear after Avodah zarah (such as Avot D'Rav Nattan) - I think that would add another 5 or 6 to that number. Many tractates only have mishnah - not Gemarrah. Wikipedia article on Talmud should provide you ...


The Maharal says that these were Arab merchants he does not understand the word טייעא‏ to mean traveler. מצינו פעמים הרבה בישמעאלים שהם סוחרים, שבכל מקום שאמר בתלמוד ההוא טייעא רוצה לומר סוחר ישמעאלי [גבורות ה' פרק יא] "We find many times that Arabs are merchants, for in every place in the Talmud where it says "there was a merchant" the meaning is an Arab ...


Deuteronomy 17:1 על-פי התורה אשר יורוך, ועל-המשפט אשר-יאמרו לך--תעשה: לא תסור, מן-הדבר אשר-יגידו לך--ימין ושמאל This verse is understood to grant legislative power to the Sanhedrin for all time. There were Sanhedrins in session up to several centuries after the time of Esther and that is where all fully-binding rabbinic Law as we know it comes from. ...

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