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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 ...


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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