In Sanhedrin 24a the Gemara goes on to explain the different learning styles of the Yerushalmi Scholars (friendly; gave honor to each other) and the Babylonian Scholars (sharp with each other's viewpoints). The Gemara ends off by saying:

מאי בבל א"ר יוחנן בלולה במקרא בלולה במשנה בלולה בתלמוד (איכה ג, ו) במחשכים הושיבני כמתי עולם אמר ר' ירמיה זה תלמודה של בבל

The Talmud of Bavel is not as clear as Yerushalmi (the Gemara says it in a more explicit manner). Does this Gemara refer to our present Talmud, or does it refer to the Talmud prior to its final editing and format?


3 Answers 3


This is also reflected in the actual style of each Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud gets to the halacha by arguing each point back and fourth (like someone in a dark room touching every wall trying to find the door). On the other hand the Yerushalmi Talmud is more direct pretty much just stating to the halacha (like a person in a well light room going directly to the door). Even though these rabbis lived before the actual text of the Talmud these learning styles where most probably already established.

It worth noting that R' Zeira fasted 100 fasts in order to forget the Babylonian style of learning in order to adapt the Yerushalmi style (Bava Mitzia 85a).

  • Very nice, welcome and +1. This image of the Bavli being dark is actually in the Gemara, see Sanhedrin 24a ! See earlier on the page for more constrast between the Sages of Bavel and Israel
    – mbloch
    Oct 15, 2020 at 18:08
  • Thanks for that source! Oct 15, 2020 at 21:53

As I addressed those differences in my answer to "why-is-talmud-bavli-studied-more-than-yerushalmi":

  1. Please note that R' Yochanan and R' Yeremiya, the authors of those statements were both Israelis, so they "criticize" the way Babylonians study Torah, calling them חושך.

  2. I personally see it not as rude criticism but as a very keen observation - indeed as the saying goes "רחוק מהעין רחוק מהלב" it appears that the Torah centers in Babylon were not only far from Eretz Israel physically but also "spiritually", feeling a great deal of freedom from the Torah of the Israeli Rabbis and their tradition.

  3. Exile is always called חושך (compare to the Greek exile called חושך in Ber.Rabboh 2,4 "שהחשיכה עיניהם של ישראל), as opposed to the light of the Temple and Zion.

  4. So the Israeli Rabbis call the Babylonian approach to Talmud - as Halacha learning as darkness, the lack of the divine "light" of the Wisdom of the Land of Israel.

This is well put in the WIKI page:

רבי ירמיה העריך רבות את ארץ ישראל ואת תלמודה. בכך דמה לרבו, רבי זירא, שעלה אף הוא מבבל לארץ ישראל, ומתוך חיבת הארץ ותלמודה הִרבָּה בתעניות לשכיחת תלמודה של בבל,
בשל דרך הלימוד השונה והפלפול שהיה נהוג שם.
על תלמודה של בבל אמר את הפסוק "במחשכים הושיבני כמתי עולם",
ובשומעו דבר הלכה שנאמר בבבל והיה מנוגד לדעת החכמים בארץ ישראל, היה דוחה את דבריהם באמירה: בבליים טפשים, משום שיושבים בארץ חשוּכה אומרים דברים חשוּכים.

So to your question - yes, the Israeli Rabbis saw the Babylonian approach as inferior one relatively to theirs, seeing the Babylonian scholars as stupid and rude, criticising their argumentation and reasoning, but indeed the Babylonians didn't see it as such but a different cultural phenomenon embracing the fact that the majority of the nation is scattered abroad and requires a different way of Rabbinical thinking and leadership (see my other deleted answer there).


R' Yochanan and R' Yirmiyah both lived long before either Talmud was completed. According to R' Aryeh Carmell's "Aiding Talmud Study", R' Yochanan flourished around 250 CE and R' Yirmiyah around 330 CE. The Jerusalem Talmud was completed around 360 CE. At that time, the Byzantine empire converted to Christianity, leading to the persecution of the Jews. The Rabbis who were in Israel fled to Bavel, bringing their knowledge with them. This is why we often find the gemara saying when "Rav Dimi came" or "when Ravin came". Their knowledge was incorporated into the Babylonian Talmud which was completed circa 460 CE. This is why halacha follows the Babylonian Talmud, as the Israeli tradition was incorporated into it, and the leading Rabbis were in Bavel.

Tl;dr: These Amoraim lived before either Talmud was written, so they were not referring to the canonized Talmud but the talmud (literally: study) of their time.

  • There was travel in both directions, and there were Israeli yeshivot and an Israeli gaonate less than a thousand years ago.
    – magicker72
    Oct 14, 2020 at 20:51
  • They had nothing like the authority of the Babylonian Geonim.
    – N.T.
    Oct 14, 2020 at 23:39
  • Acc to some (Rambam) R' Yochanan wrote Yerushalmi. Oct 14, 2020 at 23:57
  • @N.T. To us, they didn't. To Jews who accepted their authority, they did! There were plenty of such communities in the area, up until their demise.
    – magicker72
    Oct 15, 2020 at 15:53
  • Every yeshiva has some authority in their own area, but the influence of Sura and Pumbedisa were worldwide.
    – N.T.
    Oct 16, 2020 at 2:11

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