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I am looking to begin studying the Talmud. I have grown up a reform Jew and know most of the basic principles of Judaism, but I am looking to go deeper into the religion, ultimately with the goal of becoming a more religious person.

I am a high school student so I cannot attend any of the local classes at Synagogue (they are all during school), so I am looking for a Talmud with concurrent translations (I have a very rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew) that also would have some sort of explanation of the commentary (commentary on the commentary? :P), and preferably one meant for young adults. I don't really know what I mean by that, but perhaps something that puts the commentary of the Rabbis into context for people around the age of 18.

Are there any suggestions for such a book?

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    There are four translations of the Talmud: Soncino, Neusner, Artscroll, and Koren-Steinsaltz. My personal preference is Steinsaltz, as the translation reflects the least editorialisation, although it is not typeset parallel to the traditional page format. Artscroll and Neusner both show strong biases and Soncino doesn't have the best notes for religious study of the text. – Noach MiFrankfurt Nov 7 '14 at 0:47
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    Best wishes on your religious pursuits. You might want to supplement your readings with the daily Daf Yomi (the daily learning of Talmud with the intent of completing the entire Talmud in seven year cycles.) The Orthodox Union ou.org/torah/torah/dafyomi/yevamos/31/#yevamos_31 is a good resource as is Chabad.org – JJLL Nov 7 '14 at 0:54
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    If at all possible try to find a mentor or study partner; your learning will be much more effective that way. See the collected responses to this very related question. I wish you the best of success! – Isaac Moses Nov 7 '14 at 1:08
  • Issac is correct. There is in fact a tradition to learn Talmud with another person so you don't come to wrong conclusions. The Talmud has a history of being misinterpreted by many people without understanding the underlying precepts. – JJLL Nov 7 '14 at 23:03
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    Kollel Iyun Hadaf has a lot of helpful Talmud-study materials on their website. – Alex Feb 21 at 0:49
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As Noach mi Frankfurt said in a comment, there are four English translations: Soncino, Neusner, Artscroll, and Koren/Steinsaltz, and Kfir Shlomo noted a fifth edited by A. Zvi Ehrman. I've worked with three of them; I don't know Neusner or Ehrman. Based on my experience, for a beginner I recommend the Koren/Steinsaltz, accompanied by a study partner or, at the very least, an introduction to talmud. None of these translations are particularly aimed for young adults, though; you will encounter unfamiliar words, concepts, and styles of reasoning. (That's why the study partner and the introductory text are important.)

The Koren edition is nearly complete now, a new volume every couple months to keep up with the daf yomi. Here's an Amazon link to the first volume, B'rachot. This edition has extensive notes; they're not targeted for young adults and you may find some of the concepts a little difficult, but with talmud you just have to dive in. The Koren/Steinsaltz edition, unlike the others, does not use a facing-page layout where you can easily see the original text alongside the translation; for a more-advanced student this is an impediment but, based on my experience when I was just starting, I don't think you'll mind this.

Talmud is hard to do on your own, especially as a beginner, so if you can get yourself a chevruta (a study partner), please do. When I wanted to start learning some years ago I asked my rabbi if he could match me up with another member of the congregation; if you belong to a congregation, try that.

If you are going to study alone, and perhaps even if you will study with a partner, I also recommend first reading a book about the talmud and how it works to help orient you. One such book is The Essential Talmud by Rabbi Steinsaltz.

I also come from a Reform background and am not fluent in Aramaic and Hebrew (working on it, ever so slowly). I've studied from Artscroll with a rabbi (who could alert me to the liberties they sometimes take as we encountered them), I use the Soncino translation to try to follow along, sporadically, with the daf yomi (because I have a digital copy of the whole thing), and I'm slowly adding the Koren/Steinsaltz volumes to my personal library and exploring them as they come in.

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Beyond the "classic" Steinsaltz/Artscroll translations, one book worth considering is Dr. Henry Abramson's Reading the Talmud (video introduction by the author, digital version here and here).

It takes one chapter of gemara (Baba Metzia's Perek HaMafkid) and, over 43 chapters/shiurim, breaks down the text in small parts, provides a small introduction, the original text, a vocabulary for every word of the gemara and Rashi and a list of questions to allow you to check your understanding of that part. It is the closest you can get in book form from learning a chapter with a Rav.

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