Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rabbinic Texts and Historical Events

Question: Where can I find a graphic historical overview of the eras when the classic Rabbinic texts (Mishna, Talmud, Midrash, Biblical commentaries, legal codes, etc) were written and edited?

Answer: I suggest you look at one of these Jewish history timelines:

Codex Judaica: Chronological Index of Jewish History by Mattis Kantor (Zichron Press, 2005) covers Creation to the 2000’s with an emphasis on the eras of the Bible, Talmud, Rishonim and Ahronim. This volume is especially useful because it allows the reader to choose from 4 levels of detail. Timeline 1 is a simple 1-page summary. Timelines 2 and 3 (8-page and 14-page charts) position major Rabbinic texts in the context of major Jewish historical events. Timeline 4 (the bulk of the book) provides year-by-year details on Rabbinic writings and Jewish history. (REFERENCE OVERSIZE DS 114 K34 2005)

A Timeline of Jewish Texts is a 1-page chart highlighting the major Rabbinic accomplishments in each century in the last 2300+ years. The texts are classified by category: Bible (commentaries and translations); Mishna, Talmud and commentaries; Law Codes, Liturgy, Thought and Ethics, Mysticism, and History.

The Timetables of Jewish History: a Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in Jewish History by Judah Gribetz (Simon & Schuster, 1993) covers Jewish history from the events of Genesis up to the 1990’s, year by year or decade by decade. For each time period, this volume provides 5 parallel columns showing
1) Jewish cultural milestones including Rabbinic and literary accomplishments,
what was happening to 2) the Jews of Europe,
3)the Jews in the Middle East, and
4) Jews in the Americas, and
5) what was happening in the secular world.
The juxtaposition is quite striking—for example, in the year 1135 “Samuel ben Meir… authors a commentary on the Torah that supplements that of his grandfather and teacher, Rashi” and “Henry I of England conquers Normandy back from his brother Robert” (p. 113) (REFERENCE OVERSIZE DS 114 G74 1993)

Timelines for the History of Judaism This easy-to-use set of charts emphasizes history. Hypertext links provide details about selected Rabbinic texts.

Dor L’Dor: A Year-By-Year Graphic Timeline of Jewish History From Creation to the Present by Ephraim Waxman (Feldheim, 2006) is a full-color 60-page fold-out chart. This volume emphasizes Rabbinic personalities and the writing of Rabbinic texts, against the background of Jewish history and world events. The graphic format makes this volume useful for teenage students (ERC OVERSIZE DS 114 W38 2006)

“The Generations of the Tannaim andthe Amoraim”, a chapter in Adin Steinsaltz’s The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition: A Reference Guide (Israeli Institute for Talmudic Publications, 1989) provides charts listing Tannaim and Amoroaim by name, date, and generation—juxtaposed with concurrent Eretz Israel and Babylonian historial events/personalities and world events. (REFERENCE OVERSIZE BM 503.5 s652 1989)

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