The rabbis are as important today as they were two thousand years ago, at the dawn of the literature that came to be named after them. The Mishnah, the Tosefta, the Talmuds, the collections of Midrash, and other writings ascribed to the ancient rabbis -- the oral Torah -- were gradually produced between the first and the seventh century of the Common Era. What began as comments and decisions on practical matters made by the rabbis were eventually written down and preserved. Over time, the literature grew and constantly changed, eventually evolving into a widely diverse collection of material. Regardless of what form it took, rabbinic literature guided and shaped Jewish life.
Opening the vast pages of rabbinic literature is like entering a conversation already in progress. To understand and appreciate what is going on, some basic things about the content, purpose, and context of the speakers need to be known.
In "Introduction to Rabbinic Literature", legendary author and teacher Jacob Neusner distills a lifetime of scholarship on the essence of what has been received from the rabbis. This book gives readers everything they need to know to understand rabbinic literature. It explores the formative age and the forces that gave rise to rabbinic literature, and tells in a simple, straightforward way what these documents are, where to find them, how to read them, and why their content matters. Best of all, Neusner masterfully covers all this in one relatively compact volume that novice and expert both can appreciate.