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Talmud Yerushalmi

The Talmud Yerushalmi, 'Toras Erets Israel,' has always stood in the imposing shadow of its younger brother, the Talmud Bavli. While the Bavli has become public property, the beis medrash in which halacha was determined and 'milchamta shel Torah' - the 'war' of Torah learning - was waged, the Yerushalmi remained aloof and unvisited, like an unkempt secret garden. Only very few great talmidei chachamim tended it, drawing from it splendid gems. The Rayvad in his corrections to the Rambam (hilchos kriyas shma, 3.6) testified that 'the Rov is wont to rely on the Yerushalmi', alluding to the Rambam's use of the Yerushalmi to decide many unresolved problems in the Bavli. Similarly, other geonimrishonim and achronim learned much from the Yerushalmi. Nevertheless, the Yerushalmi was generally neglected by the majority of learners, and this eventually meant that the difficulties in understanding the Yerushalmi proliferated and overcame the will to learn it, thus finally diminishing its influence.

The incredible effort invested by Oz Vehadar's editors in their production of the Talmud Bavli has resulted in a wealth of experience, that has now been rechanneled into the editing of the Yerushalmi. For the Yerushalmi, this work has really brought about a stunning breakthrough, making it accessible to all learners, re-igniting its lustre. But the going was not easy. First, Oiz Vehodar's editors had to consult gdolei hador regarding the available textual variants - and ended up choosing the Venice Yerushalmi, the oldest we have today, for their primary text. At the same time, they continued to make use of all later versions, as well as earlier manuscripts, to correct many thousands of errors that impeded the understanding of the most basic meaning of the Yerushalmi. One of the more meaningful changes in the editing itself involved the correct punctuation of the Yerushalmi, according to sugyas - topics or problems - just as the Bavli is traditionally punctuated.

Gdolei Israel also contributed much of their time and wisdom to help resolve interpretative questions. The gaon R' Chaim Kanievsky shlita, for example, instructed the editors to place the 'Chareidim' commentary closest to the text, on the same side which Rashi occupies for the Bavli, since this commentary is closest to explaining the pshat, the most literal meaning, of the gemara. R' Chaim also contributed his own commentary, which he completed especially for Oz Vehadar's publication. It appears next to several other commentaries added especially for this edition.

With all these new commentaries, corrections, and the clear and easy-to-read layout, the face of the Yerushalmi is changing, and becoming accessible to a new generation of learners. Who knows... could this be the Yerushalmi's finest hour, when it finally receives the attention and hours of study it deserves?