Commentaries on the Talmud

The Talmud is a difficult book, and many commentators have worked to explain and illuminate it.

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Torah Or

Also compiled by R.Yehoshua Boaz, Torah Or is found in the margin between the text of the Talmud and the commentaries of Rashi and Tosafot, and provides the scriptural source for verses cited in the Talmud. The author added a superscript o as a symbol for his notation.

Masoret ha-Shas

These references are usually found in the inside margin, although when space requirements did not allow for this, they can be found under the author's Ein Mishpat. Masoret Ha-Shas provides the student with the appropriate reference for materials cited from other tractates, suggestions for alternative readings--usually preceded by the comment, "Tzarich Lomar" (it should be said)--as well as explanations of terms (primarily quoted from the [Shulchan] Aruch, a central halakhic work.)…

Masoret haShas was first compiled by R. Yehoshua Boaz and was reedited by R. Yishayahu Pick.  The additions of the latter are indicated by square brackets.  The authors noted their comments with an asterisk in the text.

HaGaot haBach

Compiled by R. Yoel Sirkes,  the haGaot haBach are the suggestions for textual emendations in the Talmud and Rashi, copied from the notes that the author added to his copy of the Talmud. The Bach noted his comments to the text by enclosing a letter in Rashi script within parentheses.

HaGaot haGra

Similar in content to haGaot haBach, haGaot haGra are the suggestions for emendation, that R. Eliyahu, the Gaon of Vilna wrote in the margins of his copy of the Talmud. The comments are noted within the text by use of a square Hebrew letter within square brackets.

Gilyon haShas

The terse and sometimes cryptic comments to the text of the Talmud, or to the commentaries of Rashi and Tosafot, of R. Akiva Eiger. The author sometimes offers a reference to a similar source within the Talmud that differs only slightly from that in the text. Usually, however, he cites another source that either contradicts or poses a difficulty to tile subject under discussion. Rarely, the author provides the answer to his question; more often the student will find the abbreviation vav-tzadi-ayin [for] v'tzarich iyun (it needs further study). R. Akiva Eiger's comments are noted by a circle with a line drawn through it.

Depending upon the publisher and the edition, the student may well find other commentaries on the page of the Talmud. These include:

Rabbenu Gershom

Written by R. Gershom (France--end of 10th to beginning of 11th century). The commentary is similar in style to that of Rabbenu Hananel. According to tradition, Rabbenu Gershom died in the year that Rashi was born. He can be seen as the spiritual founder of the French-German community.

Rashi, who was a student of his disciples, R. Yaakov ben Yakar and R. Yitzhak ben Yehudah, refers to him as Meor haGolah--light of the exile. He is best known to us by virtue of the takkanot--communal ordinances--attributed to him, e.g., the prohibition of bigamy, of divorcing a wife against her will, and of reading another person's mail.

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Rabbi Dovid Landesman is the author of books on talmudic subjects, and translated numerous other works on various Jewish topics.