The Talmud is a 2,711-page summary of oral law organized into 37 tractates. Its pages contain the repository of thousands of years of Jewish wisdom.
Literally, the Hebrew word “talmud” means “study” or “learning,” as in, to fulfill the commandment of studying Torah, a study that is its own end and reward. The Talmud comprises two parts — Mishnah and Gemarah.
The Mishnah is the first-ever written summary of Oral Law, which is believed to have been given to the Jews along with the Written Law at Mount Sinai. The Mishnah was codified by Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi in the 2nd century C.E.
The Gemarah is the compilation of debates and commentaries on the Mishnah by scholars between the 2nd and 4th/5th centuries C.E. The Jerusalem Talmud was compiled and edited in the 4th century by Rabbi Yohanan in Tiberius. The Babylonian Talmud, which is considered the more authoritative — especially to Ashkenazic Jews — was edited by Rav Ashi and Ravina in the 5th century.
The Talmud is essentially a book of questions and answers; it is a collection of paradoxes. No topic was considered too strange or far-fetched to be discussed by the rabbis of the Talmud.