1There are three different parts to Torah study, as the Gemara states: ³A person shouldsplit up his learning: one third Bible, one third Mishnah, one third Talmud.´
This paper willfocus on how the nature of this ³third part´ of Torah study, Talmud, was understood by thegreatest Rishonim. To understand their approach, it is first necessary to briefly review thedevelopment of Talmud until that time.
The Nature of the Oral Torah and Talmud Study
Originally, the only written texts the Jews used were the 24 books of Tanach, as therewas a prohibition on writing down any part of the Oral Torah. As the Gemara states:
This was considered the ideal way to learn Torah
and was practiced for many centuries.Eventually, due to persecutions and hardships, the Oral Law came in danger of being forgottenand it became necessary to write part of it down. Rabbi Yehuda haNasi compiled the 6-order work of the Mishnah. However, the oral nature was not abandoned entirely. The Mishnah and
continued to be recited mostly from memory.
Similarly, after the Talmud was written down, people continued to learn primarily in anoral manner.
Many students in the Geonic era did not learn from a written text of the Talmud, but recited it orally. Perhaps their focus was less on analyzing and comparing the
fromthe outside, and more on partaking in the Talmudic process itself.Eventually, the majority of Jews left Babylonia and the era of the Geonim ended. Theoral nature of Talmud could no longer be maintained in the far-flung lands in which the Jews