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Structure of the Talmud Files

The Talmud is divided into six major sections, called sedarim (plural of seder, "order"). This is the sequence of the sedarim in the Soncino Talmud:

Each Seder contains between seven and twelve tractates, or books. To see that structure, go to the page, Contents of the Soncino Babylonian Talmud. As you will see, some of the tractates are hot linked. Clicking on any of those tractates will take you to the introductory page for the tractate (e.g., introductory page for the Tractate Sanhedrin).

The introductory page contains the translator's introduction to the tractate. Each tractate is composed of numbered chapters.

The Soncino Talmud contains three types of text: Mishnah, Gemara (for definitions, see More Critical Words of Talmud Law), and footnotes. Most tractates have all three. The Mishnah and Gemara sections are clearly labeled, and of course the footnotes are obvious.

Thus, the structure of the Talmud, with some exceptions, is as follows:

More chapters
More tractates
More seders


One further physical division of the Talmud is most important for the student to understand. Each tractate is physically divided into folios, corresponding to the physical leaves of paper of the Vilna Edition, printed by the Romm family in Lithuania in the 1800s. As with a page in an English book, a folio may start or end in the middle of a sentence. An average folio may span about ten printed pages in the Soncino edition. Folios are numbered, and further subdivided into "a" and "b." Thus, a Talmud passage can be unambiguously cited as "Sanhedrin 18b." In our discussions, we will always use this tractate/folio system when citing the Talmud.

Some commentators do not use the Vilna standard when citing Talmud passages. Instead, they use the tractate, chapter, and Mishnah number. Thus, in Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapter 6, the first Mishnah could be cited as "Sanhedrin 6:1". This is less common, but it is sometimes used among people who take exception to the Vilna printing.

On Come and Hear™, to keep the files small enough for slow modems, each folio is coded as a separate file. Thus Sanhedrin 18a and 18b is one file.

Tractate Introductory Page

The introductory page for each tractate contains the title page information and the Contents with links to the associated forwards and introductions, links to chapters within the tractate, and links to the individual folios.

The translator's introduction (on the same page) usually contains a summary of each chapter.

Footnote Renumbering

The 1961 printing of the Soncino Talmud (from which this presentation was scanned) numbered the footnotes at the bottom of each printed page, starting with the number (1). For this hypertext version, the footnotes have been renumbered. For further explanation, see below.

Search Engine

It was not possible to put the Soncino General Index into hypertext. As a second best, Come and Hear™ provides a number of search engines as a substitute.

File Format for the Talmud Pages

As mentioned above, to keep the files small enough for slow modems, each folio pair has been coded as a separate file. The file format is illustrated using the folio Sanhedrin 18. The features of that model file are numbered in green, and explained in the following numbered notes.

  1. Useful hot-links:
  2. "Babylonian Talmud" and name of tractate (in this case, "Sanhedrin").
  3. Number of the current folio (in this case, 18), part 'a'.
  4. Text of the Mishnah and/or Gemara. In this case, the folio begins with Gemara text continued from the previous folio. Note that each numbered footnote reference is hot-linked to the applicable note. Clicking on the reference brings the applicable note to the top of the screen.
  5. Chapter heading. Note that it appears partway through the folio. Chapters can span many folios.
  6. Mishnah text.
  7. Gemara text.
  8. Hot link to Part 'b' of the folio.
  9. Footnotes for part 'a'.
    The 1961 printing of the Soncino Talmud (from which this presentation was scanned) numbered the footnotes at the bottom of each printed page, starting with the number (1). Consequently, the Soncino editors use page numbers when cross-referencing to text and other footnotes. For example, Sanhedrin 18a, note 26 refers to "p. 92, n. 4." Such a schema is not meaningful in the web format because we have no "pages."
    Moving the text from printed page to hypertext had other consequences. For example, page 90 of the printed Sanhedrin contains text from folios 17b and 18a, and the appropriate footnotes: footnotes (1) through (6) pertain to the text of 17b, and footnotes (7) through (11) pertain to the text of 18a.
    The folio 18a spans pages 90, 91, 92, and part of 93. With each new page, the footnotes begin at (1). Thus, within any given folio in the printed Soncino Sanhedrin, there are multiple footnotes with the same numbers.
    In putting the Talmud on the web with one folio per page, we needed a unique number for each footnote, and this required us to renumber the footnotes. In current form, each folio starts with Footnote (1) and numbers sequentially to the end of the folio.
    In no way is this hypertext Talmud intended to replace the printed Soncino Talmud — nor could it. Our purpose is to help Rabbi Sacks achieve his goal that we find out about each others' faiths. The hypertext herein is intended to provide easily accessible context for discussions of the Talmud.
  10. Useful hot-links:
  11. Part 'b' of the current folio.
  12. Text of the Mishnah and/or Gemara. In this case, the folio begins with Gemara text continued from the previous folio.
  13. Hot link to the next folio in the tractate.
  14. Footnotes for part 'b'. See comments for part 'a' footnotes, above.

The Come and Hear Talmud files contain two other features that should be described. When Talmud text is cited in the Elizabeth Dilling' The Jewish Religion: Its Influence Today, or a page is reproduced in her book as an exhibit, we have inserted a tag in the left margin of the Talmud text, and hot-linked it to the Dilling commentary. Further, the text that is underlined in Dilling's exhibit is highlighted in blue in the tractate file. Examples of this usage can be seen in Gittin 57a.

When a footnote is underlined or quoted in the Dilling commentary, the footnote text is highlighted in blue and the numbered reference in the Talmud text is highlighted in violet.

Examples of all of these features appear in the folio Gittin 57a, and a model Talmud files is shown in an illustration the Appendix.

One other feature that may be of interest: Rabbi Rodkinson, in his New Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, left out sections of the Talmud text. In Do Not Censor the Talmud, Please, we discuss some of those omissions, and underline the missing text for the reader's convenience. An example can be seen at Shabbath 118b.

Thank you for your consideration of the above,
Carol A. Valentine,  (Ear at come-and-hear dot com)
July 14, 2003 ( This article is on line at )

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© Carol A. Valentine, 2003. See copyright statement at

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Title: Structure of the Talmud Files
Version: July 28, 2003
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