TWO Talmuds? - Berakhot 38
There is some debate over the bread blessing – should it be phrased blessing God “who has brought forth” bread (ha-motzi) or “who is bringing forth” (motzi). The grammatical battle (as usual) is waged through Biblical citation and interpretation, and the Talmud’s conclusion is what today we know as the traditional blessing (ha-motzi). It is always interesting to see, however that the disagreement is preserved, and the defeated position is nevertheless given the dignity of a full argument – even on something as basic and habitual as this.
This diversity is part of a creative tension in Rabbinic Judaism – a balance between stating the law clearly with no discussion, or stating the arguments that led to it but thereby make the law less clear. In addition, for most of the time the Talmud was being created, there were two major centers of Rabbinic teaching: in Israel and in Babylonia. For example, today’s Talmud page mentions that when a colleague (haver) arrived from Israel, they used a different blessing.
Around the year 400 CE, the incomplete discussions of the Israeli school were compiled into the “Palestinian Talmud” (in Hebrew Yerushalmi – Jerusalem Talmud). The Babylonian discussions were able to continue for a century longer before they were compiled into the “Babylonian Talmud” (Bavli), the more complete and authoritative version that forms the basis of the Daf Yomi (daily page). The existence of two Talmuds is just one more example of the continuing Jewish battle between diversity and conformity – why have one authoritative legal discussion when you can have two?
Rabbi Adam Chalom