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Jewish jurisprudence differentiates between biblical commandments which are those deemed to have been directly transmitted by the Creator to Moses and non-biblical rules8 Interestingly Jewish law does not recognize the literal meaning of a verse in the bible the Torah as an authoritative statement of law Indeed some verses taken literally are incomprehensible9 Instead Jewish law maintains that an oral tradition transmitted to Moses both amplified and interpreted the written Torah10 This oral tradition not only contained specific laws and information but also hermeneutical rules to be used to elucidate the Torah11 According to Jewish tradition there were a variety of purposes unrelated to our present subject for the creation of complementary written and oral traditions12 Religious persecution of Jews including orders banning the teaching of Jewish law threatened preservation of the oral law In response a concession was made by ancient rabbinic leaders such that a succinct incomplete form of the oral tradition the Mishnah was put into writing around the year 188 of the common era13 The discussions and debates of early scholars in academies in Babylon and Jerusalem were separately recorded forming respectively the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds The Babylonian Talmud was completed later than the Jerusalem Talmud14 and because the Babylonian discussions benefitted from knowledge of the Jerusalem Talmud the Babylonian Talmud is the more influential15 The writing of the Talmuds however was also seen as an allowance warranted only by the exigencies of the times Consequently the language of both Talmuds is terse and ambiguous Talmudic discussions typically focus on specific cases which frequently involve relatively unusual - and therefore memorable - facts The mission of a Jewish law scholar is to discern conceptual principles from these paradigms and to use them to reach legal conclusions regarding modern scenarios with quite different facts Jewish law scholars must not only inspect the thought processes implicit in the questions answers and statements of each participant in a given Talmudic
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