The Talmud contains a vast amount of material and touches on a great many subjects. Traditionally talmudic statements can be classified into two broad categories: halakhic and agaddic. Halakhic statements are those which directly relate to questions of Jewish law and practice (Halakha). Aggadic statements are those which are not legally related, but rather are exegetical, homiletical, ethical, or historical in nature (Aggadah).
Besides halakhic studies, another major area of talmudic scholarship developed in order to explain these passages and words. Some early commentators such as Rabbenu Gershom of Mainz (tenth century) and Rabbenu Hananel (early eleventh century) produced running commentaries to various tractates. These commentaries could be read with the text of the Talmud and would help explain the meaning of the text. Another important work is the Sefer ha-Mafteach (Book of the Key) by Nissim Gaon, which contains a preface explaining the different forms of talmudic argumentation and then explains abbreviated passages in the Talmud by referring to parallel passages where the same thought is expressed in full. Using a different style, Rabbi Nathan b. Jechiel created a lexicon called the Arukh in the eleventh century in order to translate difficult words.
In later centuries, focus partially shifted from direct talmudic interpretation to the analysis of previously written talmudic commentaries. These later commentaries include \"Maharshal\" (Solomon Luria), \"Maharam\" (Meir Lublin) and \"Maharsha\" (Samuel Edels).
In the late nineteenth century another trend in Talmud study arose. Rabbi Hayyim Soloveitchik (1853-1918) of Brisk (Brest-Litovsk) developed and refined this style of study. The Brisker method involves the analysis of rabbinic arguments within the Talmud, explaining the differing opinions by placing them within a categorical structure. The Brisker method is highly analytical and is often criticized as being a modern-day version of the Pilpul. Nevertheless, the influence of the Brisker method is great. Most modern day yeshivot (Hebrew schools) study the Talmud using the Brisker method in some form. And it is through this method that Maimonides' famous Mishneh Torah began to be read not only as a halakhic work but also as a work of general talmudic interpretation.
The text of the Talmud has been subject to some level of critical scrutiny throughout its history. In general, however, traditional commentaries shied away from textual criticism of talmudic passages. In the late eighteenth century, liberalization of social restrictions against Jews resulted in Judaism undergoing enormous upheaval and transformation. Such movements as Reform Judaism and other secularizing and assimilating trends emerged. During this time, modern methods of textual and historical analysis were applied to the Talmud.
At the disputation of Tortosa in 1413, Geronimo de Santa Fé brought forward a number of accusations, including the fateful assertion that the condemnations of pagans and apostates found in the Talmud referred in reality to Christians. Two years later, Pope Martin V, who had convened this disputation, issued a bull forbidding the Jews to read the Talmud, and ordering the destruction of all copies of it. Thankfully, this order was not implemented. Far more important were the charges made in the early part of the sixteenth century by the convert Johannes Pfefferkorn, the agent of the Dominicans whose efforts succeeded in forcing the Jews in several areas to surrender the talmudic books in their possession. 076b4e4f54