The Mishna is such a seminal work that it inspired not one, but two Talmuds. When we refer to “the Talmud,” we generally mean the Talmud Bavli, which was composed in Babylonia. There is, however, a second Talmud: the Talmud Yerushalmi (the Jerusalem Talmud, also known as the Talmud of Eretz Yisrael). Learning the Talmud Yerushalmi can be an experience very different from learning the Bavli.
Both Talmuds follow the Mishna, though there are some minor differences in the text and in the order of material. The gemara portion of the Yerushalmi, however, is quite different from the Bavli in terms of content and style. For starters, while each Talmud is written in Aramaic, they use different dialects; the Bavli is written in Eastern Aramaic while the Yerushalmi uses Western Aramaic.
The Yerushalmi is frequently acknowledged as being more concise than the Bavli, eschewing the lengthy debates that make up a large portion of the Babylonian Talmud. The Jerusalem Talmud does contain more narrative portions than the Bavli.
Because of frequent commerce between the Jewish centers in Israel and the exile, sages from each population appear in both Talmuds. It is not surprising, however, that the Bavli more frequently cites Babylonian authorities, while the Yerushalmi focuses more heavily on the rabbis of Eretz Yisrael.
The Bavli is universally considered the more authoritative work. Typically credited to Rabbi Yochanan, the Yerushalmi was completed about 150 years before the Bavli, giving Ravina and Rav Ashi (editors of the Bavli) the advantage of familiarity with the Yerushalmi’s content when compiling their magnum opus.
Since learning the Talmud Yerushalmi is a unique experience, how can you get in on it, you ask? Great question! Rabbi Yosef Grossman offers an OU Torah series on Talmud Yerushalmi, which is currently learning through tractate Sanhedrin. However, tractate Brachos has already been completed in its entirety, comprising 95 shiurim.
If you learn Rabbi Grossman’s Talmud Yerushalmi shiurim on Brachos daf yomi (one per day), you will complete an entire tractate of Yerushalmi in just over three months – quite the accomplishment! (Of course, you can study the material every other day, once a week, or however you like and still have the same accomplishment but somehow “The 22-Month Yerushalmi Challenge” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!)
So what do you say? Ready for a new Torah-study experience? If so, start your journey with Brachos 1!