Thursday, December 25, 2008

Who Were These Chazal People Anyway?

C.A.T. - Common Ambiguous Terms

It seems that I have a relentless affinity for acronyms and alliterations. Thus, I have created a new category in my blogs, C.A.T.’s. These are terms that can be commonly heard in a variety of Jewish settings, but alas they are not precisely defined. It is a little like meeting new people, and then forgetting their names. After a couple of weeks it seems to rude to admit that you forgot their names, but it also makes conversation awkward. (An extreme example of this was immortalized in Seinfeld - hamavin yavin)

Similarly, let’s say that during the course of your Jewish education you did not learn exactly the term Chazal means. Now as an adult it can be embarrassing to admit this fact, since everyone else seems to know what the term means. For example, someone might say, “I was just reading Chazal the other day, and it was really interesting.” As you will see in a moment, this type of sentence actually does not make sense.

Chazal Defined

Chazal is an acronym (hurray!) which stands for Chachameinu Zichronam L’Vrachah - Our Rabbis of Blessed Memory. More specifically it refers to the Rabbis who were active during the period of the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Rabbis of the Mishnaic period lived from roughly 200 BCE to 200 CE and are also referred to as the Tannaim. The Rabbis of the Talmudic (Gemara) period lived from roughly 200 CE to 600 CE and are also referred to as the Amoraim. Collectively, these are the authors of the Mishnah, Gemara, and Midrash; more precisely their statements were collected and redacted in different legal and homiletic works.

In short, the term Chazal refers to Rabbis or sages who lived between the years of 200 BCE and 600 CE. And that is the C.A.T. of the day.

1 comment:

  1. good luck with the new CAT series - I think it's a great idea!