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Rav Tzair as a Pioneer of Talmud Study

Chaim Tchernowitz (1871-1949), a.k.a. Rav Tzair, was a scholar of Talmud who was born in Russia and later settled in New York. He is well known for his multi-volume works Toldot ha-Halakhah and Toldot ha-Poskim. Besides his many publication Rav Tzair was an active participant in Jewish cultural life. At one point he even called for the establishment of an American Sanhedrin.

While I am familiar with these two works of his, it was only yesterday that I came across another endeavor of his, Kitzur ha-Talmud. In this publication Rav Tzair wanted to create a modern day equivalent of the Rif’s Talmud Katan (Small Talmud). His intention was to present an abbreviated edition of the Talmud that included both halakhah and aggadah sources, along with a translation and explanation of these sources. Below are two approbations to the introductory volume that were written by Rav Kook and Aḥad Ha’am.


Rav Tzair published volumes on tractates Berachot, Sukkah, and a number of other tractates.

Below are a few sample pages.



Over fifty years before Steinsaltz and Artscroll, Rav Tzair was already thinking about bring Talmud to a larger audience. There were a number of other attempts in the early and mid-twentieth century to present Talmud in a more user-friendly fashion, and we hope to write about them in the future.

2 Responses to “Rav Tzair as a Pioneer of Talmud Study”

  1. 1

    Interesting. Commentary presupposes a reasonably high level of Hebrew linguistic and grammatical haskalah with virtually no Talmudic/Aramaic knowledge. So where was it published and who and where was intended public?

    Rav Tzair went on to found Bitzaron, literary/scholarly Hebrew monthly in US, which lasted till early 90s, despite the dwindling of the American Hebraist movement.

  2. 2
    Menachem Mendel (Michael P.):

    His Hebrew Wikipedia entry has information about the different editions of Kitzur ha-Talmud. I haven’t read the entire introduction, but maybe there he has some information about his intended audience.




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