Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: “Koren Talmud Bavli–Tractate Sukka”

Back by popular demand, YZG (aka “Mr. S.”) – known to veteran Our Shiputzim readers for his Solomonic wisdom, his erudite halachic discourses, and his ability to replace gas oven ignitors – graciously agreed to write a book review.

Take it away, YZG!


“Koren Talmud Bavli – Tractate Sukka (Noé Edition)”

by YZG

Koren Publishers kindly provided us here at Our Shiputzim with a review copy of their newly released “Koren Talmud Bavli  – Tractate Sukka.” We received the standard-sized hardcover edition (“The Noé Edition”), which includes full-color pictures and diagrams.

The timing was perfect, since I am currently learning Masechet Succah with my chavruta. We used the “Koren Talmud” during our next learning session.

The Gemara is beautifully designed and divided into two parts.

When you open it as a Hebrew sefer (i.e. from the right), you will find the traditional Vilna Shas layout. However, vowels and full punctuation have been added to both the Gemara and Rashi texts. That by itself is a significant aid to learning, and for many, that alone will make the Gemara worth getting. Of course, as can be expected from Koren, the printing is clear and a pleasure to read, and the text is printed on off-white paper, which is easy on the eyes.

When opened as an English sefer (i.e. from the left), you will find the text of the Gemara alongside an English translation. The translation is brand new and based on the principles set out by Rav Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz and overseen by the editor-in-chief, Rav Tzvi Hersh Weinreb. The translation is clear, concise, and easier to follow than other English translations I have used. For instance, words that are literal translations of the Gemara’s Aramaic text are shown in bold, and words that are derived from other languages have interesting sidebars (called “Language”), describing their etymology along with more in-depth explanations of their meaning.

In addition to the “Language” sidebar, there are other sidebars called “Notes,” “Background,” “Personalities,” and “Halakha.” My chavruta and I found these sidebars to be very helpful. In particular, we liked that the sidebars were divided into different types, because the divisions make it clear where to look for different types of information:

  • The “Background” sidebars contain historical, geographical, and other background information, which enhances one’s understanding of the Gemara by explaining the context. This can be a short explanation of a topic that the Gemara mentions only briefly, or a historical/geographical explanation. For example, the sidebar about “Usha” describes Usha’s location and historical significance.
  • The “Personalities” sidebars offer short biographical sketches of the scholars quoted by the Gemara and other historical figures.
  • The “Halakha” sidebars explain what the final halachah is. This is one of my favorite features, because in most cases, the Gemara doesn’t clearly state the final halachic ruling.
  • The “Notes” sidebars expand on the translation. Typically, these sidebars quote one or more Rishonim and add a bit more depth to the text.

The “Koren Talmud Bavli” includes full-color photographs and diagrams, which prove that a picture really is worth a thousand words. For instance, when the Gemara talks about fibers growing around a palm tree, a photograph of a palm tree shows exactly what these fibers are. Also, Masechet Succah famously discusses many different succah configurations, and the clear diagrams help make sense of it all.

In summary, I highly recommend the “Koren Talmud Bavli – Tractate Sukka,” and my chavruta and I look forward to using it as we continue learning the Masechet.

Note: I was not paid to review this sefer, but we did receive a review copy from Koren Publishers.


Great job and thank you, YZG!

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