By Eliezer Segal

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For example, one of the more common midrashic tropes is known in Hebrew as the gezerah shavah [roughly: comparison of equal things]. In its simplest form, it is based on the premise that the meaning of an obscure word or expression can often be clarified by seeing how it is employed in other passages; this is a scientific principle that underlies much scholarly lexicography.

They refer to the earlier division as the age of the Tannaim. The term derives from an Aramaic root (it is actually the Aramaic cognate to the Hebrew root that underlies mishnah). The term was coined by later scholars to express the fact that their knowledge of the earlier oral traditions reached them by means of human memorizers, who were known as tannaim and whose job was to recall and recite the oral texts that served as topics of discussion in the academy. Apart from a few individual passages in Tannaitic literature that are ascribed to Jewish sages from early in the Second Temple era, the oldest strata of substantial, organized rabbinic traditions seem to date from the generation preceding the destruction of the Temple, Jewish religious symbols on a second-century Roman goblet: seventhe middle of the first century branch candelabrum, lions (of Judah), the Temple, shofar (ram’s horn), CE.

The latter segment of the Yavneh era was dominated by the figure of Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph. He is recognized as an important pioneer in the areas of biblical interpretation, where he developed a distinctive hermeneutical school; and in the topical organization of oral traditions. Rabbi Akiva died a martyr’s death at the time of the Bar Kokhba rebellion for openly defying the Roman edicts against the practice and teaching of Judaism. The middle decades of the second century CE are often designated as the generation of Usha, named for a village in the Galilee that was the home of one of its more distinguished sages, Rabbi Meir.

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