Jew-Seder-Fd-art - 8/7/16
"Foods of the Medieval Passover Seder" by Lady Judith bas Rabbi Mendel.
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Foods of the Medieval Passover Seder
by Lady Judith bas Rabbi Mendel
The medieval Passover ceremony was similar to today's, but the foods were quite different.
The foods eaten at the seder include:
• a green vegetable dipped in liquid (karpas)
• bitter herbs (maror)
• charosis – a mixture of fruits and nuts ground up to resemble mortar
• matzah – unleavened bread
• wine – 4 cups for the ceremony + additional drunk with meal
• roasted egg
Meal in time of Mishnah and Talmud
• Meal based on Greco-Roman feasts
• Started with array of hors d'oeuvres
• Next course was roasted and boiled meat, poultry, or some delicacies.
• Last course was fruit or sweets.
° Cakes made with beaten egg whites to leaven them began to be made in Spain in the 1000s. Italians began making these cakes in the mid-1400s, but they did not catch on in Ashkenazi regions until the 1600s.
° matzah (afikomen) was eaten last.
Green Vegetable (called "karpas")
• What green vegetable?
° Preference was originally for bitter lettuce
· Changed to another vegetable in 4th century
° Amram was the first one to say celery was acceptable choice
° Saadia Gaon said any green vegetable could be used that wasn't bitter
° Choice of green vegetable determined by its effect
° Term means celery or parsley in Persian, Aramaic, and Arabic.
° Use of term to describe the ritual dates from 13th century France.
• Dipped in what?
° Mishnah describes dipping lettuce in vinegar before breaking bread
° Early Middle Ages the practice was to dip the lettuce in watery charosis
· Everything before the seder meal was dipped in watery charosis
Bitter herbs (called "maror")
• Mishnah lists several plants that meet requirement for bitter herbs
° lettuce, chickory, pepperwort, endive, dandelion
· All these plants have leaves
• Horseradish wasn't used until after 1394
° Problem posed by uncooperative climate in northern Europe
° Much debate
· Rabbinu Tam in the 12th century ruled that the bitter herb could not be a plant root.
· By first half of the 14th century horseradish was an acceptable substitute, but lettuce was still seen as preferable.
¯ One compromise was to use the top of the horseradish with its green shoots.
· Opposition to horseradish continued until the 18th century
• Hillel Sandwich = eating matzah, charosis and maror all together at the seder
° Practice described in the Mishnah (c. 200) of eating lamb, charosis and maror together
° Talmud (c. 700) says to eat those foods separately and then all together.
° Reclining while eating the sandwich did not start until the 18th century.
• Custom in Italy and Germany at the seder for a man to point at his wife while holding the bitter herbs during that part of the ceremony
° Illustrating Proverbs 5:4 ("she is bitter as wormwood") and Ecclesiates 7:26 ("more bitter than death is the woman whose heart is snares and nets")
° Some haggadahs show the woman recoiling from the bitter herbs the husband is holding.
Washington Haggadah (1478)
· is mixture of fruits and nuts mixed with a liquid and ground to make a paste.
o Is supposed to resemble the mortar that was used with the bricks in Egypt.
· In Mishnah the rabbis disagreed about whether it was a religious obligation to eat charosis
· Recipes vary greatly
° Talmud says it should be thick and made
° Oldest recipe we have is from Saadia Gaon's prayer book (10th century)
° Rabbi Elijah of London (13th century)
suggested that all the fruits mentioned in Songs of Songs should be used.
° Horseradish was sometimes one of the ingredients.
° The recipe changed because of accusations of blood libel.
· Removed the red wine and red wine vinegar and replaced them with white wine and white wine vinegar that did not look like blood.
° Rambam thought we should say one.
° No haggadahs have such a blessing.
° Custom that all the seder foods before the meal were dipped before eating them in watery charosis
u Rashi and Rambam decided to use vinegar instead.
° Numerous rabbis in the Middle Ages debated whether bitter herbs should be dipped in charosis
u One concern was that the sweetness of the charosis would counteract the bitterness of the maror.
• Leavening of bread was not common at the time of the Exodus from Egypt.
° Called the "bread of affliction" because that is what the Jewish people ate the whole time they were in Egypt.
• Matzah for Passover is made of water and flour (wheat, oats, barley, spelt, & rye)
° Mishnah said it had begun to rise when it swelled, had streaks or cracks, or turned white.
° Talmud specified that only a brief time (the length of time to walk a Roman mile) could elapse after kneading ended until it was removed from the oven.
u Medieval timekeeping: minute hands not on clocks until 18th century.
u Not related to value of "chai" (life) or 18 until at least mid-18th century.
¯ Modern practice is to cook matzah within 18 minutes.
u In the 4th century it became the practice to decorate and mark the matzah.
¯ To make sure the matzah was made quickly before the dough could rise, it became practice to use a mold that the matzah dough could be pressed into, leaving the design of birds, flowers, and plants
u Perforated and scored with perpendicular
slashes to form an X.
u Designs differentiated the matzah used at the seder.
• Medieval matzah was as thick as a finger.
° If it is cooked at 600°, it doesn't get stale fast.
° Thin matzah began to replace the thick variety at the beginning of the 16th century.
° All matzah was round until the early 1900s • Cooked the afternoon before Passover
° Preferably after 1:30 p.m.
• Shmurah matzah (or matzah shmurah) – guarded matzah
° = matzah made from flour that has been carefully watched over to make sure it did not come into contact with water before it was made into matzah
u Term dates from the Zohar and the commentary on the Talmud by Rabbi Asher be Jehiel (c. 1250-1327).
° Mekhilta says to guard the matzah so it will not be disqualified.
u Refers to being careful in the actual mixing of the dough
° Talmud does not say grain must be watched over from the time it is harvested.
° Geonim said flour needed to be guarded from the time it was kneaded.
° Early Ashkenazic and French custom to guard the flour once it was ground.
° R. Karo in the Shulchan Aruch combined a number of practices:
u Said it was best to use seder matzah that has been guarded from the time it was harvested, but it should at least be guarded from when it was ground.
u If necessary, the flour could be purchased in the market and then guarded from the time the dough was mixed.
• Some details about the matzah are related to weekly Sabbath practices
° Became the practice to use two loaves for festivals as well as Sabbaths.
• How many matzah to use?
° Broken matzah was like "bread of poverty" since the poor couldn't afford whole loaves
° Babylonian and Palestinian practice was one whole and one broken if the seder was on a weekday, and in Babylonia they used 2 whole and one broken on the Sabbath
° Amram wanted 2 1⁄2 matzah no matter what day it was.
° In post-geonic period (after 1040), the leading rabbis ruled that 2 1⁄2 matzah should always be used
° The custom changed to having three matzah and then breaking one.
° Shulchan Aruch affirmed practice of using 3 matzah, which is how it is done today.
• The Talmud says to place the broken piece between the two whole matzah.
• Two blessings for matzah are said at the seder because there are two instructions in the Bible:
° One is to eat matzah as food; other is to eat it at the seder.
• Strong wine served so it was cut 2 parts water; 1 part wine to have alcohol level of 4-5%
° Rashi said wine should be mixed in the cup, not prepared ahead of time
• Mishnah specifies that 4 cups of wine be used, but unclear whether 5 are required
° Evolved into 4 cups + 1 cup for Elijah
• Tosefta discouraged women from drinking
• Talmud says women and children are also obligated to drink the four cups of wine because they were affected by the same miracle • Gaonic decisions and traditions:
° specified that the cup be the size of 1-1/2 eggs
° decided that a blessing should be said over each of the four cups because each cup had its own separate commandment.
° Saadia Gaon added a question before the blessing:
u "Is it agreeable, gentlemen?" meaning 'Is the wine drinkable?' The answer was, "L'chaim!"
• RAVIA (13th century) and some early German authorities taught that the cup should be washed and dried after each use.
° Debates about how full to fill the cup.
• The blessing was expanded to be much longer in early middle ages
° Saadia Gaon thought the practice incorrect, and his opinion prevailed.
• Why sweet wine?
° Jews in eastern Europe lived in areas where grapes did not grow well.
u Wine made from the substandard grapes they could occasionally get required the addition of a lot of sugar to be drinkable.
u Solution was to make wine from raisins, which are easy to transport.
¯ Results in sweet wine similar to sherry. Ferments within a week.
° Sweet syrupy Concord grape wine is not required for a kosher Passover seder, but it may be the custom of some families and tradition is important.
• In Temple times the meat served at the seder was lamb
° Destruction of Temple ended that practice
° Concern among rabbis that if lamb were served, some people might think it had been sacrificed
u Solution was to avoid serving lamb.
¯ Took a long time for this ruling to become practice; not until 12th century.
• What to eat instead
° Two types of roasted meats ° bone and broth
° two cooked dishes
u Rabbis Karo and Isserles said to use a shank bone and egg in place of a lamb carcass.
u R. Sheira Gaon (10th century) said that some had the custom of adding a third dish in memory of Miriam.
° Practice of some German Jews to avoid poultry during first days of Passover because of grain in the digestive tract of the chickens.
u Said it was best to use seder matzah that has been guarded from the time it was harvested, but it should at least be guarded from when it was ground.
• Eating eggs dipped in salt water dates at least from the 700s.
° The egg on the seder plate was also consumed; the foods on the seder plate were not just for ceremonial use.
• Kitniyot – generally speaking, kitniyot are small seeds of plants that might be ground into flour (includes beans, corn, soy, and rice).
° Ashkenazim follow the opinion of Rabbi Moshe of Kouchi (13th c. France) who stated that kitniyot products can look like the flour forbidden during Passover. To prevent confusion, all kitniyot were banned.
References for Further Study
There are two very good books on the history of Jewish food.
Cooper, John. Eat and Be Satisfied: A Social History of Jewish Food. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1993.
He has two chapters on food in the Talmudic period, and another two chapters on foods in the Middle Ages. One chapter is a general overview, and the second is on holiday and Sabbath foods. A very good starting point. Good references.
Marks, Gil. The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010.
A good reference book with occasional recipes. If you look up sugar, for example, he has two pages on the topic, and recounts the history of sugar in Biblical times, how it travelled from the south Pacific to Egypt, and made its way into Europe with the returning crusaders. He tells you about the sugar beet factory that opened in Poland in 1802 and how that changed Polish cooking. Learn how the American matzah industry got its start with an illegal immigrant using a false passport. A good reference, but leaves you wishing he'd included a few more dates and sources.
Saadia Gaon's Charosis Recipe
10th century, Babylonia
Make a moist sauce from dates, walnuts, and sesame, and knead it in red wine vinegar, and that is called halek.
The term halek refers to a kind of walnut, and the word is used as a synonym for charosis in central Asia. It is noteworthy that his recipe does not include the apples stipulated in the Talmud.
Source: Seder Saadia Gaon (882-942 CE)
Rabbi Eleazar ben Judah of Worms' Charosis Recipe
"Charoset is made from tapuchin [apples] into which is added a little of the fruits from Song of Songs - walnuts, figs, and pomegranates - and pepper, ginger, cumin, horseradish, and black radish."
Source: Sefer ha-Rokeach
Rabbi Elijah of London's Charosis Recipe
He suggested that all the fruits mentioned in Song of Songs should be used in making charosis - that would include apples, dates, figs, pomegranates, and nuts.
French Provencal Style Charosis
(makes about 8 cups)
1 pound chestnuts
1 cup blanched almonds
2 medium tart apples, cored and chopped 1 cup pitted dates
1 cup dried figs
1 cup raisins
1-3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger wine vinegar
1. Cut an X in the shell of chestnuts. Place in boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Drain. When able to handle, peel off shells.
2. Finely chop chestnuts and almonds. Add fruits and finely chop. Stir in enough wine vinegar to make a thick paste. Add ginger.
Source: Sefer Ha'Menuha, a work of the 13th century Provençal scholar, Rabbi Manoach, as cited in an article by Gil Marks in the Jewish Communications Network archives
Maimonides gives this recipe for charosis in his 11th century Mishneh Torah:
Crush dates, dried figs, or raisins and the like..., add vinegar, and mix them with spices.
Rabbi Isaac Luria's Mother's Charosis Recipe
Seven chopped fruits and nuts mentioned in Song of Songs (like walnuts, figs, pomegranates, grapes, apples, pears, and dates). Three spices like ginger, cinnamon sticks, and sweet spikenard.
Rabbi Moshe Cordovera's Comments about Ashkenazi Charosis
He said the Jews of northern Europe only had walnuts, apples, and pears to make their charosis with.
It is important to remember that only a brief time can elapse from the time the water touches the flour until the matzah comes out of the oven.
I did a series of experiments to figure out how to make inch-thick matzah that was thoroughly cooked and edible. I found that if I used more water, I could get all the flour mixed in but the result was doughy in the middle. Initially I cooked this matzah in my home oven at 525 degrees, and the resulting matzah hardened within 12 hours. Cooking it at 600° resulted in matzah that was still edible five days later. If this isn't possible you can get good results using a cast iron dutch oven preheated to the hottest temperature your oven gets to (525°).
220 grams flour
110 grams water
1. Preheat oven to highest temperature. If using dutch oven, let it preheat for 25-30 minutes. Make sure you have mold, tool for pricking matzah*, rolling pin (optional), and timer all ready.
2. Measure 110 grams water. Set aside. In another bowl, measure 220 grams flour.
3. Quickly pour water into flour. Use spoon or fingers or combination to quickly mix them together. Don't worry if not all the flour can be worked into the ball of dough.
5. Turn flour out on CLEAN surface with a dusting of flour. Knead dough. Pat or use rolling pin to roll out ball of dough in a circle that is 1⁄2 - 3⁄4 inch thick. Press the disk of dough into the mold hard enough to impress the design on one side. While the dough is still in the mold, use the pricking tool on the back side to cover the disk with pricks. The whole process up to now should only have taken 3 minutes or so.
6. Open oven, remove lid from pot, toss dough into pot, making sure it is far over to the side and is lying flat. Place lid back on pot. Set timer for 8 minutes. Let bake.
7. When 8 minutes have elapsed, open open and remove lid. Use tongs to flip the matzah, taking care to place it on a different part of the pot where the dough has not been sitting. Bake for remaining amount of time.
*I found a dough pricker at Sur La Table made by Ateco. They said the tool was also called a docker.
NB: No observant Jew will consider this matzah kosher enough to eat for Passover.
These next recipes aren't specifically for Passover, but they are kosher for Passover and we know people made recipes like them in the Middle Ages. They are "traditional."
I've been asked in previous classes to include more recipes.
1 lb. (3 1⁄2 -4 c.) mixed dried fruits. I used:
apples, pear, apricots, cherries, figs, prunes, and raisins
2 c. dry white wine (such as Reisling or Chenin Blanc)
2 c. water
1⁄2 c. honey
3 thin orange slices
3 thin lemon slices 1 cinnamon stick
1. Place all the ingredients in a heavy pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
2. Reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer. Stir occasionally. Let cook until just tender, about 20 minutes.
3. Remove the fruit. Cook the remaining liquid over high until it is reduced to about 3 cups; it will take about 10 minutes.
4. Remove pot from heat and return fruit to the pot.
Serve warm or chilled. Store in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.
This recipe comes from Gil Mark's Encyclopedia of Jewish Cooking. 10
2 medium-sized beets
3 medium-sized turnips
3-4 black radishes
2+ c. water
1/3 - 1/2 c. or more honeyRed wine vinegar
(1⁄2 - 1 t. ground ginger), optional
(1⁄4 c. walnuts and/or almonds), optional
1. Peel vegetables.
2. Add vegetables to a pot of boiling water and cook for 10 minutes.
3. Drain and allow to cool. Using a coarse grater, grate the vegetables.
4. Return grated vegetables to pan. Add some water, honey, and vinegar. Stir well and bring to a boil.
5. Lower the heat and cook for 2-3 hours. Add more honey, vinegar, and water if needed. Cook until mixture is thick and brown.
6. If desired, add ginger and nuts.
Recipe is one I developed by merging recipes from a couple of sources.
1 c. sugar
2/3 c. good quality honey
1/2 c. water
(1 1⁄2 t. lemon juice)
1 c. crumbled matzah
1⁄2 c. almonds, coarsely chopped
1⁄2 t. ground ginger
1. In a medium-sized heavy saucepan combine sugar, honey, water, and lemon juice (optional). Heat over medium low while stirring for about 5 minutes until sugar dissolves. Add ginger.
2. Stop stirring and increase temperature to high and let mixture boil.
3. Cover and cook for about 30 seconds to dissolve any sugar crystals. Uncover and boil gently, without stirring over medium-high heat. Cook until candy thermometer registers 300° to make hard crack candy. (If you only cook it to a lower temperature, the candy will melt slightly at room temperature and the pieces will run together.)
4. Once the mixture gets to 300°, remove from heat and quickly stir in matzah and almonds.
5. Pour into cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. (You could also use a marble slab, or a greased baking dish, but I found the parchment paper worked well.)
6. Let stand for several minutes, then score into bars or squares or diamonds. Let cool. Then cut along score lines.
This recipe is adapted from one in Gil Mark's Encyclopedia of Jewish Cooking. I found it makes a big difference to use good honey, since that is the predominant flavor. The entire process took about an hour to make.
1 lb. (3 1⁄4 c.) raisins, chopped
1⁄2 c. plus 1 T. sugar or equivalent amount of honey
3 1⁄4 c. water (the same amount as raisins)
1. Combine all the ingredients in a 2-quart jar or crock. Cover with a fine cheesecloth.
2. Let stand in a cool place; stir daily. Let stand until the raisins rise to the surface, about 1 week – 10 days. (If you lick the spoon you stir with, the flavor should change from sweet grape juice to something fermenting.)
3. Drain through cheesecloth. Press the solids to extract all the moisture. Filter wine until clear.
4. Let wine continue to ferment in a jar with a lid. Open the jar several times a day to allow accumulated gases to escape. Or use modern airlock. Traditionally the bottle probably was covered with cheesecloth and allowed to sit for a week or two.
5. Rack the wine to remove sediment when signs of fermentation have ended.
If the mixture turns moldy, you cannot use it. Medieval rabbis were clear on this point. The mold comes from not using clean enough equipment.
This recipe is based on one from Gil Mark's Encyclopedia of Jewish Cooking. Use raisins without sulfites. Trader Joe's sells them; they need not be organic. This recipe makes a wine that tastes a lot like sherry.
References for Class on Medieval Passover Foods
Dates for People Referred To
R. Eliezer ben Joel HaLevi (also called RAVIA) (d. 1225) R. Isaac Luria (1534-1572)
R. Israel Isserlein (1390-1460)
R. Moses Isserles (1520-1572)
R. Jacob ben Meir (also called Rabbinu Tam) (c. 1100-1171)
R. Joseph ben Ephraim Karo (or Caro) (1488-1575)
R. Meir of Rothenburg (c. 1215-1293)
R. Moses Maimonides (also called Rambam) (1135-1204)
R. Shlomo Yitzhaki (also called Rashi) (1040-1105)
Rabbinu Tam (name for R. Jacob ben Meir) (c. 1100-1171)
Rambam (name for R. Moses Maimonides) (1135-1204)
Rashi (name for R. Shlomo Yitzhaki) (1040-1105)
Rav Amram Gaon (died 875)
Rav Saadiah Gaon (c. 882-942)
RAVIA (name for R. Eliezer ben Joel HaLevi) (d. 1225)
R. = Rabbi
Explanation of Some Terms
Afikomen - half of a matzah that is put aside and eaten at the end of the meal. Scholars are unsure of the original meaning of the word, but think it might refer to raucous behavior indulged in by drunken dinner guests at a Greco-Roman banquet. Obviously, the meaning has changed.
Amram Gaon - (died 875). Rav Amram bar Sheshna was a famous Gaon (see below). "Rav" is the Hebrew form of the word "rabbi." Amram was the head of the Jewish Talmud Academy of Sura from 856 until his death in 875. He was the first to put together a complete liturgy for the synagogue for the entire year. His prayer book (Siddur Rab Amram or Seder Rav Amram) was an important influence on most of the rituals in use among the different groups of Jews.
Ashkenazic - related to the Jews living in northern and eastern Europe.
B.C.E. - a way of avoiding the Christian method of counting the years. It is used in place of B.C. and means "Before the Common Era."
Charosis - a mixture of fruits and nuts combined to look like mortar, used to remind us of slavery in Egypt. The recipe for this dish varies greatly, according to what fruits are available in early spring in a region and the preferences of a family.
C.E. - is used in place of A.D. (anno domine, in the year of our Lord), and means "Common Era."
Gaon or Gaonim (plural) - a group of scholars who lived between 589 and 1040. They were the presidents of the two great rabbinical colleges of Sura and Pumbedita, in Babylonia. In the early medieval period, the Gaonim were generally accepted as the spiritual leaders of the Jewish community worldwide.
Haggadah - a book containing the prayers and songs for a Passover seder.
Karo - Rabbi Joseph ben Ephraim Karo (or Caro) (1488-1575), author of Shulhan Aruch, the last codification of Jewish law. It is still authoritative today.
Maror - bitter herbs used in the seder, used to remind us how the Egyptians embittered our lives.
Mishnah - a very fat book written down in about 200 CE; my copy is over 1,100 pages long. By Jewish tradition Moses received the written law on Mount Sinai and he also received the oral law. This oral law is like a how-to concerning the written law (the first five books of the Bible). While the written law might tell you to make a sacrifice, the oral law gave the details about how to do it properly. This oral law was passed down verbally for generations, and since the tradition was to learn in this manner, it was a much more accurate way of passing on the knowledge than if we did it today because we have not trained ourselves to remember exactly and repeat back what we have heard. The name "Mishnah" means repetition, because that is how people learned it, by repeating it. Finally it was written down after the Temple was destroyed out of concern that without the Temple people would forget the details. The Mishnah is filled with picky details and debates among rabbis.
Passover - also called Pesach. The holiday in the spring when Jews remember how they were rescued from slavery in Egypt. The holiday lasts for eight days during which time they eat no yeast or leavened food. Since the list of foods that could be contaminated by yeast is long, the diet during this week changes radically. On the first two nights of Passover families celebrate with a large meal and a lengthy ceremony.
Prague Haggadah - This set of prayers and songs for Passover is the earliest confirmed printing (1526) of an illustrated Haggadah that still exists in its entirety today. It was printed and illustrated with woodcuts by Gershom ben Shlomo Ha- Kohen (his name has several variations). Earlier haggadahs had illustrations, but what made the Prague Haggadah unusual was the way the illustrations matched the text. This Haggadah is also the first time the song Adir Hu appeared in print. In 1590 a revised Prague Haggadah was printed by Gershom's son, and is the first time Chad Gadya (One Little Kid) and Echod Mi Yodea (Who Knows One) were included.
Rashi - is the acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). He was a French rabbi who is the author of the first comprehensive commentary on the Talmud. He was known for his ability to present the basic meaning of a text in a concise and clear way that could be understood by both beginners and scholars. His commentary on the Talmud is included in every edition of the Talmud since its was first printed in the 1520s.
Rambam - is the acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides (1135-1204). Wikipedia says: "He was the preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. He worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Spain, Morocco and Egypt. . .
Although his copious works on Jewish law and ethics were initially met with opposition during his lifetime, he was posthumously acknowledged to be one of the foremost rabbinical arbiters and philosophers in Jewish history. Today, his works and his views are considered a cornerstone of Jewish thought and study." A good summary.
Saadia Gaon – (882-942) The Siddur (prayer book) of Saadia Gaon is earliest surviving attempt to record the weekly ritual of Jewish prayers for week-days, Sabbaths, and festivals (apart from the prayer book of Amram Gaon, of which there is no authoritative text).
Seder - the meal eaten to commemorate the freedom from slavery in Egypt. In Israel the seder is eaten only the first night of Passover. Outside of Israel, it is eaten on the first two nights.
Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) - written by R. Joseph Karo in 1563 with additions by R. Moses Isserles. It is the most recent codification of the law. Karo tried to resolve many of the medieval rabbinical debates over how to do things, often finding ways to compromise between traditions. It is the most widely accepted compilation of Jewish law ever written. Isserles added commentary that focuses more on Ashkenazic practice. The Shulchan Aruch includes both Karo's and Isserles' writings. It is cited as the final authority today.
Sephardic - related to the Jews living in Iberia and around the Mediterranean; the term is often used to mean any Jews who are not Ashkenazic. Another term is now being used to describe the Jews living in Arab and eastern regions - Mizrahi.
Talmud - There are really two Talmuds. The Jerusalem Talmud (finished around 400 CE) and the Babylonian Talmud (finished around 700 CE). The Babylonian one is considered more authoritative, especially since it built on the earlier Jerusalem Talmud. It is made up of rabbinic discussions of the Mishnah.
Torah - The first five books of the Bible, also known as the Books of Moses. These books include the stories of the beginnings of all creation, the formation of the Jewish people, and the detailed laws they were to obey as God's chosen people.
(Just to make it confusing, the term "Torah" can also be used to mean all of the Judaism's founding legal and ethical religious texts, so the term can also include the Oral Law.)
Tosefta - a collection of writings about the Jewish oral law, from the period of the Mishnah. It acts as a supplement to the Mishnah, but it is considered less authoritative.
Copyright 2015 by Katie Mendelsohn. <mcmendelsohn at optimum.net>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.