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Literally, disciple of the wise. Any scholar or authority on the Talmud. For many centuries, the Talmid Hakham was respected as the social aristocrat of the Jewish community. Conversely, at the opposite end of the social ladder was the Am Ha-Aretz, or ignoramus. During the Middle Ages, the Talmid Hakham was consulted as an authority on worldly and religious affairs, even when he held no official position in the community.

Numerous pithy savings in the Talmud reflect the position of the scholar in Jewish life. Perhaps the most typical and most frequently quoted is, “Talmidei Hakhamim increase peace in the world.” Another frequent quotation mirroring the same attitude is the biblical proverb, “The learning of the wise man is a source of life” (Prov. 13:14).

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