The Talmud is a repository of thousands of years of Jewish wisdom. Its two and a half million words consist of a conglomeration of law, legend and philosophy, a blend of unique logic, shrewd pragmatism, history, science, anecdotes, and humor. In "The Essential Talmud", Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, regarded as one of the leading rabbis of the century, offers an introduction to this sacred Jewish text, clearly and brilliantly describing the beliefs, attitudes, and methods that have occupied students of the Talmud for centuries. "If the Bible is the cornerstone of Judaism ," writes R. Steinsaltz, "then the Talmud is the central pillar, soaring up from the foundations and supporting the entire spiritual and intellectual edifice." The Talmud, though in many ways the most important work in Jewish culture, is a work with which most Jews are almost entirely unfamiliar. R. Steinsaltz whose life's work includes his efforts to revive the study of the Talmud among the Jewish people, observes that "a Jewish society that ceases to study the Talmud has no real hope of survival." Describing the Talmud as "the backbone of creativity and national life" for Jews, R. Steinsaltz explains that "understanding the Talmud gives one key, not only for itself, but for all Jewish culture." He goes on to state that "from a cultural perspective the Talmud is the tool for self-understanding for the Jewish people." R. Adin Steinsaltz has a remarkable encyclopedic knowledge of Torah, halachah and Kabbalah as well as mastery of the sciences. He has earned worldwide recognition as a scholar, teacher and mentor. "The Essential Talmud", like several other works by R. Steinsaltz, has become a modern Jewish classic. His own Talmud translation and commentary, a project that Rabbi Steinsaltz began in 1967, has received extraordinary praise, and tens of thousands of volumes of his Talmud edition are circulating. "The Essential Talmud" is a superb window through which we can gain a glimpse, and more, of perhaps the most unique sacred work in the history of religion. In a single brief volume, R. Steinsaltz succeeds in capturing the flavor and spirit of the Talmud as a human document and at the same time summarizes its main principles as an expression of divine law. A work of profound scholarship and yet also of concise, simple and brilliant pedagogy, "The Essential Talmud" will make equally enlightening reading for those who are already versed in the subject and those who come to it for the first time.
by Adin Steinsaltz
Translated by Chaya Galai