Sunday, October 16, 2011

Too short — (but still timely) — A review of „The Essential Talmud” by Adin Steinsaltz

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is an exceptional person. Author of  more than 60 books, he was one of the first of Jewish Rabbis who undertook the translation of Talmud from original Aramaic language into modern Hebrew and later in English and many other languages. His translations were not free from controversies, with many scholars from different circles of Judaism, questioning accuracy of his translation. Nevertheless, for such ignorant like myself his popular introduction into Talmud — „The Essential Talmud” — was a great experience. 

It starts with explanation of the meaning and importance of Talmud.

„If the Bible is the cornerstone of Judaism, then the Talmud is the central pillar.”
„The formal definition of the Talmud is the summary of oral law that evolved after centuries of scholarly effort by sages who lived in Palestine and babylonia until teh beginningof the Middle Ages”

It then describes the fascinating history of Talmud - and shows how its most important feature - of the book that never ends — it is rather realized in minds and hearts of those who study it.

„The Talmud is the repository of thousands of years of Jewish wisdom, and the oral law, which is as ancient and significant as the written law (the Torah), finds expression therein.”

„Structure and Content” come next, describing the Talmudic exposition of laws covering the entire scope of Jewish life. The relation between Mishnah - the core of Talmud and Gemarah (which is known as Talmud itself) is explained.

The last part of the book, called „Method” describes Talmudic logic, and Talmudic way of thinking. It ends with the fantastic short chapter „The Talmud Has Never Been Completed”, that underlines the essence of Talmud:

„Every day, every hour, scholars find new subjects of study and new points of view. (...) The work that is a compilation of the endeavors of many generations, is edited with excessive precision, and has been studied by tens of thousands of scholars still remains a challenge.”

Despite my knowledge about controversy around the author, I must admit that it was a great book for me...

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