A masterful introduction to the to the great repository of Jewish wisdom, the Talmud In The Essential Talmud, the renowned Israeli scholar and teacher Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz succinctly describes the history, structure, and methodology of the sacred text by which the Jewish people have lived and survived through the ages. Rabbi Steinsaltz summarizes the Talmud's main principles, demonstrates its contemporary relevance, and captures the spirit of this unique and paradoxical text as a human expression of divine law. This expanded edition features a historical overview of life in the times of the Talmud and an in-depth look at the content and appearance of the original Talmudic page. As Rabbi Solomon S. Bernards of the B'Nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League puts it, "this book is indispensable to those, Jews and Christians alike, who would like to gain an insight into what it is that moves the contemporary Jew."
In the history section he talks mostly about the history of the creation of the talmud from the time of
The structure section dicusees the content of the talmud. The stories, laws, and subject matter that it contains. He covers topics like tumah and tahara (purity and impurity), prayer, holidays, civil laws, criminal law, and family law at a very high level. He is clearly not trying to summarize the content of the talmud, but rather is trying to introduce the topics which the talmud will cover in depth.
The last section discusses the methods of the talmud - the ways in which the talmud thinks, midrash halakhah, relevance of aggadata, and methods of study.
Steinsaltz relies heavily on the talmud itself as a source, as well as traditional rabbinic sources. For the most part he does not use modern academic or historical sources from outside the rabbinic realm. (The only exception seems to the the chapters on the printing and banning of the talmud in section 1).
R' Steinsaltz is an Orthodox rabbi who has made it his life's work to open up the Talmud, and is writing from that perspective rather than a secular academic one, but he