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The Essential Talmud

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  523 ratings  ·  54 reviews
A general introduction to the beliefs, attitudes, and methods of the sacred text by which the Jewish people have lived and survived through the ages by a renowned Israeli rabbi, scholar, and teacher. The first book to capture the flavor and spirit of the Talmud as a human document and to summarize its main principles as an expression of divine law.
Paperback, Thirtieth Anniversary Edition, 327 pages
Published September 12th 2006 by Basic Books (first published July 27th 1976)
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Michael Doyle
Sep 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaica
A surprisingly easy read, especially since it's in translation from the original Hebrew. This is a friendly yet detailed introduction to the Talmud, including the history through several eras of those who wrote it, how the Talmud is laid out, and examples of the themes and types of argument that the Talmud contains. That might not sound like enough to fill a few hundred pages but it is. When you're done, you'll understand much better what the Talmud is and how it came to be. You won't however, h ...more
Lisa Feld
I was frustrated in reading this, in part because I wasn't sure who the audience was. The book gives a rough overview of the history of the compilation of the Talmud, its contents, and its internal logic, but there are massive gaps in each of these (and problems with the book's overall organization) that make it a very flawed introduction from any standpoint. The history of compilation doesn't mention, for example, any clear historical context for the first group of sages, and while Steinsaltz s ...more
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Great book to give the historical background and context for the Talmud. Some ideas were completely new to me, though they become obvious once you think about it. For example, the idea that the Talmud is not really a book of law, but rather a book of "truth" or a slice of life of the sages and what they spoke about/taught (which happens to include legal discussions they had, and law classes they taught).

The reason I would not give this a full five stars is because the author sometimes speaks
Joel Weinberger
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was a solid intro to the structure and thought process of the Talmud. I started reading this because I've started doing "Daf Yomi," reading a page of Talmud a day, and this has been a good jump start in understanding what I'm reading. A lot of the really good stuff is the contextual information about the Talmud. While the tractates themselves are fairly straightforward as to their content, "The Essential Talmud" gives a great historical and religious context for what the Talmud is, whe ...more
Barack Liu
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing

257-Talmud-Group authors-Philosophy-200

- jealousy and anger people die young, tense and hungry people premature aging.

"Talmud" (Talmud), published in the 2nd to 6th century. The Talmud is the most important book in Jewish life except the Hebrew Bible. It is also called the Talmud most of the time.

Group author, after the destruction of the Jewish kingdom in 586 BC, a large number of Jews were reduced to "Babylonian prisoners." In this way, Babylon gradually developed
Leiah Moser
Jun 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: judaism
A fairly useful introduction to the Talmud, but somewhat flawed in organization. The chapters dealing with the history of the text are somewhat confusing, with a tendency to bounce back and forth chronologically when dealing with parallel developments in the Palestinian and Babylonian academies.

Once the book begins to talk about the organization and content of the Talmud, it gets better. A few of the chapters dealing with laws relating to the Sabbath, liturgy and festival days will seem rather
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Skylar Burris
Jul 25, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: judaism
This is an informative introduction/overview of the Talmud.
Daniel Frank
Sep 18, 2016 rated it liked it
A great book about our history and who we are.
Oct 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
The death of Rabbi Steinsaltz several weeks ago prompted me to reflect on the incredible legacy he has left by breaking the language barrier of the Talmud and making it accessible to one and all. For most folks, it’s like the translation of the Rosetta stone times a million – incredible but ultimately stuff for museums. For practicing Jews, his translation allows them to take part in a crucial dialogue which has sustained the Jewish people for thousands of years.

While it would be nice to read hi
Robert Eisenman
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Let me start with the bad, of which there's little. One flaw I spotted was that at times (namely the historical section) used certain terms without clarifying their meaning (the terms for various generations of sages come to mind), seeming to assume the reader already knew what they meant. For my part this wasn't a problem as I did know their meaning, but I can see it being confusing the uninitiated. Additionally, I noticed Steinsaltz didn't cite sources, which is sensible for the sections on th ...more
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had been looking for a book that would be a good overview of the enormous topic of the Talmud, quite forgetting that I had this indispensable and as-yet unread volume on my shelf.

During the time I was reading this, Rabbi Steinsaltz passed away. The world lost a genius of a scholar. He brought the Talmud to a generation of new readers with his complete translation into Hebrew (and its subsequent translation into English)

The Essential Talmud is acts as an introduction to the massive body of writ
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes I wonder if we ever really rate books as they are. Our rating very often depends upon when and where we are reading--and sometimes even its format.

And perhaps, I am only giving this wonderful, worthwhile book four stars because I read it immediately after reading another book on the Talmud, Abraham Cohen's Everyman's Talmud. I really loved that book. And this one I just loved.

I only wish that Steinsaltz had provided more citations to the passages in the Talmud he was quoting and refere
James Kittredge
Apr 30, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is a well-written, well-researched “biography” of the Talmud. It contains an abundance of historical material, but a dearth of halakhic summary. While I understand that the history of Jewish politics, persecution, self-governance, and rabbinical development are, to a degree, key to understanding the Talmud’s organization and methodology, I probably could have gone without knowing the lineage of every exilarch and Nasi. Likewise, given the sheer amount of time devoted to historical minu ...more
Jera Em
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some excellent information on the Talmud in here. It really puts how important these writings were for the Jewish people and how much it did to keep the community together. I liked the author's writing style quite a bit and I feel a lot more informed than I was previously. Given how extensive the Talmud is, there's only so much the book could cover, but all the major subjects are addressed.

I really enjoy the emphasis placed on scholars and how lively debates could become and that they could be a
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: judaism
This is a very clearly written guide to the Talmud: its history, the material it covers, and methods of interpretation.

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 acknowledges historical sources and credits them when they contradict certain details in the Talmud itself. I'd say it's best for someone who wants this specific perspective, but it's a useful one.
Jeffrey Rubenstein
Oct 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nook
An introduction to the beliefs, attitudes, and methods of the Torah by which the Jewish people have lived and survived through the ages. The book tries to capture the flavor and spirit of the Talmud as a human document and to summarize its main principles as an expression of Jewish law. This is a vey detailed book and in my opinion too detailed for the casual Jewish observer.
Oct 24, 2018 rated it liked it
It's pretty dry and listening to the audiobook was a bad idea because the narrator's voice puts me to sleep. It's a good basic overview of what the Talmud is and where it came from, but the Talmud itself is way more interesting. ...more
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing little introduction to Talmud! Totally recommend. Rabbi Steinsaltz was such a great and erudite author and gave interesting little notes on the Talmud's history, development and its subjects. ...more
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: judaica
A very readable translation of a book originally written in Hebrew. It's a good foundation before actually picking up any volume of Talmud. ...more
Melvin Marsh, M.S.
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Summary of some of the more important parts of the Talmud. I wish there was more information about the Talmud itself although it is quite large.
Aleksandr Shnäzeroth
Interesting description of Judaism to someone who doesn't know too much. Too often it says "this is a complex topic" and calls it a day. ...more
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great overview of the History of the Talmud, it is the 1000ft view.
Bob T
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really useful insight into the development, structure and importance of the Talmud. Great reference.
Abi (The Knights Who Say Book)
I might come back to this some day but now that I'm in a Rabbinic literature class I think I can pass on it for now. ...more
Brian Cham
A decent if dry summary of the Talmud. Non-Jews would probably find the history sections in the beginning to be overly detailed. The other sections are more informative.
Nicholas Vela
Dec 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good Introduction to the Talmud, with a history of the creation of the Talmud, how the Talmud is printed, and contents of the Talmud. This definitely helped in my own limited study of the Talmud.
Kristen (belles_bookshelves)
"Those who are insulted but do not insult, hear their shame but do not reply, act out of love and rejoice in suffering, of them it was written, “And those who love Him, will be as the sun in its splendor.”"


Another religious text for me, trying to make my way through all the major religions. I've previously read The Holy Bible: English Standard Version and later this year I plan on reading Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures. I like to have gaps in between the long ones because, not only are they longer
Simcha York
May 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rabbi Steinsaltz's The Essential Talmud provides a broad introduction to what may well be the most fascinating, sacred, enigmatic, and downright weird text of western civilization.

The book is divided into three sections which provide the reader with a general history of the Talmud, a description of the structure and content of the Talmud, and a broad discussion of how to approach the Talmud. At the same time, however, Rabbi Steinsaltz repeatedly reminds the reader that to know Talmud ultimately
Apr 24, 2012 added it
Shelves: judaica
Steinsaltz is very good at enlivening the history and breaking down the contents of this vital Jewish text. Although, actually studying the Talmud is a lot more exciting than reading this intro. This book gives an overview and a little history of its unique structure. The Talmud is a living dialogue between ancient teachers and contemporary students. One highlight for me was the distinction of Rabbis who rule on the side of "peace", usually compromise between disputing parties, or on the side of ...more
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Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (Hebrew: עדין שטיינזלץ) or Adin Even Yisrael (Hebrew: עדין אבן ישראל) is internationally regarded as one of the leading rabbis of this century. The author of many books, he is best known for his monumental translation of and commentary on the Talmud. Rabbi Steinsaltz founded the Israel Institute for Talmudic Publications. Under its aegis, he has published to date 58 books on ...more

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