I am a Christian. But since Jesus was Jewish, I thought it would be good to learn more about Christianity’s Judaic heritage. I’ve read the Torah, the Tanakh and the rest of the Bible cover-to-cover (more than once) but I’ve never dug into the Talmud. Soooo. . . . .
A few months ago, I drove passed a store that offered a large selection of Judaica. It was the book section that enticed me to stop. I asked the gentleman at the counter for the best book (I confessed to being an Episcopalian) to learn about the Talmud. He nodded and handed me The Essential Talmud by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. All I can say is – “wow.” The book was captivating. And hard to put down.
While the Tanakh (Old Testament) is the cornerstone of Judaism, the Talmud is the pillar — the most important book in Jewish culture. The Talmud is an assemblage of commentary, questions and answers – about the Torah, the Tanakh, culture, social order and. . . . . everything. The Talmud invites questions. None of which is considered inappropriate. Questions about the Torah are encouraged. Discussed. Debated. Resolved. And discussed again. One is not supposed to just read the Talmud – but to study it. And to become a scholar of the Talmud. This is quite unlike Islam which mandates that questions about the Quran are haram (forbidden).
Rabbi Steinsaltz’s book includes chapters on the Sabbath, Marriage, Divorce, Civil and Criminal Law, Dietary Laws, Ethics, the Law, Prayer, Scholarship, Women, and on. And on. It was a truly enlightening read. If you are interested and would like a copy of the book – let me know.