This examination and celebration of the Talmud--that summary of oral law and commentary based on the Laws of Moses--is a successful alternative to lesson-book treatments or theological dissertations. Rabbi Steinsaltz not only organizes and clarifies a vast amount of highly complex material, but manages to suggest the magnetism of the Talmudic commitment through the centuries--a commitment which demands of the scholar an active scepticism and a profound faith. What he says about Sabbath law could be applied to his vision of the whole: ""an expanding network of minute details deriving from several basic concepts--an almost Gothic structure made up of thousands upon thousands of tiny and meticulous details clustered around the original form."" Steinsaltz traces the secular and theological imperatives that gave rise to the Talmud, its forms and methods of study; he reviews the contributions of major schools and personalities, and outlines the subject matter which may ""contain any subject under the sun."" A somewhat demanding but worthwhile introduction to the character and genius of the Talmud for non-Jews and a refresher course for Jews who wish an uncluttered layman's view of this ""central pillar of Judaism.