Let My People Know

"The Talmud is not an outline drawn up to transmit conclusions"


Although the ostensible aim of the Talmud is to synopsize the halachot of the Oral Law, halachic decision is most definitely not its sole purpose. 

Alongside the halachic opinions that were accepted in practice, the Talmud records dissenting opinions as well. 

The Talmud is not an outline drawn up by an individual in order to teach others or to transmit conclusions.

It is the actual give-and-take itself, the live flow of the learning process. 

Rav Ashi (the principle editor and architect of he Talmud) wished to preserve not the halachic decisions nor this or that Talmudic issue, but the very movement of the study process, and that, within the set context of a written book, which no longer develops or regenerates itself.

He is not like an architect who builds a house; he is like an artist who strives to breathe life into an inanimate statue.

Rav Ashi attempted to do the seemingly impossible: to retain mobility and flexibility, the unanswered question and the probing exploration, within a format which is written, edited, and concretely defined.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From Talmudic Images, p. 151, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz