If the Bible is the cornerstone of Judaism, then the Talmud is the central pillar, soaring up from the foundations and supporting the entire spiritual and intellectual edifice.
In many ways Talmud is the most important book in Jewish culture, the backbone of creativity and of national life.
No other work has had comparable influence on the theory and practice of Jewish life, shaping spiritual content and serving as a guide to conduct.
The Jewish people have always been keenly aware that their continued survival and development depend on study of the Talmud, and those hostile to Judaism have also been cognizant of this fact.
The book was reviled, slandered, and consigned to the flames countless times in the Middle Ages and has been subjected to similar indignities in the recent past as well.
At times, talmudic study has been prohibited because it was abundantly clear that a Jewish society that ceased to study this work had no real hope survival.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From The Essential Talmud by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz