The indirect influence of the Talmud on the world, through many religious and secular channels in every area, is great.
But its direct influence on the Jewish people goes far from law or religion.
This difficult book is both a textbook which children began to learn at school age, and a book which the greatest scholars continued to study and develop throughout their lives.
This collective work reflects about a thousand years of creativity (from approx. 500 BCE until 500 CE).
It is, on the one hand, the reflection of the Jewish spirit.
And on the other it is, perhaps, the most decisive formative force in Jewish culture and of the Jewish people, forming life-style and character traits...
...What significance is there to the study of Talmud – a book which is not as poetic as a book of verse, not as gripping as a detective novel, and which does not contain facts like an encyclopedia?
It should be perceived as engaging in creating a complex system of thought and art, a super computer program that tries to depict the whole world, the engagement in which is never passive learning but rather active participation, in which every learner is, to an extent, an independent creator who continues the book in his own way.
The Talmud, our Sages say, has never been sealed.
It continues to be written in every generation by every single person who learns it.
To enter into it is to participate in a spiritual adventure in which the Jew travels through the collective soul of his people, and in which he discovers some of the inner plans of reality.
Excerpted from an essay titled "The Talmud" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz