For the uninitiated - and even for seasoned scholars - the Talmud is a daunting sea of literature. Jacob Neusner in this book offers guidance in approaching the rabbinic writings, analyzing the ancient teachings, and interpreting the basis of religious authority for traditional Judaism. The result is a vivid introduction to one of the great documents of religion in society.
We may compare the framers of the Talmud therefore to a weaver of a tapestry.... The weaver uses yarn that she has not made, yarn that is received from somewhere else. But the weaver uses the yarn to execute a vision of her own. The threads of the tapestry serve the artist's vision; the artist does not weave so that the threads show up one by one. The weavers of a tractate of the Bavli, as we shall see, make ample use of available yarm. But they weave their own tapestry of thought. And it is their vision, not the character of threads in hand, that dictates the proportions and message of the tapestry.
From Chapter 5