Most of the people that are here tonight are, to me, beloved people. It is possibly my weakness, but I like the people around me. But beyond that, we are all connected by our common ancestry, by our blood, by our common dreams, by our wish to continue being in the future.
Let me begin with thanks. The first thanks are for the Master of all, Whom we never thank enough, for giving me life, health and the ability to do this work. Thanks to my wife and family; I know that for many years I was a legend in my own home; the members of my family believed that I existed, but did not see too much of me. So I wish to tell them that I do exist, and to thank them for bearing with my work, my efforts, my headaches and my troubles. Thanks to all those many people – some of them are here and some of them are not – for helping me by writing, by collecting the material, by editing and typesetting, making comments and even doing some of the actual writing. We tried to mention them all, but may have not done justice to all of them. Thanks to many others helped in various other ways: with their money, directly and indirectly; with their good words; with a slap on the back; with a smile. And thanks to those people that I don’t always meet and see, but they are the ones who these efforts meaningful- namely, those people – and I hope there will be more of them – who read and study the books.
Now to a few words about the Talmud: Talmud literally means "learning." It is not called "the book of wisdom," or "the book of knowledge," or even "the book of holiness": it's called "learning." In many ways it is an essential part of our very existence. We are learning because for us learning is, on the one hand, a connection with the Almighty above, and on the other – a connection with our sources and our roots below. We become connected with all these by the very act of learning, and this is why we go on learning a book which is "learning." We are not waiting for answers for all kinds of problems, though we may get some; nor are we waiting for inspiration, though we may get some. We are just immersed in God and in the people, millions of people and thousands of generations that were and that will be. The Talmud, as a book, it is the central pillar of Jewish culture, it is the backbone of Jewishness. This book is essential for Jewish existence, whether or not we know it , and without it we can only have a maimed, splintered Judaism. All of us: scholars, lay people and ignoramuses alike, are Talmudic Jews, it is the Talmud that has made us into what we are.
Now what, if I may say, is the message of the Talmud, and not only for us? The Talmud is, first and foremost, a book that promotes, creates and achieves sanity. Sanity is a rare quality in the world in general, and most especially in the world of today. Our world of is made up of all sorts of crazy people, all kinds of craziness: people who are crazy for power, for money, for all kinds of base desires, people with all kinds of strange, bizarre ideas. So now, when craziness is all common, what we really need in the world, in order to keep its continuous existence, is sanity.
What does sanity mean? To be sane is not to be indifferent; to be sane is not to stop caring; rather, sanity is like an electro-cardiogram: it contains the ups and the downs, but all of them within limits. The Talmud deals with the minutest practical problems, some of which are unimportant, insignificant in themselves, as well as with universal problems and with Divinity, and it deals with them all at the same time. This is sanity. Sanity means that we laugh and we cry, and we do it all in the right way and in the right measure.
So now, after the world has gotten from us the notions of monotheism and of redemption, which by now are quite universal, we have a new message, a new gift to give to the world: the gift of sanity. This gift comes from this book, the Talmud, which says and promotes it openly and clearly, even when one does not know about it.
As for the future, I personally don't want to stop working; I am already involved in one, two, three, four projects, hopefully in more. It is estimated that right now we are being watched by some 600,000 Jews all over the world. It is a fair number, but I wish there were six millions at least, and hope that perhaps the next time we finish something major, we shall have 16 million, which means that the Jewish people will have also grown somewhat. But the main point is that to continue means not only me doing my work: the great secret of the Talmud is the ability to be involved. This is what I wish and pray for, and what I call out to people here and everywhere: be involved in your Jewishness, in your life, in your soul. Go further. Heaven is not the limit, because the Torah is above Heaven; or, as someone once put it very beautifully: some of the other religions believe that they were given from Heaven, but we believe that our law, our Torah, is Heaven itself. So please, continue to be in Heaven.