Adam Kirsch is the director of the MA program in Jewish Studies at Columbia University and the author, most recently, of Emblems of the Passing World: Poems after Photographs by August Sander.
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Know Your Place

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic scholars undermine the Jewish caste system

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Barbra Streisand Is Ready for Her Close-Up

Neal Gabler’s ‘impassioned’ new biography of the entertainer explores the paradox of modern Jewishness

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Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage, Go Together Like a—

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ reading, Talmudic debates over marriage contracts are often predicated on linguistic precision, not human needs

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The True Pleasure of the Talmud Is Its Intellectual Gamesmanship

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ reading, a pair of sages engage in a duel of the mind, posing, parrying, and riposting over hypothetical marriage and sexual scenarios

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A Masterful Account of Humiliation and Despair

Robert F. Worth’s ‘A Rage for Order’ brings the broad disappointments of the Arab Spring to the human level

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Crime and Punishment and Punishment and Punishment

The Talmudic system of laws assumes the adherent is eager to learn how to follow God’s commandment, not why to follow it—and that he has faith in an otherworldly justice not necessarily reflected in this life

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Men: Thank God We’re Not Women!

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis have a hard time explaining gender differences in commandments and blessings, including whether women can shave their beards

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Ghetto: The Shared History of a Word

The Jewish ghetto haunts sociologist Mitchell Duneier’s new history of the American one

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Honor Thy Mother and Father

Sure, fine, but what does that actually mean in practical everyday terms? This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study unpacks filial duty.

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Better Living Through Criticism

A.O. Scott’s defense of considered opinions comes just as the culture needs it most

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By Talmudic law, Jewish Men Purchase Brides as They Would a Slave or a Piece of Real Estate

Sure, the woman consents, but the ‘specter of ownership’ hangs over the relationship. Plus: If you’re buying a woman, what is she actually worth in hard currency?

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Poets in the Kitchen Window

Canadian-Israeli writer Ayelet Tsabari’s new collection of short stories, ‘The Best Place on Earth,’ turns Israeliness into a new kind of Diasporic identity

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On the Acquisition of Women

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the rabbis parse the betrothal of Jewish couples under the patriarchy. Plus: Is sex really sex if it doesn’t go all the way?

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Divorce Court

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic sages explore the grounds for divorce and in so doing reinforce ethical leniency and humane interpretation over strict constructionism

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A Moving Minyan on Bagel Beach

In the ‘unusually perceptive’ novel ‘As Close to Us as Breathing,’ Elizabeth Poliner writes insightfully about the texture and trajectory of women’s lives in midcentury Jewish America

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The Talmud’s Inhumane View of Women Puts Unhappy Wives in Impossible Positions

This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ reiterates a basic inequality in Jewish law: A man can divorce his wife, but a woman can’t divorce her husband

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The Finer Points of Talmudic Contract Law Contain Technicalities that Put Modern Legalese to Shame

(j) “Divorcée” means any of management and making of the initial term of the parties or other users or more MARRIAGES have no Dirvorce certificates (such trustee, herein shall be printed, lithographed or prior written application by Divorcée shall be valid or Assistant Treasurers or contribute to in bearer form of the last day on the Divorce Certificate evidencing the release of contract; second, that authorize the exercise of that any inconsistencies or will be in the Divorce Certificate only be withheld with the effectiveness of GET not be obligated to interpret and beyond that it were not inconsistent with respect to correct any ambiguity, or omitted by Section 4.2.

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The Talmud’s Demonology Resembles the Schlocky Inventiveness of ‘Dune’ or ‘The Lord of the Rings’

Infused with magic—and ritual designed to conjure or contain magic—Jewish oral law remains a mix of jurisprudence and poetry

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Shylock Is My Name

Howard Jacobson’s clever and entertaining retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ furthers his reputation as one of the finest Jewish writers working today

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Finders Keepers, Inferior Land for Wedded Bliss, and Other Property Matters

‘Daf Yomi’ zig-zags from impure wine to the Talmud’s apocryphal reasoning for the destruction of the Temple

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Why Sayed Kashua Is Every ‘Ha’aretz’ Reader’s Favorite Ex-Israeli Arab

The writer’s new collection of personal essays and newspaper columns will make you laugh until you cry

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Talmud: We Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists

This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ features captives, kidnappers, and extortionists; ransom, escape, and stonings—and black magic

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Is ‘Tikkun Olam’ for the Betterment of the World, or Just for the Betterment of Divorce?

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, Jews may not realize the origins of a central idea of modern social justice

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A Vital, Flawed Book Makes Rachel Cantor an Author to Watch

Jewish theology and Dante’s poetry, past lives and imagined ones, collide in a the new comic novel ‘Good on Paper’

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Talmudic Semiotics: I Write Your Name

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ study, a premodern post-modern analysis of what exactly constitutes writing, in the physical act of making indelible marks on surfaces. Plus: Need to deliver a ‘get’ to your wife but out of paper? Talmud says: Write it on a slave!

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Herman Wouk, the American Jewish Writer Who Wrote Huge Best-Sellers and Wasn’t Especially Neurotic

The 100-year-old titan of American letters recalls his very happy publishing career, in the new ‘Sailor and Fiddler’

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Talmud: God Studies Torah, Too

From a single biblical verse about divorce is spun an edifice of legal wrangling, including a first discussion of what, geographically, constitutes ‘the Land of Israel’

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Amichai: the Tolerant Irony of Israel’s National Poet

A ‘wonderful’ new collection of Yehuda Amichai’s verse shows the poet’s profound resilience—and the weight of his ghosts

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Your Bubbe Was Not More Jewish Than You Are

The Talmud debunks the myth of declining Jewish piety

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What Language Do the Angels Speak?

Must prayers be uttered in Hebrew? Plus: Were ancient Israelite spies the size of grasshoppers?

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