Adam Kirsch is a contributing editor for Tablet Magazine and the author of Benjamin Disraeli, a biography in the Nextbook Press Jewish Encounters book series.
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Tracing the Way of the Nazirites

An ancient vow—no wine, no hair-cutting, no contact with the dead—and its demands and sins are the subject of the new tractate in our ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study

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The Scholar and the Survivor

In a compelling new memoir, ‘Reading Claudius,’ Caroline Heller goes in search of her formidable uncle Erich, whose WWII legacy still haunts his descendants

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The Jewish Legal Basis for Male Dominion Over Vows by Women? It’s in the Bible.

Bridging the abstract simplicity of divine pronouncements to the practical mess of everyday life

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It’s a Small, Small, Small Press World

Where Jewish writers are finding homes these days, and why

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The Talmud’s Guide to Jewish Feminine Beauty

The ancient text takes up the problem of ‘new circumstances’ in maintaining vows, and in so doing stumbles on what makes women attractive

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Do Torah Scholars Have the Right Not To Be Drafted by the Government?

In rabbinic Judaism, learning replaces noble birth as a source of power and status—including the power to avoid state responsibility

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The Talmud as a Jewish ‘Canterbury Tales’ of Earthy, Ribald Moral Inquiry

Along with other questions of mind and body, this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ is also a field guide to Talmudic-era cuisine

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Harper Lee’s ‘Watchman’ Undoes the Hypocritical Fantasies of Benevolent White Power in ‘Mockingbird’

‘Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced.’

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What’s Mine Is Mine and What’s Yours Is Mine, Too

Giving, taking, owning, donating, and other elements of property law, in this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’

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Is It Fair To Charge Fees for Religious Education?

This week’s Talmudic debate is centered on the perceived and real benefits of study, teaching, and sacrifice

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The Talmud as Fossil Record of Ancient, Everyday Jewish Life and Idioms

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ study, why vows are hardly sacred, and why circumcision is the most glorious of rituals

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‘The Law of the Kingdom Is the Law’

This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study refutes the ‘dual loyalty’ charges against Jews

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The Meursault Investigation

Francophone Algerian writer Kemal Daoud writes back to ‘The Stranger’—and breathes life into its nameless victim

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Sex: Sin, Obligation, or Pursuit of Pleasure?

Discussing vows, Talmudic rabbis detour into the temptations of Jewish love-making—where almost anything goes

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Why Taking Vows Is a Wicked Act

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the Talmud explores why oaths are not for the virtuous, except in the rarest of cases

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Joshua Cohen Is the Great American Novelist

The Jewish Foster Wallace crosses auto-fiction with hysterical realism, in the energetic and intelligent ‘Book of Numbers’

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If Victorious, I Vow To Sacrifice My Daughter—Wait, No! I Didn’t Mean That! Uh-Oh.

Bridging the gap between biblical terseness and the needs of a functioning Jewish legal system

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The Incurable World of Vivian Gornick

‘The Odd Woman and the City’ proves the memoirist is a peer of Kazin, Howe, and other great chroniclers of Jewish America

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For Jewish Widows, Like Modern Drug Offenders, Just How Much Matters

Why Talmudic law is precise, and how practical matters can test the moral foundations of the system

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Marriage: A Math Problem

Studying who’s owed what, when, and how much in cases of divorce, widowing, and inheritance

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The Age of Bad Holocaust Novels

A cautionary tale: ‘The Death’s Head Chess Club’ and other period fantasies are the inevitable next thing in Shoah fiction

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Divorce Court: Talmud

Settling scores, carving up estates, negotiating claims, in biblical law. Plus: A virgin is worth twice as much as a widow or divorcee.

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Jewish Bride Has a Mole? Grounds for Divorce. Husband Smells Bad? Live With It.

Inequality under the wedding canopy, in this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study. Plus: a story about cheating the Angel of Death.

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Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage, They Go Together Like …

If the point of marriage is not happiness but religion, what constitutes grounds for divorce? Plus: tips for grooming pubic hair.

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The Murder of the Century

A reissue of Meyer Levin’s 1956 novel about the notorious Leopold and Loeb case captures the enduring power of Jewish self-hatred

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How Often Should Married Jewish Couples Have Sex?

And other matters of conjugal bliss in this week’s Talmud study, including a woman’s right to sexual fulfillment

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Saul Bellow Was a Cranky Essayist

A new collection of the writer’s aggrieved nonfiction sends readers running back to his masterful fiction

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Would a Jackal Take Better Care of Its Young?

For most Jews in Talmudic times, marriage was the biggest financial transaction of their lives

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When Jews Were Like ISIS

We, too, stoned our women for infidelity. Patriarchal injustice persists in Orthodoxy. What’s a modern Talmud reader to do?

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Alexis Landau’s Merchant Ivory Novel

In a ‘richly appointed’ debut, ‘The Empire of the Senses,’ German Jews of the 1920s live in blissful ignorance

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