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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The Talmud as Fossil Record of Ancient, Everday 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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Talmudic Rabbis Debated the Cost of Rape—In Terms of the Woman’s Market Value

Reading the oral law today forces Jews to reconcile repellent, outdated legal views with modern morals

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Incestuous Rapists Get What They Deserve

Talmudic rabbis believe ‘the hand of Heaven’ makes sure that the punishment fits the crime

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Israel: The Original Terrorist State

Bruce Hoffman’s riveting new history of pre-1947 Palestine reviews the violent birth of the modern Jewish homeland

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Belief, Truth, and Lies in Divorce, Marriage, Rape, and Female Chastity

Rightly or wrongly, Talmudic thinkers presumed that gentiles would persecute the Jews in their midst

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Can a Blind Bride Be Attractive? If Not, How Do You Pay Her a Compliment?

The sages debate the demerits of little white lies, and consider the subtleties of legal claims made by spouses and other property owners

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Virginity Is a Commodity (and Can Be Divined by Sitting a Bride on a Wine Barrel)

Talmudic rabbis are less interested in mystical speculation than in concrete questions, like the state of women’s hymens

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Sadistic Jewish Hitler Scholar Abuses Girl in Jerusalem

Israeli novelist Gail Hareven dives fearlessly into the the moral quagmires of abuse, vengeance, and the legacy of the Holocaust

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Virgin Brides, Premarital Sex, and Jewish Patriarchal Ownership of Female Bodies

The ‘Daf Yomi’ cycle heads into thorny gender issues around marriage, gynecology, and Sabbath sex

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Tony Judt Is Aging Poorly

A new collection of the late historian’s essays says more about his prejudices than about his achievements

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Juliet’s Dilemma: Seduced Unmarried Minors Engaging in ‘Licentious Sexual Intercourse’

Talmudic rabbis ask what agency young women have in determining their fate in sex, marriage, and divorce