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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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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Does the Talmud Condone Bestiality?

Literal interpretations of misogynistic and gossipy fidelity laws leads to a surprising logical conclusion

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Can American Jews Understand the Holocaust?

Or are they too wedded to redemptive narratives? A timely reprint of Edward Lewis Wallant’s classic 1961 novel ‘The Pawnbroker’ raises the question.

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‘Ben Hur,’ but Bigger and Better

Hungarian writer György Spiró’s newly translated novel ‘Captivity’ powerfully sets the perils of modern Jewry in Early Christian Rome

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The Talmud’s Deep Misogyny: No Women Allowed

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Talmudic rabbis think women are dangerous sex fiends who should avoid Torah study—and as a consequence prescribe humiliating guilty-until-proven-innocent public shaming ceremonies

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Bruce Jay Friedman, the Father of Black Humor, Isn’t Dead Yet

The master of the deadpan is on top of his game at 85 with a wise, funny new collection, ‘The Peace Process’

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A Magical Potion Reveals and Humiliates Sexually Unfaithful Women—and Shows Talmudic Rabbis Declaring One of Their Own Rituals Obsolete

Also in discussion during this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’: How long does the sex act take? As long as it takes to eat an egg, or to reach for a loaf of bread?

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The Talmudury Tales

Women without underarm hair, transvestites seeking illicit sexual relations, lepers who can’t shave, nazirite gentiles, grape-eaters, and other Chauceresque characters, in this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’

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Jews With Guns

Are they to be admired or dreaded? Three new fiction books take on the legacy of Jewish passivity with sometimes-flawed, sometimes-gripping violent fantasies.

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Decomposing Bodies, Congealing Carcasses, Handfuls of Corpse Dust, and Other Interests of the Rabbis

The Talmud’s obsessions are not necessarily our own, and in this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the ancient wise men engage in theoretical debate over ritual impurity

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When Making a Vow, Consider Where You Stand

Because a corpse is always a source of ritual impurity, and because on a geological timescale corpses are everywhere under our feet, aren’t all religious Jews impure?

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