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.
Header

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

Header

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’

Header

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!

Header

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’

Header

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’

Header

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

Header

Your Bubbe Was Not More Jewish Than You Are

The Talmud debunks the myth of declining Jewish piety

Header

What Language Do the Angels Speak?

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

Header

Does the Talmud Condone Bestiality?

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

Header

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.

Header

‘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

Header

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

Header

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’

Header

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?

Header

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’

Header

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.

Header

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

Header

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?

Header

Why in Jewish Law Good Can Be Evil and Evil Good

In this week’s Talmud study: Is just thinking about pork a sin?

Header

Primo Levi’s Unlikely Suicide Haunts His Lasting Work

A monumental new edition of the Auschwitz survivor’s complete writings shows a humanist laboring in the dark

Header

Do Cows Speak? And Other Problems of the Nazirite Vow

In this week’s Talmud study, debates over swearing out of pique or spite—that is, in the wrong frame of mind

Header

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

Header

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

Header

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

Header

It’s a Small, Small, Small Press World

Where Jewish writers are finding homes these days, and why

Header

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

Header

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

Header

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

Header

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.’

Header

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’

Load More...