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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Henry Roth Slept With His Sister and His Cousin

Now that you know the novelist’s incestuous secrets, is his newly reissued ‘Mercy of a Rude Stream’ quartet worth reading or not?

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When the Talmud Offers Close Readings of Sacred Fictions

Antic embellishments, like Esther being good in bed, help Talmudic rabbis to more fully explicate the text’s divine meaning

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Is the Book of Esther—a Story Told in Human Terms, Not Miracles—a Holy Book?

Talmudic rabbis, like us, can only study the course of history for the elusive signs of God’s intentions

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Why Early Jews Didn’t Care at All About Christians

In a struggle against the idea of history, Jewish life strives to change as little as possible, even when new religions take over

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The Tea Party’s New Front in the American Culture Wars: Literature

What Adam Bellow and other conservatives get wrong about the political leanings of creators of imaginative fiction

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Why Even the Greatest Rabbis Can’t Be Trusted

Talmudic thinkers debate the ethics of winning God’s favor, and when a holy person can be too righteous

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Better To Suffer or Better To Live? Eating—and Not Eating—as a Meritorious Jewish Act

Talmudic rabbis debate Jewish solidarity in the face of misfortune, a communal imperative that still holds today

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In the Rains, Talmudic Symbols of Goodwill, Punishment, and a Deep Covenant

The Torah sages study and respond to natural phenomena in an effort to understand our place on Earth

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When the Talmud Replaced the Temple as the Structure at the Heart of Jewish Life

Judaism became a religion of laws, haunted and bound by the absence of a home for Jewish sovereignty

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Dr. Zhivago’s CIA Connection and the Pope

‘The Zhivago Affair’ is a detailed reconstruction of one of the most fascinating of the Cold War’s cultural skirmishes

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Talmudic Rabbis Debate the Practice of the Law Versus the Intention Behind It

Technical discussion about the shofar leads quickly to an examination of deep spiritual questions

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‘Daf Yomi’: Talmudic Rabbinical Thought Was Part Lunatic, Part Moon Shot

Why gamblers, pigeon racers, and usurers can’t witness a Jewish new moon, and why the lunar calendar still matters

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The Bathtub Kabbalah of J.D. Salinger

Two new biographical sketches depict the great recluse as agent of growth, emblem of permanent adolescence, and cipher

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Can God Be Tricked Into Forgiving Unethical Behavior?

Talmudic rabbis set out to debate the religious calendar, and wind up talking about religious sincerity

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On the Impossibility of Over-Interpreting the Bible

Why Talmud study is not reading, in the usual sense of the word, but rather deciphering the true meaning of the text

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Which Is More Sacred: a Festival or Shabbat? A Mitzvah or Money?

With great metaphysical creativity, Talmudic rabbis probe the exact limits of comparison and analogy

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Rivka Galchen Is Not Your Mommy

The thirtysomething characters in ‘American Innovations,’ her vital, intelligent, new collection of stories, have trouble growing up

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Talmudic Rabbis, All Men, Admit They Cannot Bring Women Under Their Power

In debating the principles of intentional sin, sages find that pleading ignorance is no defense, even if not all laws can be followed

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Aharon Appelfeld Creates a Jewish Saint in ‘Suddenly, Love’

In his new novel, the great Israeli writer conjures a slow-burn connection between an innocent caretaker and her aging charge

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Why Did God Choose the Jewish People To Receive the Torah?

Talmudic rabbis debate the paradoxical belief in Jewish chosenness despite the evidence of Jewish powerlessness

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I Dream of Lansky: The Dead Jewish Mob King Rules Zachary Lazar’s Law-Bending Novel

At the intersection of artifice and experience comes a beguiling fantasia on Jewish themes, ‘I Pity the Poor Immigrant’

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Which Came First: The Chicken, the Egg, or the Divine Law That Governs Their Use?

The apparent abstraction of Talmudic rulings, immune to the vagaries of history, are also a key to Jewish survival

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Jugglers, Acrobats, a Magnificent Temple—and Notably No Political Strife

In the Talmud, nostalgic, biblical, divine explanations override accurate secular history and chronology

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Hungarian Gold Train Stops for Good Americans, Bad Israelis in Ayelet Waldman’s New Novel

‘Love and Treasure’ weaves a multigenerational tale through World War II back to a lost European paradise

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Why Read Daf Yomi? To Rediscover an Older Way of Imagining the Jewish Spirit.

To the Talmudic rabbis, religion was not opposed to the law but deeply connected to its study, even if dialogue wins over decree

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Simon Schama Moderates a Moderate History of Moderate Jews

‘The Story of the Jews’ is the most important TV documentary about Jewish history since Abba Eban’s famous ‘Heritage’ series

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The Talmud Is a Training Manual for Jews Preparing for the Next Holy Era

For a hundred generations Jews lived in anticipation of redemption, a historical tension that continues to define Judaism

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Jewish Culture Was Not Always a Response to Non-Jewish Culture

Why read the Talmud as a secular Jew? In part, for its expression of an independent Jewish creativity and spirituality.

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Rationalism, Mysticism, Slaves, and a Sukkah Made From an Elephant

The Talmud describes rabbis who were not just judges and legal analysts, but magicians as well

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In the Talmud, Jews Losing Touch With the Everyday Words of the Holy Land

In staking claims about the validity of Jewish identity, the rabbis show that the Diaspora has existed for nearly as long as Judaism