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’s Mysticism Is Too Mindblowing Even for Its Students

Tread carefully, the rabbis warn, when seeking to understand creation or envision God

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David Bezmozgis’ Brilliant Alt-History of an Adulterous Sharansky Who Never Was

New novel ‘The Betrayers’ boldly places at its center the most famous refusenik and all he represents for Soviet Jewry

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If Even the Angel of Death Makes Mistakes, Where Is There True Justice?

The Talmud imagines the world as organized for the benefit of Torah sages, even in matters of sex and death

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Rules for Hair Cutting and Rending Garments—and Exceptions for Newborns

Daf Yomi: The Talmud’s ruling principle is that there is always a correct course of action, since God is watching

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A Most Unlikable Woman

An aging feminist meets a new generation in Brian Morton’s sharp, sympathetic novel ‘Florence Gordon’

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In the Days Between the Major Holidays, Little Clues to Jewish Ritual and Life

Talmudic rabbis debate professional eulogizers, trying to strike a balance between the holy and the mundane

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Wicked Sons: Benjamin Kerstein, Doron Rabinovici, and Norman Finkelstein

Is Jewish rebellion really a form of submission? Two new novels and one political critic examine apostasy.

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Are Jews Meant To Be Farmers, Workers, or Thinkers?

So much of the Talmud is about working the land, and the rules that govern labor, profit, and loss

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How Can We Respect Both the Sanctity of Jewish Things and the Practical Needs of the Jews?

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis debate the value of recycling, upselling, renovation, and sacred trash

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American Jews Speak English, but Our Sacred Texts Are in Hebrew

What happens when the most authoritative guardians of the tradition are sometimes baffled by the tradition themselves?

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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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