Adam Kirsch is the director of the MA program in Jewish Studies at Columbia University and the author, most recently, of The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.
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What Happens When the Talmud Asks, ‘What If?’

Probing hypothetical, metaphysical problems was the rabbis’ way of defining what matters most in Judaism

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A Reluctant Jew in Post-Holocaust Germany

Yascha Mounk’s entertaining new memoir sheds light on postwar history and current German politics

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The Talmud Pays Little Attention to What Jews Believe, Yet Asks Them To Have Faith

Judaism’s manual of sacred technology prizes holiness over beauty, action over thought, and ritual over belief

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Happy Countries Are All Alike; Every Unhappy Country Is Unhappy in Its Own Way

In Zeruya Shalev’s fearless new ‘The Remains of Love,’ lives on a kibbutz stand as a parable of Israel

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In the Talmud, the Fall of a Priestly Upper Class Is Just Deserts

Biblical examples of righteousness and wickedness show that in Judaism, goodness remains possible and divine

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Which Came First: Abraham and the Patriarchs or Moses and the Torah?

A Talmudic problem: Abraham lived before the law was given, so how can his actions be used to interpret the law?

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What the Talmud Would Say About the Pew Survey of American Jews: Stop Counting

An ancient principle of Judaism, debated at length in the Oral Law, is that it is a sin to count Jews—or is it?

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Miraculous Architecture of the First Temple Leads to Religious Sectarianism in the Second

To the Talmudic rabbis, a miracle is more plausible than the notion that their sources were incorrect

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The Talmud Says God Can’t Protect Jews From Persecution; They Must Take Precautions

A ‘mezuzah,’ like Judaism, is designed for life in this world, not for a messianic future, or for martyrdom

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One of the Most Remarkable Books About the Holocaust Was Just Published

In Slavko Goldstein’s newly translated ‘1941,’ Nazi-backed fascists tear through the Balkans. Yugoslavia never recovered.

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The Talmud’s Yom Kippur, With Sacrifice and Blood, Is Nothing Like Jewish Ritual Today

The rabbinic tradition arose from the fact that the Bible doesn’t tell us what we need to know to lead our lives

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The Importance of Cubits and Shewbread and Everything That Makes Your Eyes Glaze Over

In their faith, Talmudic rabbis kept contradictory thoughts, believing in both the reality of miracles and their unreliability

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Reconstructing the Life of the Temple and Its All-Too-Human Denizens

In the Talmud’s descriptions of self-glorifying and self-enriching Temple priests, lessons for today’s public officials

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Leonard Bernstein, the Man Behind the Legend of the Jewish Maestro

Homosexuality, Jewishness, and Zionism, in the newly collected letters of the charismatic musician

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There Are Thieves in the Temple. Or Are They Sacred Messengers?

Daf Yomi: The Talmud provides the Jewish version of well-known Christian gospel about money-changers

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On the Origin of Passover’s Four Questions and the Renewal of Miracles

The Talmud is not a literary text, yet its role in maintaining the continuity of Jewish history is undeniable

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South African Jews Get Their Master Storyteller—and Their National Narrative

The debut novel ‘The Lion Seeker’ is the kind of representative Jewish epic Herman Wouk used to write

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Magical Thinking, Superstition, and Incantations in Jewish Oral Law

By elevating witches and demons to the level of gods, Talmudic rabbis diminished religious thought

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Philip Roth, Master of Deception

The Nobel laureate chronicled the American Jewish Experience

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When the Rabbis Got Together for Shabbat Dinner, Drama—and Law—Ensued

In the Talmud, examples of real-life rabbinic behavior and the intensely personal nature of lawmaking

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Jonathan Franzen’s Love Letter to the Doyen of Jewish Intellectual Vienna

The anointed king of American letters’ eccentric new book, ‘The Kraus Project,’ is also hate mail for our shallow culture

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We No Longer Live in the World of Talmudic Rabbis. What’s a Modern Jew to Do?

In the Bible, the rabbis had the most accurate possible description of the world—a flawed and limited cosmology

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In the Talmud, Jews in Exile Are Considered Defenseless Before Their Enemies

Daf Yomi: The one protection God granted the Jews was to scatter them, so that no single enemy could destroy them all at once

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When the Rabbis Do Things by the Book, They Give the Talmud Its ‘Talmudic’ Qualities

In this week’s Daf Yomi, deference, privilege, and the appearance of impropriety from the rabbis of ancient Jewish society

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Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt (1963)

The book that taught America how to think about the Holocaust

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Daniel Deronda, George Eliot (1876)

The first, and greatest, philosemitic English novel

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The Puttermesser Papers, Cynthia Ozick (1997)

A woman, her golem, and the keys to the city

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The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Giorgio Bassani (1962)

Doomed Jewish lives, behind high walls

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The Jewish War, Flavius Josephus (75)

An eyewitness account of Jewish defeat at Roman hands

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