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 Pretenders

In order to understand Sabbath rules, the rabbis show, one must imagine exactly what work the Israelites did

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Intention Versus Action

This week, the rabbis ask if two half-sins equal a whole one. In what part of a sin is sinfulness located?

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Why the Sabbath Is Everything

This week, the Talmud’s rabbis explore possible holy day violations to determine the nature of the sinner

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Does God Care About Shoes?

In this week’s Talmud study, Jewishness is not just moral and theological matters. It is a way of life.

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The Badness of Good Stories

This week, Talmudic rabbis seek righteousness in the Bible’s tales of vice, weakness, and human frailty

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The Power of Positive Thinking

This week, deduction and analogy propel the Talmud from the mundane to the miraculous

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Herman Wouk’s Last Shot

With The Lawgiver, the best-selling novelist takes another stab at the kind of Hollywood fame he’s always coveted

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Eggs and Babies

This week’s Talmud study reveals legal debates that refine the limits and nature of inherently abstract concepts

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First-Century Technology

When new inventions made widespread sinning the norm, ancient rabbis adapted. The Talmud’s God approved.

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Standing on One Foot

The origin of a famous anecdote shines light on the compromises of Conservative and Reform Judaism

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Light Advice From the Rabbis

A Talmudic discussion of Hanukkah and Sabbath candles leads to a lesson in the sacred and profane

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A Math Genius’s Sad Calculus

Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractal geometry, pens a disturbing new memoir on mathematics—and survival

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Of Lice and Men

Study of the Talmud’s second tractate reveals how the rabbis stuck to logic and made it sacred

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Big Eater

Food-obsessed Jews, including an obese matriarch, are subtly rendered in Jami Attenberg’s The Middlesteins

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The Rabbis’ Mental World

The last chapter of the first tractate brings modern readers back to sex, bowel movements, and thunder

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Talmudic Pride and Prejudice

This week’s Daf Yomi considers—with Chaucerian verve—whether a rabbinic elite spoke for the Jewish people

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School of Arts and Sciences

In a haunting memoir, an Upper West Sider puts family secrets—including AIDS—under the microscope

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The Right Way to Pray

One Talmudic rabbi’s prayers work, while others’ fall on deaf ears. Is humility more pleasing to God than pomp?

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Pulpless Fiction

Michael Chabon’s new novel Telegraph Avenue is typically stylish, but overwritten

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Talmudic Rebbe-llion

A coup at the rabbinic academy deposes Gamliel and unleashes a torrent of questions

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Let’s Get Physical

In this week’s Talmud reading, the soul addresses God, but the body has its own agenda

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A Poet for Our New Gilded Age

The latest collection from the great Jewish poet Frederick Seidel expresses intimate revulsion at human feats

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Talmud’s Warriors and Scholars

This week’s Daf Yomi reframes the debate over the primacy of force or scholarship in Jewish values

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The Burden of Israeli Strength

Where the Jackals Howl, Amos Oz’s newly reissued 1965 story collection, questions the virtues of toughness

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The Talmud’s Many Demons

Sages in a superstitious age accepted the existence of invisible devils and the use of magic to render them visible

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A Talmudic Journey Begins

Our book critic dives into Daf Yomi’s daily regimen expecting a law code, but instead finds a chain of questions

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Mystic Goddess of Brazil

Writer Clarice Lispector’s exoticism had much to do with her Jewishness; her literary vocabulary did not

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The Last Critic

The great M.H. Abrams, peer of Trilling, teacher of Bloom, and editor of the Norton Anthology, dead at 102

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John Updike the Jew

In his Bech books, the great novelist of American WASPdom parsed the allure and otherness of Jewish writers

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Daniel Pearl, a Novel

Joshua Henkin’s seductive The World Without You transforms recent headlines into intimate family drama