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.
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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

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The End of the Jewish Left

Political theorist Michael Walzer and others argue about the death of the century-long Jewish-Leftist alliance

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Haunted by Hitler’s Hangman

The French quasi-novel HHhH, by Laurent Binet, tells the tale of assassinated Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich while wondering whether it need be retold

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I.B. Singer, the Last Demon

In stories written in Poland and the U.S., the modernist master Isaac Bashevis Singer mined folk tales to convey the 20th century’s essential cruelty

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Susan Sontag Tells All

The newly published second volume of the great critic’s journals reveals her transformation from hedonistic revolutionary to elitist enforcer

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Flower Children

Saul Bellow’s Mr. Sammler’s Planet is a document of the cravings of 1960s America, and an attempt to bring the Holocaust to bear on America

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Bloodlines

Ellen Ullman’s new novel pushes a psychoanalyst, a patient, and a mysterious eavesdropper back to their traumatic roots—in the Holocaust

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Sentimental Journey

In the new collected stories of Nathan Englander, and in his revised Haggadah, Jews cling tenuously to the easily broken chains of tradition

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