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Good Jewish Fences Once Made Good Jewish Neighbors. Do They Still?

One of many ancient local customs analyzed in this week’s Talmud study is the habit of separating Jews from gentiles

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Are American Jews Creating a New Jewishness, or Just Abandoning the Real Kind?

Most American Jews have effectively cast off rabbinic guidance. Would the Talmud’s rabbis have respected us for it, or disdained us?

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How the Talmud Has Bridged the Gaps Between Various Jewish Cultures for Ages

By imbuing even the most mundane things—like vinegar—with importance, the rabbis find proof of sacred history

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The Talmud, in Seeking To Eliminate Ambiguity, Maps the Invisible Onto the Visible

Daf Yomi: Much of the rabbinical ingenuity is devoted to figuring out how to draw clear lines in murky situations

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In the Shadow of the Divine, Reaping Unintended Benefits at the Edges of the Law

Daf Yomi: A closer look at the Holy of Holies provides a fascinating illustration of how the rabbis of the Talmud read the Bible

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Appreciating the Talmud’s Sublime Devotion to Torah for Its Own Sake

Daf Yomi: For the rabbis, trivial—even outdated or immaterial—problems can provide the best thought experiments

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Math Lessons and Quantum Physics in Studies of Rabbinic Stringency and Leniency

Daf Yomi: For generations, Talmudic training has meant exercising the mind in logical thinking, not just learning laws

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The Talmud’s Abstractions Live in Concrete Examples About Candles and Weasels

Daf Yomi: In textual analysis, the rabbis found biblical bases for customs and rituals that lacked them

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In the Talmud’s Timeless Laws, a Vast Temple of the Mind

Long after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed, Talmudic rabbis kept it alive in their imaginations, and ours

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How the Talmud Maps Behavior by Exploring Definitions, Not Listing Rules

Daf Yomi: The rabbis examined practical dimensions of deep questions, including those raised around saliva, urine, and sex

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Why the Talmud Draws Imaginary Lines All Around Us—and Over Our Heads

Daf Yomi: Our literary critic ambles over rooftops, ruins, and ships, in search of meaning in Jewish commentary

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The Talmud Paints a Vivid Picture of Jewish Family Life in This Week’s Daf Yomi

Daf Yomi: Our literary critic discovers more rules on male authority, Shabbat meals, and how the rabbis thought about wealth

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Who Can Follow These Rules?

This week’s Talmud reading prompts strikingly contemporary questions about observance and belief

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The Irrelevance of Pleasure

As the rabbis remind us again this week, the law is the law—whether it pleases you or not

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You Only Live Once

The Talmudic rabbis saw the world as a wedding—a place of charity and pleasures to be enjoyed while it lasts

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The Talmud’s Absolute Value

Through reasoning, the rabbis brought all of natural creation under the rule of law

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When Messiah Is an Afterthought

The Talmud’s pragmatism and wonder meet in a technical problem about the height of a boundary line

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Crossing the Line

By avoiding authoritative rulings in favor of nuanced debate with the ideas of the past, the Oral Law refuses to simplify

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Are Truffles Food?

As our Talmud column returns, debates over Oral Law range from the existential to the mundane

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Close Encounters With Talmud

Seven months into a seven-and-a-half-year study cycle, book critic Adam Kirsch is hookedand flummoxed

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Navigating the Talmud’s Alleys

The range of problems and the variety of answers in the study of Oral Law lead to new pathways of reasoning

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Written in the Stars (Or Not)

To overcome fated lives, the Talmud’s rabbis argued, perform virtuous acts according to Torah

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Leave the Jewish People Alone

Rabbis left enforcement of their Talmudic decrees to communal standards and voluntary commitment

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Ancient Laws for Modern Times

When is a tent just a tent and not like a bed or a hat? To update Jewish laws, the rabbis reasoned by analogy.

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Birth Right

You wouldn’t expect that the tractate on Shabbat would be the place to discuss circumcision. You’d be wrong.

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Can’t Touch This

Talmudic rabbis debate the reach of permissions and prohibitions, and Jews are rewarded for virtuous behavior

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Praying for My Patients

As a doctor, I know there’s a power higher than me. That’s why I pray every day for the people I’m treating.

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Queen for a Day

The rabbis who reasoned about the day of rest also celebrated it. Plus: The Talmud on iPad and in translation.

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Rabbinic Mind Games

Lionizing those who perform feats of memory and logic, who reason strictly from premise to conclusion

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Things Broken and Repaired

In this week’s page of Talmud, the rabbis show their skill at making distinctions between obligation and acting out