In the Bible, the rabbis had the most accurate possible description of the world—a flawed and limited cosmology
Daf Yomi: The one protection God granted the Jews was to scatter them, so that no single enemy could destroy them all at once
In this week’s Daf Yomi, deference, privilege, and the appearance of impropriety from the rabbis of ancient Jewish society
Instead of asking us to passively agree with the rabbis, oral law engages the intellect in concrete problems of logic and interpretation
Daf Yomi: Could Judaism ever go back to now-alien-seeming rituals from before the destruction of the Temple?
One of many ancient local customs analyzed in this week’s Talmud study is the habit of separating Jews from gentiles
Most American Jews have effectively cast off rabbinic guidance. Would the Talmud’s rabbis have respected us for it, or disdained us?
By imbuing even the most mundane things—like vinegar—with importance, the rabbis find proof of sacred history
Daf Yomi: Much of the rabbinical ingenuity is devoted to figuring out how to draw clear lines in murky situations
Daf Yomi: A closer look at the Holy of Holies provides a fascinating illustration of how the rabbis of the Talmud read the Bible
Daf Yomi: For the rabbis, trivial—even outdated or immaterial—problems can provide the best thought experiments
Daf Yomi: For generations, Talmudic training has meant exercising the mind in logical thinking, not just learning laws
Daf Yomi: In textual analysis, the rabbis found biblical bases for customs and rituals that lacked them
Long after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed, Talmudic rabbis kept it alive in their imaginations, and ours
Daf Yomi: The rabbis examined practical dimensions of deep questions, including those raised around saliva, urine, and sex
Daf Yomi: Our literary critic ambles over rooftops, ruins, and ships, in search of meaning in Jewish commentary
Daf Yomi: Our literary critic discovers more rules on male authority, Shabbat meals, and how the rabbis thought about wealth
This week’s Talmud reading prompts strikingly contemporary questions about observance and belief
As the rabbis remind us again this week, the law is the law—whether it pleases you or not
The Talmudic rabbis saw the world as a wedding—a place of charity and pleasures to be enjoyed while it lasts
Through reasoning, the rabbis brought all of natural creation under the rule of law
The Talmud’s pragmatism and wonder meet in a technical problem about the height of a boundary line
By avoiding authoritative rulings in favor of nuanced debate with the ideas of the past, the Oral Law refuses to simplify
As our Talmud column returns, debates over Oral Law range from the existential to the mundane
Seven months into a seven-and-a-half-year study cycle, book critic Adam Kirsch is hooked—and flummoxed
The range of problems and the variety of answers in the study of Oral Law lead to new pathways of reasoning
To overcome fated lives, the Talmud’s rabbis argued, perform virtuous acts according to Torah
Rabbis left enforcement of their Talmudic decrees to communal standards and voluntary commitment
When is a tent just a tent and not like a bed or a hat? To update Jewish laws, the rabbis reasoned by analogy.
You wouldn’t expect that the tractate on Shabbat would be the place to discuss circumcision. You’d be wrong.