To the Talmudic rabbis, religion was not opposed to the law but deeply connected to its study, even if dialogue wins over decree
For a hundred generations Jews lived in anticipation of redemption, a historical tension that continues to define Judaism
Why read the Talmud as a secular Jew? In part, for its expression of an independent Jewish creativity and spirituality.
The Talmud describes rabbis who were not just judges and legal analysts, but magicians as well
Pi, irrational numbers, and squaring the circle are all brought to bear to find justifications for tradition
A holy desecration is unethical in part because of the social pressure to reflect well on the tribe
Manna, and fasting, are not just miracles of sustenance and faith, but also elements of jurisprudence
Illogical Jewish laws are ‘matters that Satan challenges’: raising doubts for enemies of Judaism and skeptical Jews
Judaism’s manual of sacred technology prizes holiness over beauty, action over thought, and ritual over belief
Biblical examples of righteousness and wickedness show that in Judaism, goodness remains possible and divine
A Talmudic problem: Abraham lived before the law was given, so how can his actions be used to interpret the law?
An ancient principle of Judaism, debated at length in the Oral Law, is that it is a sin to count Jews—or is it?
To the Talmudic rabbis, a miracle is more plausible than the notion that their sources were incorrect
A ‘mezuzah,’ like Judaism, is designed for life in this world, not for a messianic future, or for martyrdom
The rabbinic tradition arose from the fact that the Bible doesn’t tell us what we need to know to lead our lives
In their faith, Talmudic rabbis kept contradictory thoughts, believing in both the reality of miracles and their unreliability
In the Talmud’s descriptions of self-glorifying and self-enriching Temple priests, lessons for today’s public officials
Daf Yomi: The Talmud provides the Jewish version of well-known Christian gospel about money-changers
The Talmud is not a literary text, yet its role in maintaining the continuity of Jewish history is undeniable
By elevating witches and demons to the level of gods, Talmudic rabbis diminished religious thought
In the Talmud, examples of real-life rabbinic behavior and the intensely personal nature of lawmaking
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