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On the Origin of Passover’s Four Questions and the Renewal of Miracles

The Talmud is not a literary text, yet its role in maintaining the continuity of Jewish history is undeniable

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Magical Thinking, Superstition, and Incantations in Jewish Oral Law

By elevating witches and demons to the level of gods, Talmudic rabbis diminished religious thought

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When the Rabbis Got Together for Shabbat Dinner, Drama—and Law—Ensued

In the Talmud, examples of real-life rabbinic behavior and the intensely personal nature of lawmaking

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When the Rabbis Do Things by the Book, They Give the Talmud Its ‘Talmudic’ Qualities

In this week’s Daf Yomi, deference, privilege, and the appearance of impropriety from the rabbis of ancient Jewish society

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Daf Yomi: For the rabbis, trivial—even outdated or immaterial—problems can provide the best thought experiments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

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

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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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