Illogical Jewish laws are ‘matters that Satan challenges’: raising doubts for enemies of Judaism and skeptical Jews
Probing hypothetical, metaphysical problems was the rabbis’ way of defining what matters most in Judaism
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
The rabbinic tradition arose from the fact that the Bible doesn’t tell us what we need to know to lead our lives
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 this week’s Daf Yomi, deference, privilege, and the appearance of impropriety from the rabbis of ancient Jewish society
By imbuing even the most mundane things—like vinegar—with importance, the rabbis find proof of sacred history
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Daf Yomi: For the rabbis, trivial—even outdated or immaterial—problems can provide the best thought experiments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
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
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
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.