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

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

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

The Talmud’s Absolute Value

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

When Messiah Is an Afterthought

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

Crossing the Line

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

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

Written in the Stars (Or Not)

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

Leave the Jewish People Alone

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

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.

Birth Right

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

Can’t Touch This

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

Queen for a Day

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

Things Broken and Repaired

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

The Pretenders

In order to understand Sabbath rules, the rabbis show, one must imagine exactly what work the Israelites did

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