What happens when the most authoritative guardians of the tradition are sometimes baffled by the tradition themselves?
Antic embellishments, like Esther being good in bed, help Talmudic rabbis to more fully explicate the text’s divine meaning
Talmudic rabbis, like us, can only study the course of history for the elusive signs of God’s intentions
In a struggle against the idea of history, Jewish life strives to change as little as possible, even when new religions take over
Talmudic rabbis debate Jewish solidarity in the face of misfortune, a communal imperative that still holds today
The Torah sages study and respond to natural phenomena in an effort to understand our place on Earth
Judaism became a religion of laws, haunted and bound by the absence of a home for Jewish sovereignty
Technical discussion about the shofar leads quickly to an examination of deep spiritual questions
Why gamblers, pigeon racers, and usurers can’t witness a Jewish new moon, and why the lunar calendar still matters
Talmudic rabbis set out to debate the religious calendar, and wind up talking about religious sincerity
Why Talmud study is not reading, in the usual sense of the word, but rather deciphering the true meaning of the text
With great metaphysical creativity, Talmudic rabbis probe the exact limits of comparison and analogy
In debating the principles of intentional sin, sages find that pleading ignorance is no defense, even if not all laws can be followed
Talmudic rabbis debate the paradoxical belief in Jewish chosenness despite the evidence of Jewish powerlessness
The apparent abstraction of Talmudic rulings, immune to the vagaries of history, are also a key to Jewish survival
In the Talmud, nostalgic, biblical, divine explanations override accurate secular history and chronology
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
Books fraught with danger—curses, secrets, marvelous cures, diviners, demons—caused political intrigue and censorship
Ruth Calderon reimagines ancient tales, while Tova Hartman and Charlie Buckholtz examine characters in the margins
In staking claims about the validity of Jewish identity, the rabbis show that the Diaspora has existed for nearly as long as Judaism
Pi, irrational numbers, and squaring the circle are all brought to bear to find justifications for tradition
In dissenting opinions, Talmudic rabbis propose and debate every detail of Sukkot’s booth and, in so doing, measure God
Gender-typing is at work as early as daycare. A new book examines how this inequity plays out and undermines religious classrooms.
The late author’s work was Talmudic in nature. That’s why his books made me miss the Jewish texts I’d left behind.