Adam Kirsch is a poet and literary critic, whose books include The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.
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There’s No Business Like Showbread Business

‘Daf Yomi’: Are Jews like olives, crushed for their oil, or like the leaves on the olive branch, enduring through all seasons?

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Strings Attached

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, two schools of biblical thought diverge over the ritual clothing fringes. Plus: Does a dead man get to wear tzitzit?

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Finding Meaning in Calligraphy

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, why even the crowns of Hebrew letters matter. Plus: The biblical Moses is relegated to the eighth row of a rabbi’s class, for not understanding the lesson.

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Salt Bae

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the rabbis debate the use of the flavor-enhancing mineral in sacrificial offerings. Plus: Why wood needs to be sprinkled with salt before it is burned—over wood.

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On the One Hand

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the rabbis search the mists of time to try to recover which hand is to be used in the rituals of sacrifice and offering

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The Talmud as Rube Goldberg Machine of the Mind

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ one rabbi finds a way out of a complex problem with meal offerings other rabbis created

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In the Language of Men

‘Daf Yomi:’ How modern Jews misinterpret another key philosophical phrase, and why religious fanatics will find no Talmudic argument in support of their dream of building a Third Temple on the mount

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Who Gets to Eat Sacrificial Meat?

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis raise contradictions in the rules governing ritual purity, ‘acute mourning,’ and imperfections in the priesthood

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Dirty Laundry

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis decide how to clean the garments used in ritual slaughter (using urine). Also: When is a garment just a cloth?

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Cooking Times and Air Rights

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis determine the finer points of animal sacrifice and follow their logical reasoning to the limits of the absurd

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Suited to the Fire

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis continue their investigations into sacrificial offerings and remain dispassionate in their analysis of sexual sins. Plus: the origin of the word ‘treyf.’

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Bird Sacrifice

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis try to establish the rules governing ritual slaughter of feathered offerings

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The End of Human Rights

‘Rooted Cosmpolitans’ traces how the fight over human rights remains a struggle over Jewish identity and destiny

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Archaeology Without Ruins

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ ancient Talmudic rabbis look for the First and Second Temples without stones or relics to guide them

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Mapping the Temple

Daf Yomi: Talmudic rabbis, as distant from the original animal sacrifices as we are from the Civil War, try to piece together a layout that matches the Torah

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Myth and Meaning

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the ancient rabbis take personal ownership of their Torah interpretations, as they map the spaces that separate the holy from the mundane

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Blood of the Soul

This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study continues to explore the real—and hypothetical—practicalities of ritual animal sacrifice

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On Priestly Perfection

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ how ancient Talmudic rabbis recreated and understood the lost religious culture of the First Temple

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If A, Then B

Through Daf Yomi’s exercises in mathematical logic, Talmudic rabbis attempt to decipher the will of a reasonable God. Plus: What distinguishes guilt from sin?

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Slaughtered Offerings

In making animal sacrifices, says this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, ancient Jews learned the importance of doing religious actions with deliberate purpose

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When a King Sins

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the surprising origins of power’s responsibility to the governed. Plus: How the Kingdom of Judea became the Religion of Judaism.

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Angels in America

Tony Kushner’s masterpiece of 1980s cruelty returns to Broadway just as the next wave of illiberalism washes over Trump’s new order

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Disobey

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, how are individual Jews supposed to act when a religious court makes a ‘manifestly illegal’ ruling or unjust order?

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Grapes of Math

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the Talmudic calculations that make forbidden wine and food into permitted meals for religious Jews

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Truth or Coincidences

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the Rabbis offer desperate—or reassuring—explanations for why God does not interfere in the world in order to prevent sin

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Statue of Limitations

This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study considers how Jews can avoid idolatry and still live in a public space full of graven images

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On the Perils of Assimilation

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, patrolling the boundaries between Jewish and pagan society

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Immoral, Weak, Abusive, Untrustworthy, and Murderous

What Talmudic sages thought of the pagan gentiles of their day is disturbingly paranoid and hostile

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How Jews Should Deal With Gentiles

According to this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, as little as possible

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A Shared Debt: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem

How Eichmann in Jerusalem led the thinkers into a principled disagreement over Zionism and universalism that ultimately broke their quarter-century bond

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