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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‘Lamed Vav.’ Google It.

Finally, a potboiler religious action-thriller novel built around an ancient Jewish mystery, in Steven Pressfield’s ‘36 Righteous Men’

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Emission Standards

This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study explores the origins of sexual puritanism in the faith: why Jewish men can’t touch themselves even while urinating, how erections lead to idol worship, and how masturbation delays the arrival of the Messiah

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Menstrual Camps

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, ancient rabbis take sides on how to deal with uncertainty when it comes to ritual impurity in women

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The Birds

‘Daf Yomi’: The Talmud’s shortest and most difficult tractate is nominally about the sacrifice of feathered animals. In fact, it sets up a number of mathematical problems that delight the rabbis in their pursuit of pure knowledge.

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Ends With Benefits

This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study debates the right way to use consecrated Temple leftovers without crossing holy lines

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Sacrificial Ram

Sacred meat, slaughtered animals, and blood on the altar, in this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study

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Jews of Kansas

Ben Lerner’s new ‘The Topeka School’ and the problem of masculinity

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Captive Among the Gentiles

This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study suggests contemporary secular Jews have a lot to atone for

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Turning History Into Fiction

Elias Khoury’s novelization of 1948 makes up more than just its characters and plot. Does it matter?

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If a Man Gives a Woman a Lamb in Exchange for Sex

This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ follows its own logic from animal sacrifice to definitions of prostitution

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The Rules of the Swap

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ drawing a distinction between what is permitted and what is legal

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Your Weight in Onions

This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study explores many ways to pay off a divine debt: in gold, silver, pitch, vegetables—or limbs

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Neither Less Than X nor More Than Y

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ minima and maxima decorate the memory palaces Talmudic rabbis built to sustain the oral tradition of Babylonian learning

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How Much Is a Jewish Life Worth?

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic sages make ‘valuations’ and ‘assessments’ of living people, in ancient actuarial tables with premiums paid at the Temple

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A Funny, Empathetic Jewish Genius

Adam Ehrlich Sachs’ ‘brilliant, weird, and profound’ new novel, ‘The Organs of Sense,’ imagines a visionary blind Jewish astronomer in the court of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II

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The Price of a Firstborn

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the biblical redemption of a woman’s eldest opens logical byways into cesarean sections, stillbirths, and when Jewish life begins

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Shalom Chaver!

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, how Jewish conceptions of friendship and trust are tied up in ritual purity and levels of religious observance

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When Does Human Life Begin?

This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study happens to pit contemporary abortion law against Jewish views of conception and viability in all animals

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Blood and Milk

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’: Why are Jews allowed to drink milk at all? Plus: what Talmudic rabbis misunderstood about menstruation and the sources of other bodily fluids. Also: the right way to sacrifice a donkey.

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Red Eric

A worthy new biography of the late historian Eric Hobsbawm shows the ardent communist in the crucible of the 20th century

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Nesting Habits

This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ tackles the eternal problem of theodicy: If God is both good and omnipotent, why is there evil in the world?

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Impure Thoughts

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the practical-minded, hyperspecific, sometimes contradictory rules of Jewish ritual purity. Plus: Why religious uncleanliness is like a virus.

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Kosher Overreach

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’: Are the laws of kashrut based on an overly wide interpretation of a single verse in Deuteronomy?

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Offspring Fever

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ prohibitions against slaughtering the young of sacrificed livestock reveal the thoroughness and complexity of Talmudic study of contingencies

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Are You There, God? It’s Me, Mizrahi.

Isaac Mizrahi’s new ‘I.M.’ is a classic Jewish memoir of rebelling against stifling expectations to flourish in American possibility

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Womb Raider

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis imagine a situation involving a weasel, a cow’s womb, a fetus, vomit, and a firstborn calf. Naturally.

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Better Treyf Than Sorry

‘Daf Yomi’: To avoid conflicts of interest, Talmudic rabbis put limits on their own authority over kosher slaughter

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The Alter Bible

In a landmark new translation, Robert Alter revives the literary power of a Hebrew masterpiece

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Slaughtering With Intent

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ why a Jew may not sacrifice an animal in such a way that its blood flows into the ocean, and other rules protecting worshippers from the limits of paganism

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Cuts Like a Knife

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the Talmud reiterates how intention defines human acts. Plus: Does a dropped blade accidentally decapitating an animal count as ritual slaughter?

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