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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Natural Causes

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ intentionality and human agency remain at the heart of Jewish law. Plus: the difference between a pagan and a heretic.

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Slaughterhouse Shrive

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis debate who is free to butcher animals piously according to Jewish ritual. Plus: the one transgression that is unforgivable under the Torah.

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The Other Temples

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis ask if it is possible to do service to the true God in the wrong location

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The Showbread Must Go On

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the Talmud is ‘a kind of speculative historical fiction’ about Temple rituals

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Vesselmania

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic scholars grapple with the number of sacrificial measuring cups in the First Temple

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Oil Change

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, discussion of proper meal offerings displays the circularity and uncertainty of rituals recreated from a destroyed culture

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Giorgio Bassani’s Memorial Tapestry

A first English translation of the great Italian Jewish author’s single-volume compendium of tales of Ferrara reminds us of the power of his ghosts

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Flour Power

In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis—debating the origins of the omer—explore the sanctity of different forms of wheat. Plus: Can seeds found in elephant dung be made clean by replanting?

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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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