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Close Encounters With Talmud

Seven months into a seven-and-a-half-year study cycle, book critic Adam Kirsch is hookedand flummoxed

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(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photos Shutterstock)
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Our book critic dives into Daf Yomi’s daily regimen expecting a law code, but instead finds a chain of questions

As an author and literary critic (including for Tablet), Adam Kirsch has written about Lionel Trilling, Benjamin Disraeli, Emily Dickinson, and Isaac Bashevis Singer, among many others. This past August, he moved into less familiar territory when he joined the tens of thousands of Jews participating in Daf Yomi, studying a page of Talmud a day. The study cycle will take seven and a half years to complete. Since he began, Kirsch has been writing a weekly column to share his reflections on these essential Jewish texts, and on the Daf Yomi process itself.

On today’s Vox Tablet, Kirsch shares some of those reflections with Jonathan Rosen, author of The Talmud and the Internet, and editor of the Jewish Encounters series, published by Nextbook Press. Together, they consider the value of studying Jewish law even if you don’t intend to follow it and marvel at the complex logic, outlandish scenarios, and deeply human responses to be found within these pages. [Running time: 22:28.] 

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Tamar says:

The past two years, six days weekly, I have been learning in a Hebrew-speaking Daf Yomi (mostly secular) group in Tel Aviv. Because Adam offers an interesting perspective (his literary and cultural critic chops, and his respect for this material), I eagerly await his column updates (including most of the column readers’ comments). While I enjoyed listening to Adam, I found the questions posed to him puerile, testy, and just plain silly.

41953 says:

Fascinating interview, but it confirms my opinion that the halakha is tortorous.
It is alien to modern thinking and irrelevant to secular living.

    Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

    ANYthing would “confirm” your opinion – a cheese sandwich, a fallen leaf, a picture of Speaker Boehner, or somebody cutting in front of you at the grocery store.

    Give it a rest, already. We all got your point …. that you make over and over and over and over … and no one is biting at your cheese any more.

Ira Stone says:

I’m not sure on what basis you conclude that the halacha is more important to the Rabbis than the aggada? It seems to me they treat them absolutely equally and keeping that in mind despite the temptation to raise one above the other is part of the contemporary challenge.

41953 says:

You are biting. Why don’t you stop and let me express my opinions freely. .

    Grigalem says:

    No one has any control of how you waste your day.

    And he is not biting at your rancid cheese. He is merely noting that we all got your point (that you make over and over and over and over) and no one is biting at your cheese any more.

hooked and flummoxed – me too. and enchanted.

Fat_Man says:

Is there a way to download this as a podcast?


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Close Encounters With Talmud

Seven months into a seven-and-a-half-year study cycle, book critic Adam Kirsch is hookedand flummoxed

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