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Texts & Textbooks


Reconstructing Judaism Reconstructing Judaism
Wednesday, August 3, 2011 by Joseph J. Siev | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

At a time when all three major Jewish denominations in America—Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform—find themselves in a state of deep internal fracture, a fourth and much smaller movement, Reconstructionism, has just voted to create a unified body to coordinate the activities of its lay and rabbinical arms.
Israel and Western Guilt Israel and Western Guilt
Friday, May 20, 2011 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

"Confront Your Privilege." So reads a "subtly coercive" sign on display at tony American liberal-arts colleges. Why coercive? Because, as Wilfred McClay explains in an illuminating recent essay in First Things, what such signs are really telling the students is, "Feel Guilty."
Holocaust without End Holocaust without End
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 by Alex Joffe | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Sixty-six years after the end of World War II, the Holocaust remains one of the central puzzles of human history. For Jews, the imperative is clear: to remember and to encourage others to remember. But remember what? Has the earnest dedication of both Jews and non-Jews to seek the meaning of the event and absorb its lessons ended by emptying it of meaning and lessons alike?
The Virtuoso of Judaism The Virtuoso of Judaism
Thursday, March 3, 2011 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Religious virtuosity comes in many forms. One of them is the ability to reconcile seeming irreconcilables, like faith and freedom, piety and intellect, revelation and science. The dream of synthesis has lured many in the past two centuries. One who seemed to live it was Joseph B. Soloveitchik.
Talmud: The Back Story Talmud: The Back Story
Thursday, January 27, 2011 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

There is no getting away from the Babylonian Talmud. Love it, hate it, or both, this monumental work has been central to Jewish life for a millennium and more, managing time after time to find new readers and to summon new forms of reading.
Who Needs Hebrew? Who Needs Hebrew?
Thursday, January 6, 2011 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

In 1967, on a visit to Jerusalem, the American novelist Saul Bellow met Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Israel's Nobel laureate in literature. "This spare old man," Bellow would recall, "asked me if any of my books had been translated into Hebrew. If they had not been, I had better see to it immediately, because, he said, they would survive only in the Holy Tongue."
Jews and Their Historians Jews and Their Historians
Wednesday, October 27, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Over the last two centuries, Jewish identity has assumed an often bewildering variety of forms—religious, political, social, and cultural. One form, insufficiently recognized as such, is the study of Jewish identity, especially as filtered through Jewish history. Its main means of expression is the academic enterprise known as Jewish Studies, a field that in turn comprises a variety of specific schools and thinkers.
Tablets Tablets
Wednesday, February 3, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

A few days ago, Apple released yet another new device aimed at integrating words written, spoken, and seen, and freeing them from the limitations of time and space. It joins an array of other products making texts and audio-video materials available as never before. Is anything being lost here? The Talmud declares: "Written words should not be spoken, and spoken words should not be written." What the rabbis specifically sought to impress on Jewish minds was the difference between the Written Torah, fixed, immutable, divine, and the constantly accreting commentaries known as the Oral Torah, spontaneous, dynamic, human yet also somehow partaking of...
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Editors' Picks
The Rabbi Who Writes Too Much Gary Shapiro, Forward. Just how pronounced is the graphomania of Rabbi Eliezer Shlomo Schick? One professor found 954 titles by Schick in the catalog of the National Library of Israel—and those were just the ones in Hebrew.
The Book That Drove Them Crazy Andrew Ferguson, Weekly Standard. Twenty-five years ago, a studious manuscript called Souls Without Longing was given a more commercial title and a print run of 10,000 copies.  It soon was selling 25,000 copies a week, and its author was the most famous professor in the Western world.
Darwin and the Rabbis Michael Kay, Thinking through My Fingers. We're told that "religion" and "science" went head to head over evolution.  But nineteenth-century rabbis, including Samson Raphael Hirsch, Hermann Adler, and Abraham Isaac Kook, were all willing to engage with Darwinism.    
Freedom Tales Yehudah Mirsky, Jewish Ideas Daily. From a medieval manuscript to the script for an interfaith seder, a new crop of Haggadot shows that the old words still hold their own.    
Journey to Freedom Yocheved Golani, Jewish Press. In the the Koren Ethiopian Haggada, rare photos show the arduous, sometimes fatal journey through the Sudan to freedom, as well as initial interactions with modern technology. 
An Abundance of Haggadot Jewish Ideas Daily. Through the Haggadah, wrote the late Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, "the memory of the nation is annually revived . . . and the collective hope sustained." Yet precisely that sense of the collective seems absent from many of today's Haggadot, even the best of them.
Crowdsourcing the Constitution Walter Russell Mead, Via Meadia. "We the People" indeed—a new commentary on the U.S. Constitution draws its inspiration from an unlikely source.
Indices, Plural Michtavim. The New York Times' recent report on a new index to the Talmud neglected to point out that this work stands in the shadow of a 16th-century index—one that, perhaps, changed the course of Jewish history.    
Narrating the Law Dvora E. Weisberg, H-Net. A new work of Talmud scholarship challenges the traditional distinction between halakhah and aggadah by identifying an overlapping literary genre: the talmudic legal story.
Physician, Explain Thyself Michael L. Satlow, Talmud Blog. How can we account for the Babylonian Talmud's medical advice, which in many cases seems to have been transmitted retrojectively?