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Commentary & Criticism

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.
The Huguenot Connection The Huguenot Connection
Monday, January 3, 2011 by Allan Nadler | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

In the darkest hours of the Holocaust, the safest place for Jews in occupied Europe may have been the southern French hamlet of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.
Needing Jeremiah Needing Jeremiah
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

One of the most significant accomplishments of the Zionist project was to re-vitalize the Bible as a Jewish national document. Or, if not the Bible as a whole, at least parts of the Bible. The early Zionists were attracted in particular to those books, like Joshua and Isaiah, which appealed to the dream of return and political restoration. One biblical book that most definitely didn't fire the Zionist imagination was the book of Jeremiah.
Englishing the Hebrew Bible Englishing the Hebrew Bible
Friday, October 8, 2010 by David Curzon | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

All translators of the Hebrew Bible into English work in the shadow of the genius of the King James Version (KJV), done in the 17th century and still in wide use today despite its thee's and thou's.  Jewish translations, following the sequence and other features of the Hebrew Bible, and guided by rabbinic understandings, have been brought out by the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) and others.
Ki Tavo: The Mystery of Goodness
Wednesday, August 25, 2010 by David Hazony | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

By David Hazony Nearing the end of his farewell address to the Israelites, Moses describes a peculiar ceremony they are to perform after entering Canaan.
Devarim: Untimely Farewell
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 by David Hazony | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

Standing in the desert of Moav, poised to send the Israelites into the Promised Land without his own titanic presence to lead the way, Moses begins his last and greatest speech.
Talking Pictures Talking Pictures
Friday, February 5, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Ever since Art Spiegelman's landmark Maus (1986), comics and graphic novels have established themselves as a new form of visual-cum-verbal midrash. The best of them, re-imagining texts and the events of history, point beyond themselves. If Spiegelman paid tribute to his father, a survivor of the Holocaust, the hero of Joann Sfar's The Rabbi's Cat is witness to the vanished Jewish culture of Algiers. Other cartoonists have tackled the text of the Bible, as eloquent as it is famously laconic.  R. Crumb (of Fritz the Cat) has recently published his take on the Book of Genesis, rendered in his trademark mix of burlesque, Blake, and...
Let Us Pray Let Us Pray
Friday, January 22, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

"Rabbi Shimon said: make not your prayers a fixity, but a plea."  The inevitable tension in prayer between practice and passion, between communal structure and the lone voice, was certainly known to the biblical prophets and the rabbis of the Talmud. Yet today, the traditional prayers—profoundly communal and reflecting ancient ideas of monarchy, patriarchy, and retribution, sometimes in complicated Hebrew—seem alien to many. If the test of contemporary Judaism is whether it offers a compelling personal experience to "the Jew within," a common liturgy becomes more difficult to maintain than ever before. And so, the project of renewing the Siddur—the Hebrew...
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Editors' Picks
On Torah and Judaism James L. Kugel, YouTube. Interviewed in Moscow, the eminent scholar talks about his life, his career, and the tension between what he does as a student of the Bible and how he lives as a Jew. (Video)
Is Greed Good? Gil Student, Torah Musings. An investigation into classical Jewish commentaries on the accumulation of wealth, its benefits and its perils.
Correcting the Bible Marc B. Shapiro, Jewish Review of Books. Reunited with the "Crown of Aleppo," the religious community now possesses the textually most perfect Bible in existence. Yet to most it seems only of historical interest.
It Ain't Necessarily So Yair Hoffman, Haaretz. Textual disparities between the traditional Jewish Bible and the Samaritan Bible, which dates back to the Second Temple period, may reflect the process of editing.
First Things First Todd Hasak-Lowy, Forward. An Israeli novelist has written a secular guide to biblical "firsts"; the work has a number of worthwhile stops along the way but fails to lead to any particular destination.
Biblical Seductions Gil Student, Torah Musings. In the hands of a sexual-harassment attorney, six key narratives in the Bible receive a bold and creative interpretation.
Man Stands Powerless Before Elevator James L. Kugel, Free Press. In an interview, the renowned Bible scholar speaks of the "starkness" of religion, what modern Arabs owe to their Mesopotamian forebears, and living in the face of a cancer diagnosis.
Big Ten Joel Schwartz, Weekly Standard.  David Hazony succeeds remarkably in articulating a Jewish ethical understanding
Whose Jews? Joel M. Hoffman, God Didn’t Say That. Out of delicacy, no doubt, a new translation of the Christian Bible sometimes renders the Greek word ioudaioi ("Jews") as "Jewish leaders"; it would have been better to leave the text as is.
Talking Canaan Edward L. Greenstein, Biblical Archaeology Review. Ugaritic, a Northwest Semitic language related to Hebrew, solves many a biblical puzzle.