All posts by The Talmud Blog

The presidential seder. Not everyone has moved to the living room yet.

Between Furniture in the Mishnah and the Mishnah on Furniture: On Kirshenbaum, ‘Furniture of the Home in the Mishnah’- Guest Post by Yair Furstenberg

Karen Kirshenbaum, Furniture of the Home in the Mishnah (Hebrew; Bar Ilan University Press, 2013).

It has recently become quite common to find families moving their Pesach Seder from the dining room table to the living room couches. At least in part this step is motivated by a keen interest in conducting what seems to be a more authentic Seder, as shaped by the rabbis two millennia ago along the lines of the Greco Roman symposium. Consequently, the stiff seating arrangement around the alter-like table is replaced by a more liberated recline at small personal ones. Continue reading


Outside Aphrodite’s Bathhouse: On Rachel Neis’ ‘The Sense of Sight in Rabbinic Culture’- Guest Post by Zachary Braiterman

Rachel Neis, The Sense of Sight in Rabbinic Culture: Jewish Ways of Seeing in Late Antiquity, Cambridge University Press, 2013

NeisAs a devoted reader, I was flattered by Yitz and Shai’s invitation to review for The Talmud Blog the new book by Rachel Neis, arguably the first full length study ever on “rabbinic aesthetics” or “rabbinic visual culture.” As a scholar trained in modern Jewish thought and philosophy, I have explored in my own work the intersection of art, philosophical aesthetics, and Jewish culture.  It’s on that basis that I was asked to read Rachel Neis’ book. Why not?

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Whence Good Questions?- Guest Post by Jon Kelsen

“The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers; he’s one who asks the right questions.” -Claude Lévi-Strauss, Le Cru et le cuit (The Raw and the Cooked), 1964

I spend a lot of time asking questions, and a lot of time learning and teaching Talmud. These pastimes are deeply related; the process of uncovering and addressing qushyot u’ba’ayot constitutes the meat and potatoes (or tofu and quinoa, for some of our readers here) of the Talmudic enterprise. The Bavli is a text explicitly animated by query, and we know the joy of the Talmudist who discovers that she or he has “asked like a lamdan,” who has raised the question of Abbaye, the Stamma d’Talmuda, Tosafot, or R. Akiva Eiger. To be a good learner, and certainly a good learner of Talmud, therefore, includes being able to ask good questions. Continue reading

The Flow of Things: Ruminations on Talmudic Layout
Diane Samuels, ‘The Luminous Manuscript’. Permanent exhibition of The Center for Jewish History, NY. Posted with artist’s permission.

As our readers may have noticed, we’ve recently adapted the blog to WordPress’ new “Twenty Fourteen Theme.” Besides exemplifying  WordPress’ sleek sense of style, the theme caught our eye in that it structures the homepage almost like a daf of Talmud, with the main text in the center and related texts surrounding it towards the margin. 

In celebration of The Talmud Blog’s redesign, I have been invited to offer some observations on the layout of the Talmud inspired by my background as a practitioner and scholar of the visual arts. This is a double honor for me as this is also my inaugural post. Thank you for the invitation.

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A Review of Eyal Ben-Eliyahu’s “Between Borders”- Guest Post by Hanan Mazeh

Eyal Ben-Eliyahu, Between Borders: The Boundaries of Eretz-Israel in the Consciousness of the Jewish People in the time of the Second Temple and in the Mishnah and Talmud Period, Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2012, 348 pp. $27.

Eyal Ben-Eliyahu‘s Between Borders is the kind of book which deals with such fundamental questions that it makes you wonder how it is that they had not been seriously addressed before.  Based on his 2007 Hebrew University dissertation, the book aims to examine the territorial borders of the land of Israel as reflected in a wide array of Palestinian texts – from biblical books through the Amoraic era – and tries to formulate the different concepts of “Eretz Israel” that these borders represent.

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A Review of Weiss Halivni, The Formation of the Babylonian Talmud- Guest Post by Zvi Septimus

halivni picDavid Weiss Halivni, TheFormation of the Babylonian Talmud (trans. and ed. Jeffrey L. Rubenstein; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). 312 (+35) pages

David Weiss Halivni began work on his Talmud commentary, Sources and Traditions, in 1968 with the publication of a volume on Seder Nashim. In the forty-five years since, Halivni has published an additional seven volumes, covering Seder Moed and Seder Nezikin. Continue reading

Recent Dissertations and Theses

Even in Israel, the new academic year is now in full swing. So this is a good time to look back at 2012-2013 dissertations and these that have been defended. Here at The Talmud Blog we’ll do our best to list the recently submitted ones that may be of interest to our readers. Please feel free to forward to us anything that we may have left out. We hope to update this post as we receive more material. Continue reading

Fair and Fowl: A Review of ‘Tractates Tamid, Middot and Qinnim’ by Dalia Marx – Guest Post by Ilana Kurshan

marx reviewDalia Marx, Tractates Tamid, Middot and Qinnim. A Feminist Commentary on the Babylonian Talmud, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013,  XII + 258 pages. €89.

A few weeks ago I was learning daf yomi while nursing my daughter when I came upon the following Talmudic passage, which begins with a quote from the Song of Songs: “‘Our little sister has no breasts.’ Rabbi Yohanan said: This refers to Eilam, who merited to learn but not to teach” (Pesachim 87a).” My infant daughter was lying bare-skinned on my breast, and I looked down at her as I puzzled over this passage. Why is having no breasts analogous to learning but not teaching? Continue reading