SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION

The Land of Truth: Talmud Tales, Timeless Teachings

Jewish Publication Society. Nov. 2018. 304p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780827613089. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780827614352. HIST
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OrangeReviewStarThe Talmud is an ancient compendium of civil and religious law as well as stories—some bordering on the fantastic and mystical—refined and elucidated through centuries of rabbinic discourse. As Rubenstein (Skirball Professor of Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, New York Univ.; The Culture of the Babylonian Talmud) notes, it is a text that requires study rather than a work of entertainment. Yet the author is pleased that many of his selected stories contain what he calls "interpretive gaps," which open up imaginative vistas. There's much to discover here; for example, a tale about a bad son leads to reflections on ageism as well as filial responsibility. At its core, Rubenstein's dynamic interpretive approach clearly presents struggles of suffering and love, along with how to make relevant choices and find meaning in life. Simply stated: the transformative power of these stories is the stuff of wisdom.
VERDICT This highly recommended work is akin to talking with a wise friend.

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