About the Book
Making the rich narrative world of Talmud tales fully accessible to modern readers, renowned Talmud scholar Dr. Jeffrey L. Rubenstein popularizes both well-known and unknown stories, analyzes the tales in their original Talmudic context, explores their cultural meanings and literary artistry, and illuminates their relevance for modern readers.
To elucidate the stories’ deeper meanings at the time, Rubenstein delves into both rabbinic life (the academy, master-disciple relationships) and Jewish life under Roman rule (Roman persecution, taxation, bathhouses). Additionally, he explains how the storytellers used irony, wordplay, figurative language, and other art forms to communicate their intended messages.
Each close reading also demonstrates the story’s continuing relevance through the generations into modernity. From “King Yannai and the Sages,” a confrontation between the King and the Rabbinic court, for example, parallels emerges in several controversial struggles to balance governmental power in American political history. The story of Honi’s seventy-year sleep, which culminates in his praying for his own death, becomes a window into the indignities of aging in our time. In addition, through the prism of Talmud tales, Rubenstein offers insight spanning the generations into suffering, beauty, disgust, heroism, humor, love, sex, truth, and falsehood.
By connecting twenty-first century readers to past generations, The Land of Truth: Talmud Tales, Timeless Teachings helps to bridge an all-too-often deep divide between modern Jews and the traditional worlds of their ancestors.
“Rubenstein is arguably the leading scholar in the world on Rabbinic stories. In this original book for a popular audience, he takes that scholarship into new arenas by relating the stories to issues in our time as well as explicating the stories within their original context.”
– Barry W. Holtz, PhD, Theodore and Florence Baumritter Professor of Jewish Education, Jewish Theological Seminary
“Talmud stories are valuable repositories of meaning for anyone who desires a deeper connection to the past, and yet today’s readers are at a lengthy remove from the technical, often inaccessible world of Talmudic texts. A master teacher is necessary to guide us to understanding them. That is the strength and value of Rubenstein’s volume: opening up a here-to-fore closed text to modern readers.”
— Beth Kissileff, author of Reading Genesis: Beginnings