Making the rich narrative world of Talmud tales fully accessible to modern readers, renowned Talmud scholar Jeffrey L. Rubenstein turns his spotlight on both famous and little-known stories, analyzing the tales in their original contexts, exploring their cultural meanings and literary artistry, and illuminating their relevance.
Delving into both rabbinic life (the academy, master-disciple relationships) and Jewish life under Roman and Persian rule (persecution, taxation, marketplaces), Rubenstein explains how storytellers used irony, wordplay, figurative language, and other art forms to communicate their intended messages. Each close reading demonstrates the story’s continuing relevance through the generations into modernity. For example, the story “Showdown in Court,” a confrontation between King Yannai and the Rabbinic judges, provides insights into controversial struggles in U.S. history to balance governmental power; the story of Honi’s seventy-year sleep becomes a window into the indignities of aging. Through the prism of Talmud tales, Rubenstein also offers timeless insights into suffering, beauty, disgust, heroism, humor, love, sex, truth, and falsehood. By connecting twenty-first-century readers to past generations, The Land of Truth helps to bridge the divide between modern Jews and the traditional narrative 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 and explicating the stories within their original contexts."-Barry W. Holtz, Theodore and Florence Baumritter Professor of Jewish Education, Jewish Theological Seminary -- Barry W. Holtz
"Talmud stories are valuable repositories of meaning for anyone who desires a deeper connection to the past. Yet today's readers are at a lengthy remove from this rhetorically technical, often inaccessible world. A master teacher is necessary to guide us toward understanding the text. That is the strength and value of Rubenstein's volume: opening up to modern readers a heretofore closed text."-Beth Kissileff, author of Reading Genesis: Beginnings -- Beth Kissileff