The Land of Truth


The Land of Truth

Talmud Tales, Timeless Teachings

Jeffrey L. Rubenstein

328 pages
2 indexes


November 2018


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

December 2018


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

November 2018


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

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.

Author Bio

Jeffrey L. Rubenstein is Skirball Professor of Talmud and Rabbinic Literature in the Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies of New York University. He is the author of numerous books, including Stories of the Babylonian Talmud and The Culture of the Babylonian Talmud.


"This book will be an invaluable resource for pulpit rabbis and Jewish educators in search of texts that will inspire and speak to their congregants and students."—Ilana Kurshan, Forward

"I don't think that I have ever studied the legends in the Talmud in quite the way that Jeffrey Rubenstein does in his book, The Land of Truth: Talmud Tales, Timeless Teachings. . . . I suggest you join Jeffrey Rubenstein on his journey, as he juxtaposes the wisdom of the Sages with the teachings of their neighbors in the Greco-Roman world, and then as he shows us how their insights compare and contrast with the values of our time. This journey will enable us to see the past in a new light, and to see the present in a new perspective as well."—Rabbi Jack Riemer, Jewish Advocate

"Rubenstein's dynamic interpretive approach clearly presents struggles of suffering and love, along with how to make relevant choices and find meaning in life. . . . This highly recommended work is akin to talking with a wise friend."—Sandra Collins, Library Journal

"The Land of Truth is entertaining and thought-provoking. It effectively draws the reader into the world of Talmud study while also connecting this ancient text to modern ideas and ideals. Rubenstein makes the central lessons of the Talmud accessible, compelling, and meaningful for a contemporary reader. Both the novice and advanced student of Jewish studies will appreciate the author's clear writing and insightful analysis of what is often considered the most important treatise on Jewish life."—Jonathan Fass, Jewish Book Council

"For those seeking, if not absolute answers, a rabbinic perspective on the questions of our day, Jeffrey L. Rubenstein's The Land of Truth: Talmud Tales, Timeless Teaching . . . is a great place to start. . . . Eminently readable."—Sandee Brawarky, Fall Literary Guide

"Much of the Talmud—or at any rate, the part of the Talmud that most of the people who study it think of when they think about the Talmud—is laws. Halacha. But those laws are connected by stories, terse, often gnomic, at times phantasmagorical stories, both compelling and hard to understand. Dr. Jeffrey Rubenstein . . . wants us to think about the stories; we'll benefit from their richness, strangeness, and surprising relevance to our lives."—Joanne Palmer, Jewish Standard

"A new and important book restores Aggadah to its rightful place as the equal partner with halacha. This exciting new work . . . follows in the footsteps of Rambam and his view of Aggadah. . . . Maimonides opined that there were three possible ways of approaching Aggadah. Two he rejected as not fit for intelligent people. The third, to deal with Aggadah as containing "profound secrets" and deep meaning, was the way of the wise. . . . By treating the Talmud's Aggadah as he does, Rubenstein proves again what Maimonides knew: Our Sages' seemingly farfetched narratives indeed held "profound secrets.""—Michael Chernick, Jewish Link of New Jersey

"The Land of Truth is an excellent introduction to talmudic tales. Readers need not have any prior experience with the Talmud in order to understand Rubenstein's explanations. His work is appropriate for individual study or use in a group setting. Most important, the author succeeds in showing how stories from the Talmud can offer insights into modern life."—Rabbi Rachel Esserman, Reporter Group

"The Land of Truth: Talmud tales, Timeless Teachings . . . provides a window into the profound wisdom of Hazal for scholar and layman alike. . . . I highly recommend Rubenstein's work."—Yitzchak Blau, Lehrhaus

“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

Table of Contents

Introduction: Of Stones and Stories    
Part 1. The Human Condition
1. The Surreal Sleeper    
2. What to Do with an Aged (and Annoying) Mother?    
3. Forbidden Fruit, or How Not to Seduce Your Husband    
4. Men Are from Babylonia, Women Are from the Land of Israel    
5. Sufferings! Not Them and Not Their Reward!    
Part 2. Virtue, Character, and the Life of Piety
6. The Ugly Vessel    
7. An Arrow in Satan’s Eye    
8. The Land of Truth    
9. Torah for Richer or Poorer    
10. Heroism and Humor    
Part 3. The Individual, Society, and Power
11. Showdown in Court    
12. Alexander the Great and the Faraway King    
13. The Carpenter and His Apprentice    
14. Standing on One Leg    
Subject Index    
Biblical and Rabbinic Sources Index

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