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)

December 2018


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

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

"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

“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

“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

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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