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The Talmud: A Biography

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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  22 ratings  ·  12 reviews
Containing nearly two million words in 37 volumes, the Talmud covers topics as diverse as law, faith, medicine, magic, ethics, sex, humour and prayer. It is a highly complex, profoundly logical and frequently impenetrable work with a history like no other. In its 1500 year history the Talmud has been banned, censored and burned, dissected by scholars and rabbis, probed by ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 27th 2014 by Bloomsbury Continuum
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Harry Freedman
Dec 10, 2013 Harry Freedman rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
I wrote The Talmud: A Biography because I have had so many conversations over the years with people who had heard of the Talmud but didn’t really know what it was.

Traditionally, writers have tried to to bring the Talmud to a wider audience by compiling anthologies or publishing extracts. Some of these are excellent, I’ve mentioned a few on this website.

But extracts and anthologies do not fully explain why the Talmud is such an important, and yet in many ways neglected, part of world culture. It
...more
Tracy Riva
The Talmud: A Biography is a book of magnificent scope covering the history of the Talmud – one of Judaism’s most important texts – from its beginnings in the schools of Jerusalem and Babylon through the modern era. It details the first known burning of the Talmud as Crusaders set forth to battle Muslims in Jerusalem, but stopped first to kill Jews along the way and burn their ancient scrolls, through the many burnings that have taken place since. It also details how Talmud study has become an e ...more
Reading Reader
I know a few bits and pieces about the Talmud, but not much. I was looking forward to learning about its formation and history, sure, but I assumed that its content would also be on display here, at least a little bit.

It was the subtitle that drew me in. A book about the Talmud, written as a biography -- that sounds great. Unfortunately, this is instead written as The Talmud: A History. It's like a biography that tells you all about what happened to the person over the course of his/her life, bu
...more
William Crosby
This book explained to me the Talmud (more specifically the Babylonian Talmud) and its importance and relationship to other works such as the Torah and Mishnah.

Presents the Talmud as having a turbulent history parallel to that of the Jewish people, being more important than the Bible as the foundation of the Jewish legal system and the reason for the development of the Jews as a distinctive group of people who might have otherwise been dispersed and forgotten (like the lost 10 tribes). Discusse
...more
Abbey
I'm pretty certain that I'm not the target audience for this work, despite Freedman writing in the Introduction that a knowledge of the Talmud isn't necessary, I think it would be of more interest to people with a prior knowledge. That being said, I really enjoyed reading this. I'm not going to lie and say that it wasn't hard going; it took so much of my concentration to make sure that I was actually taking the information in - I felt like I was doing my dissertation all over again. I really fee ...more
Paul
I received a free copy of this book from Goodreads.

This isn’t a book with mass market appeal and it’s not for the faint hearted. Turgid, indigestible, impenetrable – all words that came to mind when reviewing this book. However, just because a book is ‘difficult going’ doesn’t in itself detract from the quality of the work. In this case, it doesn’t, as the author has clearly made a spirited attempt to contribute to a better understanding and appreciation of the subject matter.

With only a layman
...more
John Carter
I received this book from Goodreads after entering a giveaway.

I went into the reading of this book with minimal knowledge of the Jewish faith. And with zero knowledge of the Talmud. Even though at the start of the book it says you don't require knowledge of the Talmud to be able to read this book. I do think that previous knowledge of the Talmud and what it has been through would make the read more interesting, as you can better know what the book contains rather than being told.

But nonetheless,
...more
Katharine Rudzitis
While there is interesting subject matter, the writing is poor and the story isn't always organized well.
Johnny Leavesley
I received this book through Goodreads and dutifully ploughed my way through it. For a Christian layman as myself with a passing interest in the two other religions of 'the Book' this was an easily digestible summary of what the Talmud is and how it has evolved. It is, however, written with an academic's love of detail rather than granting us a narrative sweep of how it became so important and central to Judaism and the Jewish diaspora. Still, I enjoyed it.
Valerie
After receiving this book in a Goodreads giveaway, I did wonder if it would be my "cup of tea". I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the historical detail and feel even though I may have been more interested if I had morevknowledge of the Talmud and the Jewish faith beforehand, this book is written with the novice in mind and I was intrigued throughout. This is definitely an introduction to what is obviously an enormous subject.
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Ask Harry Freedma...: What Were the Initial Origins of the Talmud? 6 7 Jan 21, 2014 10:58PM  
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My most recent book is The Talmud: A Biography, to be published by Bloomsbury in February 2014. The Talmud is the religious and legal pillar of Judaism. Containing nearly 2,000,000 words in thirty seven volumes, it covers topics as diverse as law, faith, medicine, magic, ethics, sex, humour and prayer. It is a highly complex, profoundly logical and frequently impenetrable work with a history like ...more
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