Jewish adult learners and students of religion will welcome Norman Solomon’s new Talmudic anthology. Though others before Solomon have endeavored to make Judaism’s foundational text accessible to the uninitiated, The Talmud: A Selection, is arguably the best introductory book to date. Its concise and erudite introduction skillfully presents the Talmud’s historical origins and development, as well as provides a conceptual framework for understanding this unique genre of Jewish literature. The purpose of the anthology is less to summarize the rabbinic tradition than to capture the process of interpretation and conversation that underlies Judaism’s formation and evolution. Emphasizing the Talmud’s multifaceted and multivocal character, Solomon has chosen representative selections from each of the Talmud’s 63 tractates. Some selections focus on law, others on biblical interpretation, yet others on rabbinic story, theology, and custom. Selections are presented in a uniformly coded, readable style to assist the reader in following the flow of the text. Chapters are briefly introduced, and all terms and concepts are succinctly explicated. The Talmud: A Selection will serve as a wonderful textual resource for Jewish continuing education classes, university courses, and the interested lay reader. Appendices, bibliography, glossary, indices, map, timeline.
Benjamin J. Samuels, rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah in Newton Centre, MA, teaches widely in the Greater Boston area. He is also a doctoral student in the “Science, Philosophy and Religion” Program in the Department of Religion at Boston University.