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Is your group curious about the Talmud, but not sure how to approach this religious literature? This accessible introduction to the words of Rabbinic Sages will make it easy for your group to follow in the steps of the early Rabbis. Discover how these ancient teachings can enrich your life by improving your relationships with others, providing a greater understanding of life’s puzzles, and strengthening your personal and family values.

6 x 9, 192 pp, Quality Paperback, 978-1-58023-327-9   

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Discover the Talmud and its universal values for all people.

While the Hebrew Bible is the cornerstone of Judaism, it is the Talmud that provides many central values for living. The Talmud sets out specific guidelines and lyrical admonitions regarding many of life’s ordinary events, and offers profound words of advice for life’s most intractable dilemmas.

This accessible introduction to the Talmud explores the essence of Judaism through reflections on the words of the rabbinic sages, from one of American Judaism’s foremost teachers and writers, Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins. Dr. Elkins provides fresh insight into ancient aphorisms and shows you how they can be applied to your life today. Topics include:

  • Kindness through Giving, Welcoming and Sharing
  • Human Relationships
  • Personal Values
  • Family Values
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Life’s Puzzles

Enlightening and inspiring, the values of the Talmud can be appreciated not just by Jews, but by anyone seeking a greater understanding of life and its mysteries.

“A reservoir of rabbinic insights into how we should live our lives—in relationships, family and community…. Helps all of us in our struggles with the enduring questions we face as human beings. A must read for anyone who reflects on what it means to live lives of holiness and goodness.”

Dr. Norman Cohen, provost, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion;
author, The Way Into Torah

“Beautifully shows the eternal wisdom of our sages in our contemporary world. Elkins’ personal wisdom is interwoven with ancient texts to illuminate so many issues with which we are faced today. A valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding the great worth of the Talmud.”

Rabbi Judith Z. Abrams, PhD, founder and director,
Maqom: A School for Adult Talmud Study

“For those of us unable to tackle the multivolume Talmud, this thoughtful and well-written book gives us the essence of Jewish wisdom on a variety of topics relevant to our lives today.”

Ron Miller, chair, religion department, Lake Forest College; coauthor, 
Healing the Jewish-Christian Rift: Growing Beyond Our Wounded History

“A sturdy craft for sailing the sea of Talmud, and Rabbi Elkins is a fine navigator. His choice of text is solid, his commentary is insightful, and his style is both enlightening and engaging. This is a book to come back to over and again.”

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author, Ethics of the Sages: Pirke Avot—Annotated & Explained

“Clearly and beautifully elucidates important teachings on spiritual concepts like love, charity, kindness and companionship—plus some of life’s sticky issues like greed, sin, and belief. A great book for anyone wanting to dip into the pool of Judaism’s timeless wisdom.”

Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, editor, The Women’s Torah Commentary and
The Women’s Haftarah Commentary

“Filled with wise guidance on the dilemmas humans face every day, mixed with gems from the Jewish tradition. A great book.”

Rabbi Sid Schwarz, founder/president, PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values; author, Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World

“Wise and accessible, this book shines. Everything you need to know about how to be a ‘mensch’ —a fully evolved, caring human being—is here in this treasure trove of practical inspiration.”

Joan Borysenko, PhD, author, Inner Peace for Busy People

“Filled with gems of insight and inspiration.”

Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles, California

Download a printable version

  • What are the classical sources one might turn to in building a framework of Jewish ethics? What books would be included in such a list of sources?
  • How are the insights of the ancient Rabbis who wrote the books of the Talmud still relevant to modern society?
  • In what ways can Jewish values be helpful to both Jews and non-Jews?
  • Is reading and studying about values enough to influence a person’s actions? If not, what more is needed?
  • What are some of the values mentioned in this book that would help make the world a better place to live in?
  • Are there any values you read about that you do not agree with, or that you could not accept? Explain.
  • How would you summarize the thrust of this book?
  • Do you think the Talmud emphasizes values for the individual or the community? Which do you think is more important?
  • What are two or three of the values discussed in the book that helped you the most?

The Wisdom of Judaism: An Introduction to the Values of the Talmud is based on specific ethical aphorisms. What criteria did you use to decide which statements to include?
I have been studying the Talmud all of my adult life, and have discovered certain maxims that engage me in a personal way. I also feel attached to specific principles in the Talmud, which I find are also of great interest to the students in my classes. The selections are very personal, and any number of other aphorisms could just as easily have been singled out. Since the Talmud contains over sixty tractates (thematic volumes), it contains a huge amount of material collected during a period of over 500 years. Anyone writing on the Talmud would, by necessity, have to make selections that are in large measure personal in terms of relevance. When all is said and done, the selections I chose to include seem to be ideas that are important to living a life that is filled with goodness, integrity, and kindness.

What do you hope is the outcome for someone who reads your book?
I truly believe that the Talmud is an important body of literature. Since it is neglected in study because it is not easy to read, and many parts of it are less interesting and relevant than others, many people tend to write it off, and think it is totally inaccessible to the modern reader. However, I find that more and more study groups are turning to the values of the Talmud to heal our broken world. Popular books on Judaism are increasingly quoting passages from the Talmud to reinforce their message about Judaism’s moral force in a world that lacks moral direction. I hope that, after finishing this book, the reader will have a more positive view of the possibilities of Talmud study, and a greater realization of how profoundly the Talmud has affected, and still can affect, modern personal and corporate life. The values embedded within the pages of the Talmud have the capacity to transform modern society in important ways—through personal, interpersonal, and community relations. It is a body of literature that should be better known and studied more frequently to, ideally, penetrate and raise the moral standards of the contemporary world.


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