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Sage Tales: Wisdom and Wonder from the Rabbis of the Talmud Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Pub (March 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580234569
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580234566
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,177,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Rabbi Burton L.Visotzky, lecturer and scholar-inresidence in synagogues, churches, mosques and university settings throughout North America, is Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies and director of the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr.Visotzky consulted with Bill Moyers and was a featured participant in the PBS television series Genesis: A Living Conversation. He is the author of nine books, including Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By 3xmom on December 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was excited to get this book as I am Jewish, but not well educated in Rabbinic literature. The author's tone, however, is off putting/confusing to me. Does he respect these sages or what they have to say? Is he just trying to humanize them, make them more accessible to a modern day reader? I really can't get through that and it has had a negative effect on my reading of the work and my hopes of gaining greater understanding.

His approach is also set up as the Talmud etc were written to resemble a play. And the rabbis are just characters with specific roles. He points out how there are stage figures--the rich father, for example--that are common tools in many works of literature and in other religious teachings (Christian texts, for instance).

Maybe this book would be most helpful to a reader familiar with this author's other works. Maybe to someone much more well versed in the Rabbinic literature and so can see through the sarcasm/jokes. ??

I am learning a bit, but overall, I'm disappointed.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Rabbi Visotsky, the author of this volume, is a professor at The Jewish Theological Seminary and has been involved in studying and teaching the subject of Jewish Midrash, the ancient tales, parables, and teachings of Judaism, for over forty years. There are twenty-two chapters filled with interesting information told in an easy to read, frequently humorous manner. The title Sage Tales could mean stories filled with wisdom, tales told by wise men, or a history of ancient intellectuals. Visotsky uses the title in all three ways, because he gifts us well-told wise tales and informs us about the history of the times and the men who told the tales.

His opening chapter, for instance, explains what prompted the many unforgettable stories about the appearance of the biblical prophet Elijah long after his death, always appearing as a miraculous helper to people in distress. He tells his own story of how he was lost in Uzbekistan and was unable to communicate with people on the street since he couldn't speak or understand their language. But then a man suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and took him to the house he was seeking, even though he never told the man the address of the house. When he turned around within seconds to thank him, he couldn't find him. He disappeared. Was he Elijah the Prophet? He tells three stories from the Talmud where the rabbis relate similar instances and say that the stranger was Elijah, and he explains why they said so. One is how Elijah caught a man who jumped off a roof to commit suicide and dissuaded him from repeating his mistake. One tells how Elijah replenished a man's sack of jewels that a thief stole and arranged suitable punishment for the thief.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael Brochstein on April 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Stories (or should I say "tales"), the stories behind the stories, the historical settings for the stories and the connectedness between the stories. Rabbi Visotzky explores various stories from the Talmud with an expert's knowledge of them, the experience of exploring and teaching these stories for many years and a raconteur's ability to tell a story. A very accessible trip through these stories with many references to modern culture (and FWIW; Propinquity and truthiness! Name another book that contains both of these words!?). I can't imagine an easier or more fun way to learn Talmud.

Full disclosure: Rabbi Visotzky is a friend of mine. I bought his book on my own volition (and without his knowledge) and with my own money and I am reviewing it here without his knowledge (hopefully we'll still be friends if/after he reads this review).
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