The Laws [with Biographical Introduction]

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He explains why reading the Talmud can feel like being swept up in a river or lost in a maze, and why the Talmud has come to be venerated--but also excoriated and maligned—in the centuries since it first appeared.


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An incomparable introduction to a work of literature that has lived a full and varied life, this accessible book shows why the Talmud is at once a received source of traditional teachings, a touchstone of cultural authority, and a powerful symbol of Jewishness for both supporters and critics. Many of our ebooks are available through library electronic resources including these platforms:.

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More about this book. Chapter 1 [PDF].

His deconstruction of the halachic text in particular is masterful. Reardon, Chicago Tribune. Erudite and accessible, this is a book for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the centrality of the Talmud in Jewish scholarship and life.

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His unique capacity to explore this rich history from the dual perspectives of the internal development of Talmudic interpretation and the external reactions and reception is at the root of what makes this book so exquisite. It is one of the most important single works in the history of modern science. Born in the hamlet of Woolsthorpe, Newton was the only son of a local yeoman , also Isaac Newton, who had died three months before, and of Hannah Ayscough. That same year, at Arcetri near Florence, Galileo Galilei had died; Newton would eventually pick up his idea of a mathematical science of motion and bring his work to full fruition.

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A tiny and weak baby, Newton was not expected to survive his first day of life, much less 84 years. Deprived of a father before birth, he soon lost his mother as well, for within two years she married a second time; her husband, the well-to-do minister Barnabas Smith, left young Isaac with his grandmother and moved to a neighbouring village to raise a son and two daughters. For nine years, until the death of Barnabas Smith in , Isaac was effectively separated from his mother, and his pronounced psychotic tendencies have been ascribed to this traumatic event.

That he hated his stepfather we may be sure. After his mother was widowed a second time, she determined that her first-born son should manage her now considerable property.


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  4. It quickly became apparent, however, that this would be a disaster, both for the estate and for Newton. He could not bring himself to concentrate on rural affairs—set to watch the cattle, he would curl up under a tree with a book. Fortunately, the mistake was recognized, and Newton was sent back to the grammar school in Grantham , where he had already studied, to prepare for the university.

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    As with many of the leading scientists of the age, he left behind in Grantham anecdotes about his mechanical ability and his skill in building models of machines, such as clocks and windmills. At the school he apparently gained a firm command of Latin but probably received no more than a smattering of arithmetic. By June , he was ready to matriculate at Trinity College, Cambridge , somewhat older than the other undergraduates because of his interrupted education.

    When Newton arrived in Cambridge in , the movement now known as the scientific revolution was well advanced, and many of the works basic to modern science had appeared.

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    Astronomers from Copernicus to Kepler had elaborated the heliocentric system of the universe. Galileo had proposed the foundations of a new mechanics built on the principle of inertia. Led by Descartes , philosophers had begun to formulate a new conception of nature as an intricate, impersonal, and inert machine. Yet as far as the universities of Europe, including Cambridge, were concerned, all this might well have never happened.

    They continued to be the strongholds of outmoded Aristotelianism , which rested on a geocentric view of the universe and dealt with nature in qualitative rather than quantitative terms.

    Even though the new philosophy was not in the curriculum, it was in the air. He had thoroughly mastered the works of Descartes and had also discovered that the French philosopher Pierre Gassendi had revived atomism , an alternative mechanical system to explain nature. Significantly, he had read Henry More , the Cambridge Platonist, and was thereby introduced to another intellectual world, the magical Hermetic tradition, which sought to explain natural phenomena in terms of alchemical and magical concepts.

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    The two traditions of natural philosophy, the mechanical and the Hermetic, antithetical though they appear, continued to influence his thought and in their tension supplied the fundamental theme of his scientific career. He then reached back for the support of classical geometry. Within little more than a year, he had mastered the literature; and, pursuing his own line of analysis, he began to move into new territory.