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The Talmud A Biography [Hardcover]

Harry Freedman
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Feb 2014
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 philosophers, poets, republicans and kings. In The Talmud A Biography, Jewish scholar Harry Freedman tells the engrossing story of an ancient classic, the legal and mystical pillar of Judaism and recounts the story of a book which, in many ways, parallels the history of the Jewish people. From its origins as a record of discussions amongst scholars in towns and villages close to modern-day Baghdad, Freedman traces the spiraling paths of the Jewish diaspora and explores the story of the Talmuds early origins in Babylon, its role during the Enlightenment and its influence over traditional Judaism. A compelling fusion of law, storytelling and spirituality, the Talmuds story is a fascinating insight into the history of Judaism and Harry Freedmans The Talmud A Biography is a remarkable account of one of the most important cultural, historical and religious works of our time.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Continuum; 1 edition (27 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1472905946
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472905949
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 41,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My most recent book is The Talmud: A Biography. I wrote it 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.

The Talmud is an important, and yet in many ways neglected, part of world culture. It is as ancient as many of the world's classics, lengthier than possibly any other, complex in its composition, frequently profound in its content and it has had a far more tumultuous story than most. A story which is not contained in the words on its pages. It was this story, or at least a good part of it, which I have tried to tell.

Most people who have had a good Jewish education have studied, or at least dipped into the Talmud. We value it because it is, as I have tried to explain in the book, the foundation of Judaism. We rarely stop to acknowledge it as part of our cultural heritage. Yet, in a world which is far more culturally interconnected than ever before, the Talmud is not just the heritage of the Jews. It is a classic of world literature. And its story deserves to be told.

I have been writing books and articles for many years but for most of that time it was something I did on the side. I've had a varied and fascinating career full of variety and change.

I started, when I was much younger, running a wholefood restaurant in Devon. Since then I have run companies in property, construction, health care and consultancy and I've worked as a chief executive in the voluntary sector. For the last fifteen years or so I have been coaching people to help them make the most of their careers.

I discovered quite early on that I need variety as well as challenges. I went back to university, part time, and studied first for an MA and then a PhD, on an obscure Aramaic translation of the Bible. I started writing articles on academic topics and social issues, contributing occasionally to books and, when I got a bit more time, writing my own. I now have a fantastic agent, Sheila Ableman, who helps me to navigate the complex world of book publishing, she can be found at sheila @

I've got two great, grown up kids, a wonderful wife and I live close to the centre of London, which is a fantastic location. I hope you will like my books, and, if you do, buy them and recommend them to your friends.

I'm always glad to hear from people who are interested in what I do; please use the contact page to get in touch or email me on harry AT harryfreedmanbooks DOT com.

You can also read more about my books on and

Product Description


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About the Author

Dr Harry Freedman is a writer and academic with a PhD in Aramaic. His publications include The Gospels' Veiled Agenda (O-Books). He contributed to the Encyclopedia of Modern Jewish Culture (Oxford University Press) and has written for the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Quarterly, Judaism Today and the Huffington Post. He has two adult children, who both work in TV, and lives in London with his wife Karen, a textile designer.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, accessible and extremely fascinating. 19 Mar 2014
By Mill12
What an incredibly interesting book and very easy to understand! A really stimulating world to engage with and learn about, and one
I knew little about before hand. As it seemed a very academic book I wasn’t sure if I would find it too complex but it was fascinating, thought-provoking and accessible. Really interesting to realise the impact the Talmud has had on our current lives in ways I never realised.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look at a fascinating book 19 Mar 2014
This is a must read for anyone with an interest in Jewish history and culture. I was worried that this book might be too academic, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the writer approaches this important Jewish text with both clarity and insight, making it an ideal read for the layman and academic alike.

With its illuminating insights into the social and political history of the Talmud, this book demonstrates that the Talmud is so much more than just a religious text.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended 19 Mar 2014
By Zebedee
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a great introduction to the fascinating history surrounding the Talmud - how and when it came to be written and subsequently regarded by both religious communities and the secular world. It is packed with interesting insights; and Dr Freedman's style makes it an easy read. A real treat.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly AND entertaining 30 July 2014
The term Biography is usually reserved to describe the life and achievements of a person. Here we have the biography of a book, or to be more accurate, a monumental series of books, THE TALMUD. However, I applaud the use of the word Biography in this case as, from its roots nearly two thousand years ago to the present day, it is the living breathing Talmud that has protected, stimulated, educated and provoked not only the Jewish people for whom it was intended, but much of mankind. It breathed strength into the Jews when they, not infrequently, experienced tragedy and persecution and enabled Judaism to grow and remain as vital today as it was many centuries ago. We owe a considerable debt of gratitude to Harry Freedman for writing this biography. It is a rare for the words ‘scholarly’ and ‘entertaining’ to be used about the same book but in this case they are both apt. I have heard the Torah described as the notes taken by Moses when he received the Bible from God and the Oral Law, which is the basis of the Talmud, as the original holy words, essays and discussions that took place after God’s lecture to clarify; elucidate and augment the way of life that is Judaism. Thanks to Harry Freedman, we can now learn how all this occurred.
Lionel Ross – Author & Publisher
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3.0 out of 5 stars Head spinning 21 Aug 2014
By QueenbRoseb - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I am only on page 30 of this book. It is mind spinning and for me to be read in spurts as it poses a lot of knowledge to take in all at once. It is not a light reading. Though great context and holds my attention it is a slow read for studying purposes those for wanting to learn mor on this Jewish teaching. Be prepared to dig in as that is what a lot of Jewish culture is truly about from what I am learning through this books history. Though I won't be reading in one sitting it will get read.
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