Curious Tales of the Talmud: Finding Personal Meaning in the Legends of our Sages
Dates April-December 2013
Lessons Included 6
Course Overview

Everyone loves a good story. Knowing this, the sages of the Talmud used stories to encode messages about life that are far too deep and profound to communicate directly. This course decodes some of these extraordinary Talmudic mysteries to uncover layer within layer of insight into the nature of life, the universe, G-d, and man.

Course Details




Nobody knows better than you where you will find meaning, but there are places that you're likely to encounter it. Our newest JLI course, Curious Tales of Talmud: Finding Personal Meaning in the Legends of our Sages, will introduce you to a legendary world of insight that has fascinated scholars and mystics for millennia.


Judaism is full of deeply resonant and transformative wisdom. Some of its most profound ideas about life, the universe, the soul, and our relationship with G-d are encrypted in an unusual place-within peculiar and nonsensical Talmudic tales.

The Talmud's zany legends tell of gargantuan sea creatures, vinegar-fueled lamps, idolatrous kings, rivers flowing upstream, and a debate of riddles between Jewish and Athenian sages. These intriguing legends are not usually accessible to the general public, nor are the profound pearls of wisdom that are encrypted within them.


Now you have the opportunity to take this amazing journey for yourself-an adventure to unravel layers of personal meaning as we decode these mysterious tales together.

This fascinating new course addresses many challenges that we face with the ups and downs of life, and how to overcome deep-rooted, undesirable tendencies.

Curious Tales of the Talmud provides access to a deeper dimension of yourself, the insight to appreciate goodness within everything, and a reservoir of courage to navigate life's most rugged moments. You're also likely to encounter a newfound appreciation for your Jewish literary heritage.


Course Endorsements

"For centuries, the Talmud's witty legends have entertained and inspired Jews and Gentiles in communities across the globe. There are very few courses that will give you so much insight and personal meaning like JLI's Curious Tales of the Talmud.
It's a wonderful opportunity and I hope you will attend."
Jackie Mason
Comedian and Actor

"Rabbi Nachman of Breslov once said that God created humanity because He loves stories; and all our world is a story that G-d tells. This course is a wonderful way to learn to penetrate the mysteries of the enchanting stories the Rabbis of the Talmud have bequeathed us. Folded within their depths are the most profound insights about Torah, the world, and God. The Midrash says 'If you wish to come to know Him, who by His word created the world, study aggadah' (Sif. Deut. 49)."
Susan Handelman, PhD
Professor, Bar Ilan University

"The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute is doing great work bringing the unparalleled heritage of Judaism to new generations of Jews in an engaging and delightful way.
This new project is no exception. The Talmud often communicates deep truths about the human condition by telling stories, the meaning of which lies deep beneath the surface. Curious Tales of the Talmud is a fine introduction to the philosophy of Judaism's sages, as relevant today as it was when they were first told."
Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew
Congregations of the Commonwealth

Lesson Details
Lesson 1 Whale of a Tale: Life Lessons from Gargantuan Fish, Geese, and Corpses

An island turns out to be the back of a mammoth sea creature, oceanic waves rise miles high, and an encounter with the "dead of the wilderness:" Rabbah bar bar Chanah's strange parables hold the secret to Jewish survival and offer powerful tips on how to rise above life's challenges.

Lesson 2 When G-d Prayed: A Study in the Art of Anthropomorphism

G-d prayed, sinned, and even requested a blessing from a human being. Talmudic anthropomorphisms highlight the importance of vulnerability in relationships and how being vulnerable shapes the character and essence of our relationship with G-d.

Lesson 3 The Vindication of an Idolatrous King: Seeing the Divine within Everything

The lessons of a vinegar-fueled lamp; singing toddlers; and a tale of a king, a sage, and a dream affect how we judge others and help us to find purpose in our nation's exile and within all that transpires in our lives.

Lesson 4 Greek Riddles: A Camouflaged Theological Debate

A snake's gestation period, a butcher's head for sale, and how to mend a broken millstone are just a few of the paradoxical riddles in a battle of wits between Jewish and Athenian sages, presenting profound intellectual challenges to the fundamentals of our faith.

Lesson 5 The Great Oven Debacle: When the Rabbis Overruled a Heavenly Decision

After exhausting his arguments, Rabbi Eliezer makes a carob tree jump, reverses a stream of water, crumbles the walls of the study hall, and evokes a heavenly voice, all to make a point. What is so important about Rabbi Eliezer's message? How is it relevant to us today?

Lesson 6 A Ticket to Paradise: The Security of Stagnation and the Challenge of Change

How can a small donation surpass a lifetime of life-risking devotion? Illogical rates at a"rent-a-donkey" location and a royal dispute about sheep and goats teach us the dangers of stagnation and suggest a path to radical growth.