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The ancient rabbis believed that the world rests on three pillars: study, worship, and good deeds. It is said that the greatest of these is study, for it leads to the other two. But exactly how does the modern Jewish reader go about studying the Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash—the great ancient and often hard-to-comprehend texts of our tradition? And how do we glean the great insights and wisdom from these sacred texts, which inspired our ancestors, and apply them to our modern lives?

With guidance from renowned author and educator Barry Holtz, these ancient texts take on new meaning for us. He provides a framework for exploring our thinking about God, prayer, and ritual, as well as social issues, such as charity, friendship, and justice. His new study guide helps readers and study groups launch their exploration of the ancient texts, posing probing questions to help them stay engaged as they pursue their quest for a deeper understanding of their faith. This spiritual and spirited book is a must-read for adult Jewish learners and educators alike.

Author Bio

Barry W. Holtz is dean of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education and the Theodore and Florence Baumritter Professor of Jewish Education at The Jewish Theological Seminary. He leads courses in teaching classical texts, professional development for teachers, philosophy of Jewish education, and current issues confronting Jewish education. Dr. Holtz has written and edited numerous publications in the field of Jewish education. In 1984, he edited Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts (Simon and Schuster), a guide to reading, understanding, and appreciating great Jewish books. A Book-of-the-Month Club selection, Back to the Sources is widely used as a textbook for university and adult-education courses. He is the author of Finding Our Way: Jewish Texts and the Lives We Lead Today (Schocken Books, 1990) and The Schocken Guide to Jewish Books (1992), another Book-of-the-Month Club selection. His first book (written with Arthur Green), Your Word Is Fire: The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer, has been reprinted in a revised edition by Jewish Lights Press. His most recent book, Textual Knowledge: Teaching the Bible in Theory and in Practice, was published by JTS Press in 2003. It received the National Jewish Book Award for education in 2004. Dr. Holtz served for twelve years as codirector of JTS’s Melton Research Center for Jewish Education, where he supervised the writing and publication of several volumes of the Melton Graded Curriculum materials for Jewish schools across North America. A native of Boston and a graduate of Tufts University, Barry Holtz received his doctorate from Brandeis University.