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

JTS Professor Burton L. Visotzky’s 10th Book Will Be Published Soon

Press Contact: Eve Glasberg
Office: (212) 678-8089

March 9, 2011, New York, NY

Great stories have the power to draw the heart. But certain stories have the power to draw the heart to God and awaken the better angels of our nature. Such are the classic tales of the Rabbis of the Talmud—colorful, quirky yarns that tug at our heartstrings and test our values, ethics, morality, and imaginations.

In Sage Tales: Wisdom and Wonder from the Rabbis of the Talmud (Jewish Lights Publishing, March 2011), Burton L. Visotzky, the Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies and director of the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), draws on four decades of telling and teaching these legends in order to unlock their wisdom for the contemporary heart. He introduces readers to the cast of characters, explains their motivations, and provides the historical background needed to penetrate the wise lessons often hidden within these unusual narratives. In learning how and why these old-told tales were spun, readers will discover how they continue to hold value for the fabric of their lives.

“I am very excited to publish Sage Tales,” says Dr. Visotzky. “The book is based on a class that I have been teaching at JTS since 1977. After more than 60 iterations of the class and thousands of interactions with my JTS students about these traditions, I decided that it was time to turn the class into a book. I hope it captures the excitement I always feel from the blessed moment that takes place when students engage the sacred texts of Jewish tradition.”

Sage Tales is a revelation. Rabbi Visotzky takes us on a thrilling journey full of wisdom, humor, and timeless lessons. The great Rabbi Yohanan and his disciples come to life before our eyes. Rabbi Visotzky expertly leads us into their world, the world of mystics and miracle workers, of scholars and sages. We learn about theology, Jewish history, about death and comfort, about the way the Rabbis faced the trauma of destruction with ingenuity and resilience. In short, Rabbi Visotzky has blessed us with a deep and lasting gift, a spectacular work that we want to read over and over again,” says Rabbi Naomi Levy, JTS alumna and author of Hope Will Find You and To Begin Again.

For people of all religions and backgrounds, Sage Tales: Wisdom and Wonder from the Rabbis of the Talmud ( is organized into 22 engaging chapters—1 for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The book also includes a detailed glossary, a guide to the rabbis and other characters in the stories, the complete texts, the original sources, and suggestions for further reading.
Professor Visotzky is a lecturer and scholar-in-residence in synagogues, churches, mosques, and university settings throughout North America. He consulted with Bill Moyers and was a featured participant in the PBS television series Genesis: A Living Conversation. He is the author of nine other books, including Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text.

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