Vision & Valor
An Illustrated History of the Talmud
By Rabbi Berel Wein
Maggid Books, 2011
An imprint of Koren Publishers, Jerusalem
Reviewed by Boris Segel - March 25, 2011
Vision & Valor: An Illustrated History of the Talmud is a unique book that tells the history of the Talmud via enlightening biographies and stories of the sages who compiled and interpreted the Babylonian Talmud. The book is written in a narrative form, and is organized chronologically, covering the period from C. 210 to 430 CE, when the Talmud was completed.
This volume was written by Rabbi Berel Wein, an American born and educated orthodox Rabbi who now resides in Israel. Rabbi Wein is well known as a scholar of, and lecturer on, Jewish history. He has also written a number of well received books on Jewish history, including Triumph of Survival, Heralds of Destiny, and Echoes of Glory. Rabbi Wein is also the director and founder of the Destiny Foundation.
What makes this book so unique is that the biographies are not, strictly speaking, biographies. Rather they are narratives about not only the given subject, but also about the people they interacted with and the time they lived in, including insights into Jewish society, folkways, and lifestyles in Babylon, and in the Land of Israel, during the various periods covered. In short, while technically a book of biographies of the great Amoraim (Jewish scholars and sages) associated with the Talmud, it is also a popular history of the Jewish life throughout the period during which the Babylonia Talmud was being codified.
This book includes extensive endnotes that can be used as a stepping stone for further study on the subject of the Babylonian Talmud. Also included in this book are a number of charts, margin notes, and a timeline which together help to expand and clarify the text. Vision & Valor can be used in a classroom setting, or as general reading material. Rabbi Wein's narrative writing style and natural story telling ability make this book a pleasure to read - no matter what your reason for delving into its pages.
Some of the people that you'll meet within the pages of this book are:
Rav Abba bar Ayvu
Rabah bar Nachmani
Rav Yehudah bar Yechezkel
and many more...
Vision & Valor is the companion book to Rabbi Wein's The Oral Law of Sinai: An Illustrated History of the Mishnah. Both books are stunningly illustrated and written in a narrative style. As well both books can be read straight through, or you can skip around, reading on a particular subject or personage that happens to strike your interest. As well, both are books that will appeal to readers of all ages, and which you are likely to read more than once. In short, both books would make a fine additions to both public and private libraries.
Patterns in Jewish History, by Rabbi Berel Wein.
Through the prism of timeless themes: education, customs, anti-Semitism, assimilation, the role of women, teachers and rabbis, the land of Israel and more, Rabbi Wein examines the values that have enabled the Jewish people to survive and thrive for three thousand years.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Talmud, by Rabbi Aaron Parry.
A comprehensive introduction to the Talmud, including its history, structure, wisdom, and trivia. This book also includes insights into living a Talmudic life and studying the Talmud.