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The Modern State in the Eyes of Halakhah
The Modern State in the Eyes of Halakhah
The interaction between the American and Rabbinic legal systems has resulted in not only the American code grappling with how to handle halakhah, but also in the development of a discrete corpus on the rabbinic view of the American legal system and the authority of the modern state. In this session, we will analyze contemporary applications of the halakhic concepts of Mesirah and Dina d’Malchuta Dina, exploring the varying ways in which Jewish law views the American legal court system, and ask whether those views are justified, in terms of both history as well as contemporary jurisprudence. This is part of our lecture series "Halakhah, Religion, and the State." Click here for more information.
Separation of Church and State in the Jewish, Islamic, and American Traditions
Separation of Church and State in the Jewish, Islamic, and American Traditions
As the United States continues to move towards greater separation between religion and state in some respects while promoting a greater role for religious voices in political and legal processes in other respects, questions about the proper relationship between religion and the state loom large. Both Judaism and Islam are all-encompassing normative traditions; in addition to regulating “ritual” matters, they also prescribe correct conduct in the more mundane spheres of private and public interpersonal relations.  While both of these traditions are often thought of as necessitating some form of theocratic government, however, both have historically maintained a relatively strict separation of religious and political authority.  In both Jewish and Islamic practice, moreover, this separation of church and state encouraged moderation and accountability in political and religious affairs, leading to better religious doctrine and better state law and policy.  As we grapple with these questions in this country, the examples of Jewish and Islamic law and practice offer helpful examples of what models of religion-state relations produce what kind of results in both the religious and political spheres. This is part of our lecture series "Halakhah, Religion, and the State." Click here for more information.
Halakhah in the Shadow of the Modern State
Halakhah in the Shadow of the Modern State
The rise of the modern state demanded the reconfiguration of central aspects of Jewish life, including community, law, and identity. This lecture will first delineate the two major ways halakhah was reconceived so as to fit within this paradigm: as private religion within a secular state or as established law for a Jewish state. Then, an underappreciated alternative in which Jewish law is recognized as public but not established by the state will be explored and its potential for contemporary community and politics discussed. This is part of our lecture series "Halakhah, Religion, and the State." Click here for more information.
Death in a Medicalized Age: Halakhah, Ritual, and Ethics in Transition
Death in a Medicalized Age: Halakhah, Ritual, and Ethics in Transition
The manner in which we encounter death today has changed radically compared to past centuries, which has shifted the way in which death is discussed from the realm of the spiritual, concerned with the soul, to that of the technical, concerned with the functioning of the body. This recording is the second session of a five session course.
Bridging the Potential Gap Between Law and Justice: Lifnim M’Shurat haDin
Bridging the Potential Gap Between Law and Justice: Lifnim M’Shurat haDin
In every society that is governed by a defined system of laws, there tends to be a gap between the dictates of the law and the society's ideals of justice and morality, frequently leading to a feeling that where there is law, there is injustice. Jewish law has sought to bridge this gap, of which it is keenly aware.
Keeping Kosher: Rationales and Legal Formalism, Science and Pseudo-Science
Keeping Kosher: Rationales and Legal Formalism, Science and Pseudo-Science
Through an in-depth study of both legal and philosophical texts, we will address the fundamental question: How much does Jewish law need to "make sense" in order to be meaningful? This is a recording of the fifth session of a five session class.
Multitasking and Mitzvot (part 1 of 3 sessions)
Multitasking and Mitzvot (part 1 of 3 sessions)
Click here to listen to the other class sessions. Are you always busy, juggling a million different commitments? Do you wonder how to set priorities within all the different opportunities and tasks that come your way? We will explore the Talmudic principle of "oseik b'mitzvah" the exemption from certain mitzvot for one who has a prior commitment to a different mitzvah. Through close readings of the relevant Talmudic passages and their medieval and modern commentaries, we will use this concept to examine how we can set priorities in our own busy lives.
The Rabbinic Way to a Halakhic Will
The Rabbinic Way to a Halakhic Will
The narrative portions of the Bible overflow with stories of younger children displacing firstborn sons, but biblical and later rabbinic law explicitly decry, and indeed prohibit, changing the fixed order of inheritance whereby firstborn sons receive double, and daughters and wives generally receive nothing. This course will review various legal mechanisms developed by the rabbis, from the Talmud to today, to allow the distribution of assets and estates to include those formally excluded under Jewish inheritance law. The course will also discuss practical ramifications, for the observant Jewish testator, of failing to bring his or her civil will in line with Jewish law, as well as forms and clauses that can solve or prevent those problems. This topic also offers fertile grounds for reflection on the interplay between law and values, and on meaning of formal legal devices that undermine the law's own aims.
Of nighttime thieves, standing your ground, and the castle doctrine: Contrasting perspectives on the use of deadly force in American and Jewish law
Of nighttime thieves, standing your ground, and the castle doctrine: Contrasting perspectives on the use of deadly force in American and Jewish law
The use of deadly force in defense of self and property has become a topic of popular debate. What does the Talmudic legal system justify in a comparable case?
Facebook: Halakhic and Torah Reflections
Facebook: Halakhic and Torah Reflections
As our society engages in (qualitatively and quantitatively) increasing virtual interfacing, it seems wise to reflect on  media platforms such as Facebook . This podcast draws on a variety of Torah sources to develop a language with which we can evaluate the Facebook phenomenon, and ask what possibilities and challenges it presents us with as individuals and as a community. 
Co-existence, Creativity, and Collaboration: Methodological Teachings of the Halakhic Dispute
Co-existence, Creativity, and Collaboration: Methodological Teachings of the Halakhic Dispute
Considering the sweep of diverse halachik opinions in Jewish tradition, the necessity of reaching absolute conclusions often required creative negotiation among competing views. With this tension in mind - how would Tosafot have approached a particular sugya in the Talmud, and how does this dichotomy play out between different segments of contemporary Israeli society?
Three Approaches to Halakhic Process and Creativity: Rav Soloveitchik, Rav Kook and Rav Hutner
Three Approaches to Halakhic Process and Creativity: Rav Soloveitchik, Rav Kook and Rav Hutner
When Text and Tradition Collide
When Text and Tradition Collide
Intentionality in the Babylonian Talmud
Intentionality in the Babylonian Talmud
Shabbat and Mikdash: Halakhah and Meta-Halakhah
Shabbat and Mikdash: Halakhah and Meta-Halakhah
Toward a Multi-Dimensional Model of Truth in Halakhah
Toward a Multi-Dimensional Model of Truth in Halakhah
Takkanot Ha-Kahal: Communities Creating Halakhah
Takkanot Ha-Kahal: Communities Creating Halakhah
The Machine-Made Matzah Controversy: Law and Tradition in Conflict
The Machine-Made Matzah Controversy: Law and Tradition in Conflict
The acrimonious international debate that ensued in the mid-nineteenth century, when a machine for baking Passover matzot was invented, touched upon essential questions concerning the development of Jewish law and lent expression to deeply-held convictions regarding the relationship between traditional piety and modernization.
The Printed Word and the End (?!) of Traditional Torah Authority
The Printed Word and the End (?!) of Traditional Torah Authority
With the advent of printing, the Rambam organized Halakhah into easily navigable categories through compiling the Mishnah Torah, rendering himself supreme arbiter by default. What opposition did he encounter and what do subsequent print publications reveal about the struggle for Halakhic authority? Recorded 12/26/12 as part of Drisha's Winter Week of Learning
Halakhic Responses to Medieval Persecutions
Halakhic Responses to Medieval Persecutions
The slaughter of strong Jewish communities throughout Europe during the Crusades catalyzed the development of the theology of Kiddush Hashem - the choice to martyr one's self rather than undergo forced conversion or murder at the hands of religious persecutors. How did the Halakhic authorities of medieval Ashkenaz react? Recorded 12/24/12 as part of Drisha's Winter Week of Learning.
The Blessings on Food- A Halakhic-Theological Exploration
The Blessings on Food- A Halakhic-Theological Exploration
This podcast was recorded at The Global Day of Jewish Learning 2012.
The Surprising Origin of Tashlikh: A Journey into History, Halakhah and Minhag
The Surprising Origin of Tashlikh: A Journey into History, Halakhah and Minhag
This podcast examines the historical/halakhic sources of the extremely popular custom of tashlikh on Rosh HaShanah. It explores the various permutations that led to the development of the contemporary custom and its underlying symbolisms.
Understanding the Mitzvah of Shofar in Tanakh and Halakhah
Understanding the Mitzvah of Shofar in Tanakh and Halakhah
This podcast examines  biblical and rabbinic sources to uncover the underlying themes and purposes that the Torah and subsequent halakhic development saw in this central ritual of Rosh HaShanah that continues to play such a critical role in our understanding of the High Holidays.
Finding a Useable Past: A Historical Look at Reading Jewish Women into Traditional Texts
Finding a Useable Past: A Historical Look at Reading Jewish Women into Traditional Texts
We will examine a number of medieval texts and discuss the challenges in searching for women's stories and histories when reading traditional Jewish texts written by men for male audiences.
Do Mitzvot Require Intention?
Do Mitzvot Require Intention?
Utilizing classic rabbinic sources as well as relevant psychological material and research, this podcast explores several interpretations of the purpose, meaning and experience of mitzvot from psychological, spiritual, and religious perspectives.
Old Rules, New Reasons
Old Rules, New Reasons
When some halakhot seem to contradict modern sensibilities, traditionalists often try to defend them by providing innovative reasons to make them relevant and appealing to contemporary society. Are these new reasons simply a way of upholding and continuing tradition, or are they paving the way for changes in the laws they seek to preserve?
Why is This Gene Different from All other Genes? Genetics and Stem Cell Research in Jewish Law
Why is This Gene Different from All other Genes? Genetics and Stem Cell Research in Jewish Law
From pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to prenatal testing to disease markers for cancer, what are the halakhic ramifications of genetic and stem cell research? Topics include designer babies, the status of the human embryo in halakhah, and the rabbinic response to the latest technological advances in this exciting field.
Rabbinic Response to Scientific Discovery Throughout the Ages: Conflict or Consonance
Rabbinic Response to Scientific Discovery Throughout the Ages: Conflict or Consonance
Historical medical halakhah included fascinating foci, including smallpox, the medicinal use of mummies, the earliest anatomical dissections, and early theories in embryology. How does rabbinic literature conflict with our modern understanding of medicine, including the 8-month baby, spontaneous generation, and the tree-goos
Organ Transplants
Organ Transplants
We will explore the halakhic debate over organ transplantation including desecration of the dead, definition of death, donor/recipient perspectives, and which organs are permissible.  These topics will also be examined in relation to current issues in bioethics.
Human and Molecular Cloning: Ethical and Religious Dilemmas in a Brave New World
Human and Molecular Cloning: Ethical and Religious Dilemmas in a Brave New World
The worldwide dialogue about the ethics of cloning, stimulated by the report in 1997 of the successful cloning of a sheep, has led to both rational and serious discussion as well as panic and alarmist warnings of imminent disaster. Why does cloning engender such emotional reaction - and what does Judaism have to say about it?
Torat Chaim: Halakhic Perspectives on Fertility
Torat Chaim: Halakhic Perspectives on Fertility
We will examine the ways in which new developments in reproductive medicine have been subject to halakhic analysis. Textual references will be used to highlight the underpinnings of different pesakei halakhah