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Jewish and American Ethos During Tumultuous Times: Complementary and Conflicting Visions of Human Dignity and Worth
Jewish and American Ethos During Tumultuous Times: Complementary and Conflicting Visions of Human Dignity and Worth
Part of the Jack Flamholz Memorial Yom Iyun on Judaism in America: Intersecting Values and Identities.
Dirshu Et Shalom HaIr Asher Hegleti Etchem Shama: On American Jews and American Citizenship
Dirshu Et Shalom HaIr Asher Hegleti Etchem Shama: On American Jews and American Citizenship
Part of the Jack Flamholz Memorial Yom Iyun on Judaism in America: Intersecting Values and Identities
Love in the High Holy Days
Love in the High Holy Days
Aaron Koller on “Love in Akedat Yitzchak The first person in the Torah who “loves” another person is Abraham – and we hear of this love an instant before he is told to offer his beloved son as a sacrifice. Why does the Torah discuss love in this context? How does it affect the story of the Akedah, and how does the Akedah allow us to understand love for fellow humans, love for God, and the potential for a clash between those loves? Elana Stein Hain on “On Love, Hatred and Loyalty” During the Yamim Noraim season, we are bidden to consider our relationships to one another, to community and to God. In light of this tall task, in this shiur, we will explore the terms of אהבה and שנאה in Tanakh, with an eye towards how their definitions may guide us for the new year. This is part of the Stanley Rudoff Memorial High Holy Day Lecture Series
The Legacy of Rav Amital
The Legacy of Rav Amital
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.
Values Lived: Tzeniut in Our Personal and Communal Spheres
Values Lived: Tzeniut in Our Personal and Communal Spheres
David Silber will lead an inquiry into texts and ideas about tzeniut and invite us to consider how to actualize this value across the many domains of our lives.
Walking Humbly: Personal Decisions
Walking Humbly: Personal Decisions
Shira Hecht-Koller, Celene Ibrahim, Jon Kelsen, and Aviva Richman will offer personal reflections about their own choices in relation to the call to walk humbly.
Tzeniut: The Missing Discourse of Modesty
Tzeniut: The Missing Discourse of Modesty
Tova Hartman presents a critique of the ways in which tzeniut is often deployed in our communities and a challenge to reclaim a broader vision of tzeniut.
Colleagues and Warriors: Daily Life in the Beit Midrash
Colleagues and Warriors: Daily Life in the Beit Midrash
Six Character Traits of a Leader (part 1 of a 5-session course)
Six Character Traits of a Leader (part 1 of a 5-session course)
Click here to listen to the other class sessions. Exploring a number of different texts, from the Bible, the Midrash, the Talmud, and the writings of Jewish philosophers throughout the ages, we will explore the character traits that - for better or worse - are associated with leaders and leadership. This textual journey will introduce us to surprising concepts, and provoke us to think about what it might mean to be a leader in our own communities, and also what it might mean to have leaders - Rabbis, teachers, employers and politicians - in your life.
Translating Cultures across Linguistic Divides: The Making of the Septuagint
Translating Cultures across Linguistic Divides: The Making of the Septuagint
The three source sheets for this shiur can be accessed here, here and here.
Hokhma and Sophia: Extremes Meet?
Hokhma and Sophia: Extremes Meet?
The two source sheets for this shiur can be accessed here and here.
From Prophets to Sages: John Hyrcanus and a Heavenly Voice
From Prophets to Sages: John Hyrcanus and a Heavenly Voice
The two source sheets for this shiur can be accessed here and here.
Midrash and Philosophy (part 1 of an 8-session course)
Midrash and Philosophy (part 1 of an 8-session course)
Click here to listen to the other class sessions. We look at a selection of midrashim in each session, and compare and contrast them with a selection of philosophical readings from the Western tradition (from ancient times until today). The texts look at similar issues but have completely different agendas and methodologies, and by comparing and contrasting the texts, we get a clearer idea as to what midrash is all about, but also, about the strengths and weaknesses, limitations and possibilities of philosophy.
Existential Issues in Torah and Talmud: Freedom, Meaning, Integrity, Isolation, Anxiety, Time, and Death
Existential Issues in Torah and Talmud: Freedom, Meaning, Integrity, Isolation, Anxiety, Time, and Death
Using an interactive method, we will explore together ways in which the Torah and rabbinic literature approach the most important human concerns. We will learn from the interactions, conflicts, and synergies of Torah text, midrash and classical commentary as well as from our own life experience. This is the first session of a multi-part class.
Brother Rival / Sister Enemy: Literary and Kabbalistic Readings of Intimate Antagonism in the Bible (part 1 of a 6 session course)
Brother Rival / Sister Enemy: Literary and Kabbalistic Readings of Intimate Antagonism in the Bible (part 1 of a 6 session course)
Click here to listen to the other class sessions. The Bible is filled with tales of enmity between intimates, rivals who are literal or figurative twins. We will look at the literary dimensions of the biblical narratives and will also look at the stories in relation to their interpretation and adaptation by the kabbalistic tradition, particularly by the Zohar, the central work of kabbalah. Though the assumptions that underlie modern literary analysis and kabbalistic mythology are quite different, we will find an uncanny convergence between their imaginative receptions of the biblical stories. Co-taught by Nathaniel Berman and David Silber.
The Place of Holiness in Contemporary Jewish Life
The Place of Holiness in Contemporary Jewish Life
Join two of our community’s foremost teachers of Torah as they discuss the place of holiness in contemporary Jewish life and how they seek to make room for holiness in their teaching and in their work.
Rediscovering Centers of Holiness and the Sacred
Rediscovering Centers of Holiness and the Sacred
Modern society seems to have lost the conception and experience of holiness, or at least to have reduced them to sociology, psychology, ethics or an amorphous sense of spirituality. We will address the possibility of recapturing a distinct, independent, and religious sense of kedusha and suggest ways in which this sense of holiness might be rediscovered in a variety of important aspects of ordinary life.
Silence and Speech in the Presence of Suffering
Silence and Speech in the Presence of Suffering
Self and Sin: An Exploration of Teshuvah
Self and Sin: An Exploration of Teshuvah
The Hebrew word teshuvah is commonly translated as repentance but is more accurately rendered as return. This class will ask, ‘a return to what?’ Who is the real me? What does it mean to abandon a sinful past? We will explore biblical and rabbinic texts as well as medieval and modern thinkers, among them Maimonides, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Altar of Novardok, and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. This recording is the first session of a multi-session course.
Just as Our Faces are Different so are Our Ideas
Just as Our Faces are Different so are Our Ideas
How can we uphold a singular Torah when each of us looks at the world through our own prism?
Love Without Limits? The Dynamics and Problematics of Rav Kook’s Moral Discourse
Love Without Limits? The Dynamics and Problematics of Rav Kook’s Moral Discourse
Rav Kook was on the way of creating a new take on how to live a good life, welcoming personal transformation. We will focus on some moral and personal traits he promoted and explore how they might guide our contemporary lived experiences.
Growth, Renewal, and Expansion: The Innovative and Inclusive World of Learning in Israel in 2015
Growth, Renewal, and Expansion: The Innovative and Inclusive World of Learning in Israel in 2015
New communities and ways of learning are blossoming and expanding throughout Israel, in urban centers and small villages. How and why are a wide spectrum of Israelis finding new entry points back into the world of study and tradition with a joyous sense of renewal?
Consolation in Jewish Thought and Philosphy (part 1 of an 8-session course)
Consolation in Jewish Thought and Philosphy (part 1 of an 8-session course)
Click here to listen to the other class sessions. Consolation is a fundamental longing of the human soul - yet it remains an enigma. Through a study of the notion of consolation, both in Western philosophy (from Plato and Boethius to Leibniz and Nietzsche) and in Judaism (from the Torah, Lamentations and Job to modern Jewish thinkers), we explore its relation to religion.  
The Talmudic Readings of Emmanuel Levinas (part 1 of a 9-session course)
The Talmudic Readings of Emmanuel Levinas (part 1 of a 9-session course)
Click here to listen to the other class sessions. Shedding new light on classical themes as well as modern themes related to the existential challenges of contemporary Judaism, Emmanuel Levinas offers us the unique occasion to reconsider fundamental philosophical questions related to Judaism. In this class we delve into the philosophy of one of Judaism's leading 20th century thinkers through a close study of some of his Babylonian Talmudic readings.  
Prayer and Human Needs: R. Soloveitchik and Other Recent Thinkers
Prayer and Human Needs: R. Soloveitchik and Other Recent Thinkers
In praying for ourselves we become sensitized to the needs of others. What are the values that we extract from our prayers?
Sabbath in the Abrahamic Faiths
Sabbath in the Abrahamic Faiths
An exploration of the ways in which Jewish practices have affected, and have been affected by, Judaism's surrounding cultures.
Close Encounters of the Theological Kind
Close Encounters of the Theological Kind
An exploration of the ways in which Jewish practices have affected, and have been affected by, Judaism's surrounding cultures.
Abraham and the Absoluteness of God
Abraham and the Absoluteness of God
An exploration of the ways in which Jewish practices have affected, and have been affected by, Judaism's surrounding cultures.
Our Hope Is Not Yet Lost
Our Hope Is Not Yet Lost
How does Modern Hebrew literature and culture respond to and challenge traditional Jewish texts? This podcast analyzes Israeli prose and poetry and its complex dialogue with tradition. It also reflects on the conversation going on in Israel today between different parts of society.  
There Is No Other Hand
There Is No Other Hand
When is dialogue not to be pursued? Are there times where speaking is wrong, and silence preferable? What thoughts are better left unsaid? Which voices cannot or should not be heard? This podcast examines passages in Rabbinic Literature where thoughts and feelings are not permitted to enter, and where silence is chosen over words.
Rosenzweig and Buber
Rosenzweig and Buber
While Rosenzweig and Levinas share much in common with Buber, they stress the fundamentally asymmetrical nature of our relation to others and to God. What are the implications of these three philosophers’ ideas for inter-religious dialogue?
Maimonides and Buber
Maimonides and Buber
What are the implications of Maimonides’ privileging our rational capacities over our imaginative ones, for his views on God, prayer, women, Christianity, and Islam? Similarly, what are the implications of Buber's privileging human relations over rationality for his views on God, prayer, women, Christianity and Islam?
Men are from Bavel, Women are from Israel
Men are from Bavel, Women are from Israel
Dialogue demands effective communication. How can people who do not speak the same language engage in productive dialogue? What if the language is the same, but the cultural assumptions are disparate? Using two Talmudic passages dealing with family relationships, this podcast explores text and subtext, and the interplay between them.
Aharon and the Golden Calf: Art and Responsibility
Aharon and the Golden Calf: Art and Responsibility
In Exodus 32, Aharon creates a golden sculpture that the people of Israel worship as a god. What responsibility does an artist bear for how others perceive his/her art? Are an artist’s intentions integral to the ultimate meaning of the work? This podcast explores these questions through a study of biblical and rabbinic texts relating to Aharon’s infamous creation.
Building Sacred Spaces: The Mishkan
Building Sacred Spaces: The Mishkan
The building of the Mishkan stands out as purposeful work, uniquely motivating the Israelites. How was this hard work different from other examples found in the Torah?
Social Justice and Circles of Responsibility
Social Justice and Circles of Responsibility
Yatzer haRah, My Creative and Collaborative Partner
Yatzer haRah, My Creative and Collaborative Partner
We will develop a construct of the purpose of the Yatzer haRah and discuss how to use it to be creative.
Clinging to God
Clinging to God
The act of clinging to God sometimes goes above and beyond the dictates of the law... But it's not for everyone....
Biblical Texts: Safe Haven or Sacred Space?
Biblical Texts: Safe Haven or Sacred Space?
In this podcast, Rabbi Silber discusses the Torah's vision of the Holy Land. This class was part of the Upper West Side Celebrates Israel, convened by the JCC of Manhattan, funded by the UJA-Federation.
Jewish Theological Responses to the Holocaust
Jewish Theological Responses to the Holocaust
Just as Rabbinic Judaism represented renewal after the destruction of the Second Temple, upon analysis we can expect to observe no less a transformation in the Jewish people and our religious experience after the Shoah.
Prophetic Ends
Prophetic Ends
Judaism contains age-old formulations of how to respond to tragedy and radical change that continue to help us today. Turning to our texts helped us to preserve as well as to build.
Transmission, Translation, and Tradition
Transmission, Translation, and Tradition
Why have the Dead Sea Scrolls been so significantly incorporated into our understanding of Jewish history and our national heritage?
New Beginnings
New Beginnings
The diaspora communities of the Second Temple period contributed to Western civilization and grappled with many of the same challenges we do today.
Searching for God in the Ruins
Searching for God in the Ruins
Responses to Suffering in the Book of Genesis
Responses to Suffering in the Book of Genesis
The covenant takes four generations to fulfill- the first three generations suffer without ever experiencing the relief of that suffering, which allows the fourth generation to enter the Land of Israel. This shiur was presented as part of an evening of learning dedicated to Hurricane Sandy relief.  
What is Torah? (part 1 of a 7-session course)
What is Torah? (part 1 of a 7-session course)
Click here to listen to the other class sessions. An investigation of the most fundamental of Jewish concepts – Torah. What are our most ancient and modern conceptions of its wisdom and all it encompasses?  
Is the Torah a Socialist Manifesto
Is the Torah a Socialist Manifesto
Grateful For and Grateful To: Some Philosophical Underpinnings of a Gratitude Infused Relationship
Grateful For and Grateful To: Some Philosophical Underpinnings of a Gratitude Infused Relationship
This podcast was recorded at the Global Day of Jewish Learning 2012.
The Consumption Commandment- Poverty, Luxury, and Equality in Jewish Ritual
The Consumption Commandment- Poverty, Luxury, and Equality in Jewish Ritual
This podcast was recorded at The Global Day of Jewish Learning 2012.
Torah V’Avodah: Learning, Labor and the Hierarchy of Jewish Values
Torah V’Avodah: Learning, Labor and the Hierarchy of Jewish Values
Work is a hugely important aspect of the human experience, as described by the Torah and its laws. How does one go about making time for Torah study, another important priority? Is work itself ennobling or a curse?
Exile: The Secret of Jewish Survival
Exile: The Secret of Jewish Survival
Through a variety of texts - Biblical, Rabbinic, Hasidic and Homiletic - we will explore an alternative and innovative theological framework for understanding Jewish history. How has Exile had a determinative impact on the development of Judaism while constituting a distinctively Jewish conceptual contribution to civilization?
Wisdom and the Meaning of Life in Israel and the Ancient Near East (part 1 of a 2-session class)
Wisdom and the Meaning of Life in Israel and the Ancient Near East (part 1 of a 2-session class)
Click here to listen to the second session. What is life for? The human desire to find order and meaning in the apparent chaos of life is found in all cultures, and left its mark in the literatures of Mesopotamia, Aram, and ancient Egypt. We will explore the possible influences of these texts on our own Biblical wisdom literature.  
Where Was God: Theology, Religion, Halakha, and Community After the Holocaust
Where Was God: Theology, Religion, Halakha, and Community After the Holocaust
When did the Holocaust come into the consciousness of Jews, in America and in Israel?  How did Yom HaShoah come to be, and, for that matter, where did the word “Shoah” itself come from?  How were the emerging theologies of the Holocaust (“God is Dead,” “A New Covenant”) crafted?  Was there an Orthodox “position” on the Holocaust?  What were the halakhic implications of these issues?  These and other questions are explored in a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the Destruction of European Jewry on Jewish religious thought and on the Jewish community.
Body and Soul in Jewish Thought and Practice: Intersection Overlap, or Conflict?
Body and Soul in Jewish Thought and Practice: Intersection Overlap, or Conflict?
We will explore the ways in which Jewish thinkers and texts have defined the “body,” the “soul,” and the nexus between them. Studying such topics as tzelem elokim (image of God) and inui (self-affliction), we will also examine our own relationship to the body-soul split in our Jewish practice.
Holy Feasts or Sacrifices to the Dead? The Meaning(s) of Jewish Eating (part 1 of a 3-session course)
Holy Feasts or Sacrifices to the Dead? The Meaning(s) of Jewish Eating (part 1 of a 3-session course)
Click here to listen to the other class sessions. We will explore the Rabbis attitudes towards food and eating. Among the topics we will discuss are the ethics of meat, the role of asceticism, the meaning of the grotesque and how what we ingest affects how we experience God.  
Revelation in the Torah and Tradition
Revelation in the Torah and Tradition
Anthology is the main literary genre of Judaism. How does this manifest and what are the functional outcomes of this practice?
Representations of Rabbi Soloveitchik: Revision or Reality?
Representations of Rabbi Soloveitchik: Revision or Reality?
We will explore the approaches if Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik of the public affairs arena- women, Zionism, Christian-Jewish relations, dialogue with Conservative and Reform Jews, and how his stances on these issues have been represented and misrepresented in the years since his death.
Primordial Chaos and New Beginnings
Primordial Chaos and New Beginnings
Through the study of passages from Ezekiel and Ezra as well as selections from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, we will study the extent to which these utopian visions echoed understandings of the original Eden and marked a vision of renewal as re-creation. Part of Drisha's Winter Week of Learning 2007, dedicated in memory of Judy Tenzer, z”l
The Law of Moses and the Law of Nature
The Law of Moses and the Law of Nature
Did the Law of Moses predate Creation? If there is a “wisdom” inscribed in the cosmos, how does that impact our understanding of Revelation? We will explore these questions through the wisdom literature of the Bible and Second Temple Writings. Part of Drisha's Winter Week of Learning 2007, dedicated in memory of Judy Tenzer, z”l
Are Mitzvot Rational?
Are Mitzvot Rational?
If mitzvot have reasons, are those reasons rational? Is the purpose of mitzvot to help us live more rational lives or are they meant to get us to rise to some plane above the rational? We will examine the great divide between the rational and mystical schools of Jewish thinking and see how the issue plays out in Bible commentaries on the laws of the Torah.
Should a Jew Look for the Reasons for Mitzvot
Should a Jew Look for the Reasons for Mitzvot
Jewish thinkers through the ages have often disagreed about whether mitzvot have reasons at all, and, even if they do, whether it is meritorious, worthwhile, pretentious or dangerous for us human beings to attempt to figure out those reasons. We will examine texts from Jewish philosophers and Bible commentators which address this issue.
Mitzvot and Polemics
Mitzvot and Polemics
We will examine the claim of many Jewish philosophers and Bible commentators who argue that mitzvot primarily serve the purpose of differentiating Jews from views and practices of the outside world.  Is being different a value in and of itself?
The Philosopher as Rabbi: Orthodox Reservations in Maimonides’ Subsequent Writings
The Philosopher as Rabbi: Orthodox Reservations in Maimonides’ Subsequent Writings
The death of Maimonides' brother marked a watershed moment in his life - catalyzing shifts in his professional life, writings, and philosophical leanings.
The Rabbi as Philosopher: Philosophical Affirmations in Maimonides’ Early Writings
The Rabbi as Philosopher: Philosophical Affirmations in Maimonides’ Early Writings
What would have been Maimonides' philosophical legacy if he had not gone on to write The Guide for the Perplexed? Maimonides' legal works offer an interesting glimpse into his earlier rationalist leanings.
Awaken: A Maimonidean Imperative
Awaken: A Maimonidean Imperative
The Rambam's famous metaphoric interpretation of the shofar blast as a wake-up call must be read as part of a panoply of Maimonidean sources that advance a profound religious imperative to awaken spiritually. We will study passages in the Mishneh Torah and Guide for the Perplexed that explore this motif, and highlight its particular resonance during the High Holiday season. Part of the Stanley Rudoff Memorial High Holy Day Lecture Series.
Beyond Good and Evil: Where Does Man Perceive God?
Beyond Good and Evil: Where Does Man Perceive God?
Tractate Berachot’s concluding discussions of everyday liturgical performances emphasize the need to find God in all realms of experience, by reciting blessings over food and diverse phenomena. This contrasts starkly with parallel discussions in other Talmudic texts, such as Tosefta Berachot, which focus on seeking God through the daily performance of mitzvot. Part of Drisha's Winter Week of Learning 2005, dedicated in memory of Rifka Rosenwein, z”l.  
And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: Earthquake History in the Holy Land
And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: Earthquake History in the Holy Land
Where can evidence of geological devastation be found in antiquity?