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A New Theory of Atonment: Marty McFly, the Scapegoat, the Chicken, and the Bread Crumbs
A New Theory of Atonment: Marty McFly, the Scapegoat, the Chicken, and the Bread Crumbs
In conversation with medieval commentaries, midrash, Chassidic texts, and Stephen Spielberg’s Back to the Future trilogy, we will develop a new theory of atonement. What is atonement and how does it differ from forgiveness? Is it really possible to change the past? And if you’re no longer responsible for your sins, then who is?
Fasting and Animal-Sacrifice
Fasting and Animal-Sacrifice
Why does God command us to kill animals when we’ve done something wrong? What does this have to do with atonement, Yom Kippur, and the Binding of Isaac? Are you ready to transform yourself into a living sacrifice, and is that what we do on Yom Kippur?
Everyone Believes: Rosh Hashanah and the Renewal of Faith
Everyone Believes: Rosh Hashanah and the Renewal of Faith
In the prayers of the High Holy Days, we sing ‘Everyone Believes’ –  a poem by Yannai from the Byzantine Era. In this lecture, we’ll explore the nature of faith, ask whether God has faith in us, and recast the holiday of Rosh Hashanah in terms of a renewal of faith: Human and Divine.
Thoughts on Shavuot
Thoughts on Shavuot
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.
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.
Teshuva and Personal Identity
Teshuva and Personal Identity
To what extent is it possible to become a new person? Is that what teshuva demands? What does the concept of repentance have to teach us about what and who we really are?
What’s God Doing on Rosh HaShanah
What’s God Doing on Rosh HaShanah
Do we believe that God is in time, or does He somehow stand outside of time? How is this question relevant to Rosh HaShanah? Together we will think through some of these philosophical issues, and use them to interpret a puzzling Talmudic debate as to what we have to repent for each year.
The Problem of Perfection
The Problem of Perfection
The existence of Evil seems incompatible with the presence of a perfect God. The Chassidim were particularly sensitive to the dimensions of this problem. Does a Chassidic philosophy, especially one that has God as story-teller, provide new and distinctive options for addressing the existence of Evil? And, what role does human freedom have to play in all of this? Part of Winter Week of Learning 2014
God in the Story and God Outside of the Story
God in the Story and God Outside of the Story
Several Chassidic texts present God as a story-teller, and the world as God’s story. We will examine the philosophical questions created by this depiction and some of the philosophical and theological problems that it helps us to solve. Part of Winter Week of Learning 2014