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COVID and Messianism: Does the Pandemic Mean Mashiach is Near?

Posted: 06/15/2020
COVID and Messianism: Does the Pandemic Mean Mashiach is Near?
Jewish Theology and Covid - Series with Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier The COVID-19 pandemic, resulting shutdown, and prospect of return to a "new normal" has raised not only questions of Jewish law, discussed in a prior series, but also important questions of Jewish theology. Part 3 of this 3-part series analyzing discussions the prospect of messianism, as expressed over recent months.
Coronavirus Theodicy – What is God’s Role and How Should We Respond?

Posted: 06/08/2020
Coronavirus Theodicy – What is God’s Role and How Should We Respond?
Jewish Theology and Covid - Series with Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier The COVID-19 pandemic, resulting shutdown, and prospect of return to a "new normal" has raised not only questions of Jewish law, discussed in a prior series, but also important questions of Jewish theology. Part 2 of a 3-part series analyzing discussions over the value of human life, issues of theodicy, and the prospect of messianism, as expressed over recent months.
Reopen the Shuls? When Valuing Human Life and Religious Expression Conflict

Posted: 06/01/2020
Reopen the Shuls? When Valuing Human Life and Religious Expression Conflict
The COVID-19 pandemic, resulting shutdown, and prospect of return to a "new normal" has raised not only questions of Jewish law, discussed in a prior series, but also important questions of Jewish theology. Listen to part one of this three-part series analyzing discussions over the value of human life, issues of theodicy, and the prospect of messianism, as expressed over recent months.
Shut Down the Mikveh? Halakhic Opinions and Options on Dipping Under Duress

Posted: 05/11/2020
Shut Down the Mikveh? Halakhic Opinions and Options on Dipping Under Duress
Do the dangers of Coronavirus mean there is a need to shut down the communal Mikveh? And if so, what alternatives exist? This class considers recent treatments of this issue, in light of classical sources.
Cancellations and Compensation: Jewish Business Law in the Wake of Covid-19

Posted: 05/04/2020
Cancellations and Compensation: Jewish Business Law in the Wake of Covid-19
With quarantine and shelter-in-place guidelines enforced, our daily routines have been wildly affected and questions on how to still maintain our religious observances abound. Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier explores some of the pressing and timely halakhic questions that have arisen during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Of Bnei Brak, Balconies, and Barchu: The Recent Debate on Counting for a Minyan

Posted: 04/27/2020
Of Bnei Brak, Balconies, and Barchu: The Recent Debate on Counting for a Minyan
With quarantine and shelter-in-place guidelines enforced, our daily routines have been wildly affected and questions on how to still maintain our religious observances abound. Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier explores some of the pressing and timely halakhic questions that have arisen during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Abortion: A Study of Biblical Case Law

Posted: 02/19/2020
Abortion: A Study of Biblical Case Law
Is a fetus a human being with legal standing? The case of two men fighting who accidentally strike a pregnant woman, Ex 21, has been the focal point of this question since Antiquity. BY exploring how this case has been interpreted and how the rabbis view fetal life in aggadic and legal texts, we will be able to shed light on the tensions inherent in attempting to value human life in all its stages.
Who Gets the Ventilator? Triaging Medical Care During a Pandemic

Posted: 04/20/2020
Who Gets the Ventilator? Triaging Medical Care During a Pandemic
With quarantine and shelter-in-place guidelines enforced, our daily routines have been wildly affected and questions on how to still maintain our religious observances abound. Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier explores some of the pressing and timely halakhic questions that have arisen during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Halakhic Responses to Coronavirus: Should I Have a Zoom Seder?

Posted: 04/05/2020
Halakhic Responses to Coronavirus: Should I Have a Zoom Seder?
This Shiur analyzes the broad-ranging discussions about the possibility of holding Zoom Seders in various scenarios and configurations. It considers the different views both from the perspective of earlier sources they draw upon and by noting the emergent values that distinguish them from one another.
Preparing Our Homes for Pesach: The history behind contemporary practice

Posted: 04/01/2020
Preparing Our Homes for Pesach: The history behind contemporary practice
We spend the weeks before Passover in a frenzy of cleaning activity.  Join us as we take a step back to consider the history and theory behind our modern Passover preparations, beginning with the talmudic sources and continuing all the way to contemporary responsa. Our first class will examine the roots of the various means by which we rid homes of hametz: bedikah and biur (search and destroy), mekhirah (selling) and bittul (verbally nullifying).  Our second class will trace the parameters of the laws of kashering: why different materials and types of utensils require different methods, and how traditional kashering techniques have been adapted to modern kitchens.
החמץ כמאבק עם היצר הרע – האם רק דרוש חסידי

Posted: 04/02/2020
החמץ כמאבק עם היצר הרע – האם רק דרוש חסידי
מצה וארבע כוסות שני מישורים של חירות

Posted: 04/01/2020
מצה וארבע כוסות שני מישורים של חירות
Mitzvot of Pesach

Posted: 04/01/2020
Mitzvot of Pesach
It is curious that we recite "hinenei muchan umezuman"- declaring our intent to fuflill a mitzvah at many points during the pesach Seder.  In fact, one of the primary sugyot  addressing whether mizvot require kavvanah focuses on eating matzah on Pesach, and a number of aspects of Pesach touch on questions of intention. In this series of classes we will look at this sugya and related topics dealing with intention and the performance of mizvot concerning Pesach and the status of mental acts such as bitul hametz.
Does Civil Marriage Count? What are the Halakhic Implications for Non-Orthodox and Civil Ceremonies?

Posted: 06/25/2019
Does Civil Marriage Count? What are the Halakhic Implications for Non-Orthodox and Civil Ceremonies?
In this shiur we look at what defines a Jewish marriage. Is it the technical particulars of the ceremony or is it a commitment between a man and woman which is reflected in their state of being? This has direct relevance on marriages both in the Diaspora but most particularly in Israel where only religious marriage is mandated by the State.
Balancing Acts: Legal and Moral Perspectives on End-of-Life Decisions

Balancing Acts: Legal and Moral Perspectives on End-of-Life Decisions
The decisions we make in caring for a dying patient are fraught with emotion. They are also the subject of intense debate among medical professionals and bioethicists, no less within the Jewish community than within society at large, and the tension between traditional Jewish and modern secular positions often complicates these decisions even further. The difference between modern and traditional perspectives on end-of-life care is often framed as the choice between honoring the patient’s autonomy vs. insisting on preserving every moment of life. Yet closer analysis reveals a more complex picture, as halakhists and bioethicists struggle to balance the needs of patients, caregivers and family members. Join us we take a fresh look at some of the key legal and moral issues in this important contemporary discussion.
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."
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

Posted: 11/13/2013
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

Posted: 06/26/2013
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

Posted: 06/12/2013
Toward a Multi-Dimensional Model of Truth in Halakhah
Takkanot Ha-Kahal: Communities Creating Halakhah

Takkanot Ha-Kahal: Communities Creating Halakhah
Truth About Divine Law

Posted: 05/18/2013
Truth About Divine Law
Alexander the Great's conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean brought to the foreground an inherent cognitive dissonance in views of Divine Law as envisioned by the Greco-Romans and the Hebrew Bible - which we've grappled with for the past 2,500 years. How does this context impact our understanding of the legal framework the Rabbis then cultivated?
The Machine-Made Matzah Controversy: Law and Tradition in Conflict

Posted: 03/07/2013
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

Posted: 12/24/2012
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 Hashana. 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 Hashana 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

Posted: 12/27/2004
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

Posted: 12/27/2004
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