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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.
A Substantial Caveat To The Torah?”: Aggadot of the giving of the Torah on Shabbat 88a

Posted: 05/17/2020
A Substantial Caveat To The Torah?”: Aggadot of the giving of the Torah on Shabbat 88a
This section of Masekhet Shabbat contains a series of aggadot (non-legal passages) about the giving of the Torah, including a very famous passage about what really happened when the Israelites stood "at the bottom of the mountain."  We will examine these aggadot, in conversation with each other and with later interpreters, to gain insight into the role of accepting Torah in our own lives.
This is Torah and this is it’s reward? Rabbi Akiva’s end

Posted: 05/13/2020
This is Torah and this is it’s reward? Rabbi Akiva’s end
The period of Sefirat ha-omer between Pesach and Shavuot is associated in rabbinic lore with Rabbi Akiva, and specifically the death of his students in a plague. We will study aggadot about the the master teacher Rabbi Akiva himself - his humble beginnings, his family, his intellectual and emotional power, and his tragic end.  
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.
Rabbi Akiva the Comforter

Posted: 05/06/2020
Rabbi Akiva the Comforter
The period of Sefirat ha-omer between Pesach and Shavuot is associated in rabbinic lore with Rabbi Akiva, and specifically the death of his students in a plague.  We will study aggadot about the the master teacher Rabbi Akiva himself - his humble beginnings, his family, his intellectual and emotional power, and his tragic end.
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.
The Rock-Headed Rabbi: Rabbi Akiva’s beginnings

Posted: 04/29/2020
The Rock-Headed Rabbi: Rabbi Akiva’s beginnings
The period of Sefirat ha-omer between Pesach and Shavuot is associated in rabbinic lore with Rabbi Akiva, and specifically the death of his students in a plague.  We will study aggadot about the the master teacher Rabbi Akiva himself - his humble beginnings, his family, his intellectual and emotional power, and his tragic end.
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.
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.
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.
Drisha veChakira Podcasts

Posted: 01/01/2016
Drisha veChakira Podcasts
Three Drisha scholars invite you to join them as they learn in chavruta. In this new podcast series, Tsvi BlanchardSam Lebens, and Devora Steinmetz explore Talmudic texts together, offering their own unique perspectives and striving to understand the meaning and implications of these words of Torah.
Jews and Christians in Rabbinic Sources: Christian Monks and the Talmud

Jews and Christians in Rabbinic Sources: Christian Monks and the Talmud
Part of Drisha's Winter Week of Learning on Judaism and Christianity
Jews and Christians in Rabbinic Sources: Jesus in the Talmud

Jews and Christians in Rabbinic Sources: Jesus in the Talmud
Part of Drisha's Winter Week of Learning on Judaism and Christianity
Darkness Envelops Me

Posted: 12/25/2016
Darkness Envelops Me
The Talmud tells about the origins of Chanukah in a way that closely parallels a talmudic legend about Adam’s first encounter with darkness. As Chanukah begins, we will study these talmudic texts to illuminate our own encounter with the darkness and with the holiday of Chanukah.
Drisha veChakira: Rebels, Pursuers, and the Cost of Doing the Right Thing

Drisha veChakira: Rebels, Pursuers, and the Cost of Doing the Right Thing
Three Drisha scholars invite you to join them as they learn in chavruta. In this new podcast series, Tsvi Blanchard, Sam Lebens, and Devora Steinmetz explore Talmudic texts together, offering their own unique perspectives and striving to understand the meaning and implications of these words of Torah. In this podcast, we talk about rebels, pursuers, and the cost of doing the right thing.
Drisha veChakira: Whose Blood is Redder?

Posted: 12/13/2016
Drisha veChakira: Whose Blood is Redder?
Three Drisha scholars invite you to join them as they learn in chavruta. In this new podcast series, Tsvi BlanchardSam Lebens, and Devora Steinmetz explore Talmudic texts together, offering their own unique perspectives and striving to understand the meaning and implications of these words of Torah. In this podcast we look at: Whose blood is redder? What’s the mitzvah of the moment? What are the limits of law?
Drisha veChakira: R. Akiva’s Daughter, a Snake, and the Angel of Death

Posted: 12/05/2016
Drisha veChakira: R. Akiva’s Daughter, a Snake, and the Angel of Death
Three Drisha scholars invite you to join them as they learn in chavruta. In this new podcast series, Tsvi BlanchardSam Lebens, and Devora Steinmetz explore Talmudic texts together, offering their own unique perspectives and striving to understand the meaning and implications of these words of Torah. In this podcast, we meet R. Akiva’s daughter, a snake and the angel of death.
Drisha veChakira: Elijah, a Gatehouse, and a Chasid

Drisha veChakira: Elijah, a Gatehouse, and a Chasid
Three Drisha scholars invite you to join them as they learn in chavruta. In this new podcast series, Tsvi BlanchardSam Lebens, and Devora Steinmetz explore Talmudic texts together, offering their own unique perspectives and striving to understand the meaning and implications of these words of Torah. In this podcast, we encounter a Talmudic passage about the prophet Elijah, a gatehouse, and a chasid.
Elisha ben Abuya

Elisha ben Abuya
Part of the class "Aggadah: Inside the World of the Rabbis." In this course we will explore the stories of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. These narratives provide insight into the social networks of the Rabbis, their concerns, passions and struggles. The topic for this session is Elisha ben Abuya.
Dead Sea Scrolls within the Babylonian Talmud? The Rift with the Pharisees

Dead Sea Scrolls within the Babylonian Talmud? The Rift with the Pharisees
The two source sheets for this shiur can be accessed here and here.
“They Cared For Me in Life and They Will Care For Me in Death”: Deathbed Stories in the Babylonian Talmud (part 1 of a 19-session course)

“They Cared For Me in Life and They Will Care For Me in Death”: Deathbed Stories in the Babylonian Talmud (part 1 of a 19-session course)
Click here to listen to the other class sessions. The Babylonian Talmud contains several lengthy narratives detailing the deaths of Torah Sages. Some are carefully orchestrated deathbed scenes, others are more raw and unplanned. In this class we will explore these narratives, noting how they are constructed from earlier texts and questioning why the Bavli editors chose to tell these stories and what we can learn from them.  
He Who Must Not Be Named? The Curious Case of Ploni Almoni

Posted: 11/16/2014
He Who Must Not Be Named? The Curious Case of Ploni Almoni
In the Book of Ruth, names are of paramount significance, but Ruth's would-be redeemer seems to be consciously nameless. How did the rabbis understand this omission, and what are we to learn from the man who has no name?
Navigating the Sea of Talmud: Study, Teaching, and Personal Religious Meaning

Navigating the Sea of Talmud: Study, Teaching, and Personal Religious Meaning
Three master teachers of Talmud- Dr. Alyssa Gray, Rabbi Dov Linzer, and Rabbi Ethan Tucker- will discuss their approaches to Talmud study and talk about how Talmud study is meaningful to them.
“She Said Well”: The Brief Wondrous Life of Beruriah

Posted: 11/11/2014
“She Said Well”: The Brief Wondrous Life of Beruriah
Beruriah is the only female scholar mentioned by name in the Talmud. She is simultaneously a part of the rabbinic world of Torah study and also an outsider to it. This podcast discusses the texts in which she appears and considesr the challenge of reconciling one's own sensibilities with a broader tradition of learning.
The ‘Conceptual’ Approach to Talmud Study: Where Has It Been, Where Is It Going, and Why Does It Matter?

The ‘Conceptual’ Approach to Talmud Study: Where Has It Been, Where Is It Going, and Why Does It Matter?
The Yeshiva movement assumes that learning Gemara is the central spiritual practice of Judaism. But why does delving into the specifics of property rights, torts, or even the intricacies of Shabbat and nidah reflect the pinnacle of a person’s encounter with God? This podcast surverys several approaches to learning Gemara within the world of the Yeshiva and discuss how each interprets and fulfills the spiritual aspirations of Talmud study.
Talmud Study as a Religious Practice

Talmud Study as a Religious Practice
Talmud study poses formidable challenges: the Talmud is a difficult and complex text, its modes of argumentation can appear foreign or artificial, much of its subject matter can seem dissonant with or distant from the realities of our lives. This lecture focuses on some of the more challenging aspects of the Talmud and discuss how these very attributes can contribute to the religious formation of the student of Talmud.
“That was no lady, that was my wife!” – Stories of Rabbis and Their Wives (part 1 of a 3-session course)

“That was no lady, that was my wife!” – Stories of Rabbis and Their Wives (part 1 of a 3-session course)
Click here to listen to the other class sessions. The women of the Talmud both preserve rabbinic traditions and challenge them. Although usually the Rabbis' wives are invisible and unheard, occasionally we get a peak at their personalities, their concerns, and their relationships with their rabbi husbands. We will study the story of a wife who dresses as a prostitute to catch her husband's attention and another who resorts to unusual means to have a conversation about contraception, among others. In addition, many of the rabbis' wives carried their own traditions with them into their marriages, and we will examine episodes where wives teach Torah to their husbands.  
Hearing Aggadic Voices: Ancient Wisdom Learned Anew (part 1 of a 10-session course)

Hearing Aggadic Voices: Ancient Wisdom Learned Anew (part 1 of a 10-session course)
Click here to listen to the other class sessions. Talmudic tales speak candidly of the complexities of adult life within a community shaped by a rabbinic value system. Gender relations, status, loyalty, competition, marriage, parenting, and exclusion are probed within an intricately-woven context of community life, exposing emotions such as envy, guilt, desire, and vulnerability.  
Rabbinic Literature and Its Dis-Contents Situating the Genres of Talmud and Midrash in Their Civilizational Context

Rabbinic Literature and Its Dis-Contents Situating the Genres of Talmud and Midrash in Their Civilizational Context
How does contextual theology motivate Midrash in its interpretation of Talmudic literature?
Trouble in the Vineyard: Talmudic Stories of the Sages of Yavneh (part 1 of a 4-session course)

Posted: 06/04/2013
Trouble in the Vineyard: Talmudic Stories of the Sages of Yavneh (part 1 of a 4-session course)
Click here to listen to the other class sessions. Stories invite us into the lives- real or imagined- of others, challenging us to use our minds and hearts to enter their struggles, conflicts and achievements. In this series, we will learn four stories about a famous group of sages- Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva. We will discuss methodological issues relating to the study of aggadah, and we will use a variety of tools to weave our way into this tapestry of narratives.  
When God Prays: A Literary Analysis of a Provocative Talmudic Story

When God Prays: A Literary Analysis of a Provocative Talmudic Story
What are the contextual motivations behind the Talmud's aggadic illustrations of God at prayer?
Bad Romance?: Rabbinic Love and Matrimony (part 1 of 2 sessions)

Posted: 07/02/2012
Bad Romance?: Rabbinic Love and Matrimony (part 1 of 2 sessions)
Click here to listen to the other class session. The rabbinic tradition is not known for its models of equality in relationships.  However, the Talmud presents a number of stories of rabbis and their wives which transcend the boundaries of halakhic conversations and instead go in surprising directions.  How do husbands treat their wives, and vice versa?  What happens when there is a dispute and the wife can quote Torah to prove her point?  Each class will examine the Talmud's portrayal of a couple to see what values lie within the rabbinic model of marriage.
Yom Kippur and the Imagination of the Aggadists

Posted: 09/14/2010
Yom Kippur and the Imagination of the Aggadists
We will examine selected aggadot in the Talmud relating to themes of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. We will explore certain central themes the rabbis attempted to highlight in their non-legal takes on the Yoma rabba (the great day) of the Jewish calendar.
Talmud in Andalusian Tradition

Talmud in Andalusian Tradition