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Philosophical Scissors in the Hands of the Rabbis

Posted: 07/22/2020
Philosophical Scissors in the Hands of the Rabbis
In this class, Dr. Lebens will explore a classic Talmudic debate about the limits of acceptable testimony in a court of law. But in order to better understand the various positions that emerge from the Rabbis, we will take a detour through contemporary philosophy of language. What does it mean to cut a sentence into its smallest pieces, and how does this relate to Rabbinic conception of law and justice?
Revelation Revealed – Part 1

Posted: 05/18/2020
Revelation Revealed – Part 1
A key tenet of Jewish faith, and the main theme of Shavuot (the festival of weeks), is the belief that there was a Divine revelation at Sinai. This 2-part course explores various interpretations of that event, and various theories of Jewish revelation in general. In part 1, we'll explore a much neglected puzzle regarding the revelation of the Torah. Our texts will span the ages from Philo through the Talmud and Midrash, all the way to contemporary Jewish thinkers. Our discussions will shed new light on modern critiques of traditional belief from Biblical scholarship to archaeology.  
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 12/1/15

Posted: 12/01/2015
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 12/1/15
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 12/8/15

Posted: 12/08/2015
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 12/8/15
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 12/15/15

Posted: 12/15/2015
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 12/15/15
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 11/3/15

Posted: 11/03/2015
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 11/3/15
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 11/24/15

Posted: 11/24/2015
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 11/24/15
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 11/17/15

Posted: 11/17/2015
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 11/17/15
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 11/10/15

Posted: 11/10/2015
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Midrash And Philosophy 11/10/15
Dr Samuel Lebens: Traits 3/8/16

Posted: 03/08/2016
Dr Samuel Lebens: Traits 3/8/16
Dr Samuel Lebens: Traits 3/1/16

Posted: 03/01/2016
Dr Samuel Lebens: Traits 3/1/16
Dr Samuel Lebens: Traits 2/9/16

Posted: 02/09/2016
Dr Samuel Lebens: Traits 2/9/16
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Traits 2/16/16

Posted: 02/16/2016
Dr. Samuel Lebens: Traits 2/16/16
“In the Beginning” Was There a Day Without a Yesterday?

Posted: 07/25/2019
“In the Beginning” Was There a Day Without a Yesterday?
Summer series 2019 “Moments of Creation.” Discuss the mitzvah of P'ru u-Revu, God's creation "yesh may'ayin" of the human and divine.
Where God Isn’t: Should we bring Godliness into unclean places?

Posted: 28/10/2015
Where God Isn’t: Should we bring Godliness into unclean places?
(Part 1/2) - Should we bring Godliness into unclean places? Holiness is a central Jewish concept, in some sense the essence of divinity: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2).  But what does it mean for finite beings – people or objects – to share in God’s holiness? Are all types of holiness the same? After examining rabbinic sources on this question, we will address an even more profound problem: the concept of unholiness.  How do Jewish sources – ranging from the Talmud to the Hassidic masters to Jewish philosophers – relate to places that are thought to be somehow ungodly, filthy, or disgusting? If God is everywhere, is He in those places too? Can anything in God’s world be unholy?
Holy Moly

Posted: 28/10/2015
Holy Moly
Divine Contractions: A New Perspective on the Kabbalistic Notion of Tzimtzum

Posted: 07/11/2018
Divine Contractions: A New Perspective on the Kabbalistic Notion of Tzimtzum
Part of a three-part lecture series on "In the Image of God: Divine and Human Self-Restraint."
A New Theory of Atonment: Marty McFly, the Scapegoat, the Chicken, and the Bread Crumbs

Posted: 09/22/2016
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

Posted: 28/10/2015
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 Hashana and the Renewal of Faith

Posted: 28/10/2015
Everyone Believes: Rosh Hashana 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 Hashana in terms of a renewal of faith: Human and Divine.
Thoughts on Shavuot

Posted: 06/09/2016
Thoughts on Shavuot
Six Character Traits of a Leader (part 1 of a 5-session course)

Posted: 28/10/2015
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)

Posted: 28/10/2015
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

Posted: 28/10/2015
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 Hashana

Posted: 28/10/2015
What’s God Doing on Rosh Hashana
Do we believe that God is in time, or does He somehow stand outside of time? How is this question relevant to Rosh Hashana? 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

Posted: 28/10/2015
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

Posted: 28/10/2015
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