Sunday, February 27, 2022
The Book of Ruth may be the closest thing to a “beach read” in Tanakh. Its language is accessible; its characters are vivid and it has a satisfyingly happy ending. At the same time, Ruth articulates theological and political ideas that challenge perspectives that become dominant in the Tanakh canon and in early (and later) Judaism. In this session we will explore Ruth’s subversive ideas and reflect on its powerful strategies of persuasion.
Rabbinic literature is full of descriptions of God's compassion and exhortations to us to be similarly compassionate. But the literature is much thinner on how to become compassionate and what this ideal really means to us as human beings. In this session we will address this issue through the thought of th great 19th century Hassidic master, R' Yehudah Aryeh-Leib Alter, known after his works, Sefat Emet. We'll try to gain an understanding of what it means to emulate God in this way as well as how to identify and work with our own limitations in this area.
Join a conversation with the social media personality whose work documenting her daily study of Talmud has gone viral. With wit, sass and a healthy dose of humor, Miriam summarizes ancient rabbinic arguments, democratizing the study of Gemara and pushing boundaries of gender inclusion through her work.
Monday, February 28, 2022
For Love is as Fierce as Death: Modern Women’s Midrash as a Tool for Reading our Most Difficult Texts
The #metoo movement offered an unprecedented wave of written and oral testimony from women about their painful experiences of sexual assault and harassment. We cannot deny that our Torah also contains many similarly troubling and hurtful narratives. How should we approach these hard moments in our canon? Can midrash serve as a tool to engage with our harshest texts? In this class, we will study a modern midrash from the book Dirshuni that offers one approach to hearing, and maybe even healing from our most difficult texts. Together, we will ask how this approach may offer us guidance as we bear witness to so much pain in our world.
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
We live in a moment of unprecedented breakdown in civil discourse. Yet, our Jewish tradition upholds the principle that constructive disagreement for the sake of heaven (Mahloket L’Shem Shamayim), is not only imperative but a vital tool to generate discussion, critical thinking, personal growth, and the deepening of relationships. Through the study of Jewish texts and social psychology, we will distinguish between different types of disagreements and explore why good people may have diametrically opposing views on moral issues.
We will take a deep dive into messy Talmudic stories and Midrash about the role of song, silence and prayer in navigating a world of chaos. How can song carry us through the tumult of joy, sadness and confusion that life throws our way? When is it time to stop singing? Is song and prayer meant to settle us or sometimes meant to shake us up? Through stories that dramatize the foundations of prayer, we will probe our own relationship to song and silence in our lives and times.
Wednesday, March 2, 2022
Who has the right to anger? When is defiance cast as positive in our texts, and when is it silenced? We will explore the Vashti narrative through the lens of power dynamics, status shifts, performing of gendered emotions, and as an example of reading the resisting woman as “Other”.
When Rebecca, our matriarch, experienced suffering while pregnant with her twins, she went “to seek God,” to try to derive meaning from an otherwise meaningless experience. We will explore how Rebecca can help us in our own struggles to find meaning in a world that may or may not easily give it to us. Sources in original and English.
Since Sinai, the Torah has been copied, published, reprinted and preserved only by humans. Since we know about mistakes, we also have a system to fix and preserve the best text of the Torah possible. Using scrolls, codices and manuscripts from the global library of Jewish texts, I will present evidence for the evolution, editing and correction of our scrolls over millennia. I will show how our traditional literature preserves a record of the evolution of the text of the Torah.
What does the Torah have to say about social justice? As the contributors to “The Social Justice Commentary” demonstrate, a great deal. Learn with the book’s editor, Rabbi Barry Block, and contributors to the book, who delve deeply into weekly parashiyot, drawing lessons to inspire tikkun olam. Contemporary issues addressed include racism, climate change, mass incarceration, Zionism, disability rights, women’s rights, voting rights, and more.
Thursday, March 3, 2022
This class tells the story of Miriam through a number of biblical moments and midrashim. We look at her incredible and perhaps anti-climactic life in search of her moment of prophecy. What we learn through Miriam is a deep truth we won’t want to live without.
In rabbinic literature, the pardes or 'orchard' is a space associated with mystical experience and matters of theology. But why? What can we learn from the fact that God-talk takes place in an orchard? Through exploring classical and contemporary rabbinic texts from midrash and Maimonides to the Zohar and Rav Shagar, we will unfurl the diverse significances of this association and think together about how we might reimagine the place of talking about God in our lives.