Rabbi Michael Marmur
In these sessions, we will explore the ways in which Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) came to articulate a theology of social activism and political engagement from within the sources of traditional Judaism. We will look at some key passages in his writings and identify some of the key strands in this theology, as well as raising some challenges implicit in his approach. The Bible, Rabbinic literature, Maimonides, the Kabbalah and Hasidism – all these and more play a role in the development of his activism. We will consider some of these sources and ask if it is possible or desirable to seek a basis for a liberal political agenda from within an ancient tradition.
Avraham smashing the idols, Vashti sprouting a tail, and the very fact that the Torah was created 974 generations before creation. Many of the stories Jews (and other readers of scripture) tell about the characters in Tanakh are not found there, but are contained in a large body of literature called Midrash.
How did Midrash come to be, and how old is it? How do practitioners of midrash decide what stories to tell, and did they actually think they were part of scripture?
In this course we learn the tools of learning midrash as a sophisticated and rich method of reading scripture, from its beginnings to the eighth century, but mostly through conversations on and close readings of "classical midrash," redacted in 4th century Palestina/Eretz Israel.
**This course is going to take an academic look at how midrash is structured. If you have experience learning midrash and have always wondered how it "works," this is the course for you. This course will not be an intro to midrashic stories.**
With true poetic licence, Yehuda Amichai changed the name of God from 'Makom,' or ‘Place,’ to 'M'komot', or ‘God of the Places.’ Amichai’s use of the plural points to a crucial aspect of the Jewish past, for great controversy has always surrounded the ways Jews viewed the they departed from and the one’s they now call home.
It is clear that places of residence and departure are a key determining features of Jewish identity, as suggested by the terms Israeli, Diasporic, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrachi. Yet, perhaps the real controversy does not lie in the places themselves but rather in the decisions of whether to move from one place to another. Do Jews flourish in the stasis of settled life, in the turbulence of movement, or are they happiest when ’between two worlds'? The course will work through the shelves of the Jewish library, drawing on texts that illuminate the dynamics of Jews and travel, stasis and movement.
Rabbi Ethan Tucker
Is Judaism primarily an ethnic or religious identity? How do we work with Jews with whom we disagree? How can I maintain my ideological integrity while understanding other Jews' perspectives also? In this course, we will investigate the boundaries and definitions of Jewish peoplehood, and the delicate balance between our responsibilities to ourselves and to all other Jews.