Philosophy

Facilitated by:
Dr. Meir Buzaglo
Organization: Hebrew University

Shabbat has been a defining feature of Jewish culture for thousands of years, a central part of Jewish identity, a constant rhythm for Jewish life. In this course, we explore the philosophical underpinnings of Shabbat, the various themes and messages that make it so meaningful, and its place in the modern world using ancient sources against 19th and 20th century thinkers, extending their frameworks into the 21st century.

However, for many Jews—in Israel and beyond—Shabbat a very specific valence of extensive ritual laws and restrictions: synagogue ritual, Shabbat candles, prohibition on writing, and so on. In contrast, this course builds the picture from the ground up, assuming that Shabbat is the inheritance of every Jew, leaving aside the practical questions and instead asking the philosophical: What is Shabbat about? What is its place in today's society? How does it correct or supplement modern ideological systems? How can this idea of Shabbat fit into a modern secular and/or Israeli, Jewish culture?

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Facilitated by:
Rabbi Yonah Hain
Organization: Hillel International

This course will investigate pluralism as a value in Jewish life. We will study various dimensions of pluralism and its limits through both text and case studies, empowering participants to live in communities of diverse multiple Jewish identities.

Together, we’ll ask the questions: How do I live a life of conviction while remaining tolerant of others? How can I emphasize what's right for one may not be right for another without falling into relativism? How do I cultivate a sense that you don't have to be wrong for me to be right? How do I satisfy diverging contingents within my community? What are the limits of pluralism?

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Facilitated by:
Clive Lawton
Organization: Limmud

What kind of power do we have as human beings, and who grants us this power? To whom, or what, are we responsible and are there limits to this responsibility? In this ten-session course we will explore a range of ancient and contemporary sources, Jewish and secular, to address these questions and examine the obligations and limits of our responsibility as Jews—and as humans—to the rest of the world.

The videos for this course are a little different than other Zug classes: They model a real chavruta between two Limmud all-stars, Maureen Kendler, who ran the Chavruta Project in its early years, and Clive Lawton, one of the founders of Limmud.

For 20 years, one of the central features of the yearly Limmud Conference in the UK has been the Limmud Chavruta Project. Every year, the project produces a beautiful book of learning material, both traditional and non-traditional sources, designed to be learned in pairs. This is the second Project Zug course adapted from a Chavruta Project curriculum.

This course was made in partnership between Project Zug and Limmud Chavruta Project. You can find out more about Limmud and the Chavruta Project at www.limmud.org

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Facilitated by:
Rabbi Sivan Mass
Organization: T'mura

“One cannot understand Judaism as a culture without understanding secular Jewish culture, much as it cannot be understood without understanding its religious culture” (Yaakov Malkin). Judaism is and has always been a “pluralistic culture”, with Jewish cultures evolving to form sects and groups in Israel and the Diaspora.

In “Secular Jewish Culture”, we will examine the evolution of the modern Jewish identity and the cultural characteristics of the Jewish people in the modern era - central issues in secular Jewish philosophical works. We will delve into the link between humanism, Judaism and secularism, the evolution of the concept of God in Jewish culture and the meaning of pluralism in Judaism, as can be observed in a variety of writings and cultural artwork.

Facilitated by Rabbi Sivan Mass, Prof. Yaakov Malkin, and Rabbi Adam Chalom

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Facilitated by:
Rabbi Avi Strausberg
Organization: Hadar Institute

The Jewish people have long been called the People of the Book, a fitting name given our deep love for the Jewish textual tradition. For hundreds of years, we've pored over the same sacred texts in an attempt to unlock their wisdom, understand their relevance, and take part in a dialogue and debate that spans generations. Yet, it can be difficult to enter into this conversation without having a good sense of what these foundational books are, how they work, and how to best bring them into our own libraries and lives.

In this course, we'll take a close look at the essential core texts that make up the Jewish Bookshelf beginning with the Torah. In the course of our study, we will learn not only what these texts are and how they work but we'll use them as an entryway into conversations about creation in the Torah, self-defense in rabbinic texts, and revelation through the eyes of modern thinkers.

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Facilitated by:
Rabbi Elie Kaunfer
Organization: Hadar Institute

Why do you give? How does your Judaism affect your giving habits? This course will explore what Judaism has to say about the need to give charity: Who needs to give? How much should we give, and to whom? We will explore these issues together through traditional sources and modern answers.

This is a short (5 week) course.

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Facilitated by:
Jeremy Tabick
Organization: Limmud, Hadar Institute

How do we define prosperity? What material and non-material goods are needed for a meaningful, fulfilling life? This course will explore a variety of traditional and non-traditional sources that engage the question of our relationship to money, happiness, and the good life.

This course was created in collaboration with Limmud, based on material collected by Limmud Galil for Limmud's Chavruta Project.

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Facilitated by:
Rabbi Jason Rubenstein
Organization: Yale University

Jews and Christians often say, "Christianity is about beliefs, but Judaism is about actions." It turns out that that's not true – as either a description of the Jewish tradition or in terms of our lived experience of being Jewish in the world: what we believe matters, and it always has.

This class will study a series of related theological and existential question. Are we commanded to believe in God? What if we just can't believe? Does it matter more what we know about God and Judaism, or how we feel towards God and Judaism? The course will examine these questions through the debate between the two greatest medieval Jewish philosophers: Maimonides and his critic, R. Hasdai Kreskas.

We will take up these questions as both intellectual and spiritual concerns, seeking to both understand the ideas of others and to clarify and deepen our own understanding of the world in which we live.

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Facilitated by:
Rabbi Jason Rubenstein
Organization: Yale University

One could argue that, more than anything else, the Torah unites and connects the Jewish people. At the same time, however, few things have been more divisive in the last few centuries than the controversies of the divinity of the Torah, its perfection, its coherence, and Sinaitic provenance.

his class will develop a picture of what's really at stake when we discuss or ignore questions of revelation, the Torah's perfection, and its origins, questions invoked in the earliest rabbinic texts all the way into the late 20th century.

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