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.
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.
This 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.