Rabbi Tali Adler
When we say "the rabbis" of the Talmud, who are we talking about? What stories do we tell about them and what can we learn from them? How does a religious leader's personality drive or hinder their impact in the world?
Get to know four of the most important of our early rabbis (called "Tannaim") and how they, according to our legends, rebuilt Judaism after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, who escaped Jerusalem and made a deal with Vespasian to continue Jewish learning; Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrkanus, whose prolific memory and stubborn personality led to his eventual excommunication; R. Akiva, an innovator of unique and stunning insights, martyred by the Romans; and R. Elazar ben Arakh, the lone genius.
What were the advantages and disadvantages of their approaches? How did their personality affect their project and their relationship with their colleagues? What kind of rabbi would we want to be?
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Rabbi Miriam-Simma Walfish
At times, modern death penalty discourse can seem black and white and simplistic. Those who support it cite deterrence and retribution as the primary reasons for this punishment, while those against often cite the possibility of wrongful conviction and the sanctity of human life as reasons against.
What often gets neglected, however, is any discussion of the intricacies of the death penalty process itself. As Beth Berkowitz states in her book Execution and Invention: Death Penalty Discourse in Early Rabbinic and Christian Cultures (which inspired this course), we will examine rabbinic discussions of the death penalty, “…in order to better understand the nexus between violence and authority in the cultures of ancient Judaism and, ultimately, in our own.”
Together we will explore questions such as "is a 'good death' ever possible?" What is the role of retribution in the criminal justice system then and now? How do the rituals of death empower or remove agency from the various actors involved?
We will pair rabbinic texts with more modern takes on the death penalty and allow both types of sources to draw out aspects in the other we may not have seen otherwise.
Rabbi Ethan Tucker
Not eating food in the same way as everyone else has been one of the central markers of Jewish identity for millennia. But many core questions about this practice of Kashrut remain open. Why do we keep Kosher in the first place? What is in our food and how do we know? What about how the food is prepared? Does it matter who prepared it? Who do we trust to prepare food that we can eat? How do we apply these ancient sources on what we can and can't eat in a modern world with abundant soap, dishwashers, and stainless steel?
These 10-sessions are a whirlwind tour through the theoretical and the practical, the whys, whats, and hows of keeping Kosher in an overwhelmingly non-Kosher world.
Rabbi Yonah Hain
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?
We turn to our tradition for answers to the greatest questions of our times: how to handle the messy business of love, sex and relationships.
In this course, we’ll dive into texts across the Jewish canon, from Torah to Mishnah, Talmud to the Legal Codes, exploring questions of “What does it mean to love someone,” “What does a holy, healthy sex life look like,” and “Is there such thing as permitted, sacred sex outside of marriage?”
No topics are off limits for the rabbis! We turn to our Jewish texts as a jumping off point for our own exploration of what it means to be in a relationship.
Is there a right way to question authority? Should I speak out on every issue or choose my battles? What role should shame and humiliation play? When can I leverage power-dynamics, and when should I just keep quiet? In this 10-session course we will explore Jewish stories where our ancestors pushed back on the authority of their government and society, of their own Jewish leadership and even of God.
This course was inspired by the book Why Be Jewish? by Edgar Bronfman.
This course was made in partnership between Project Zug and Samuel Bronfman Foundation. The course was inspired Edgar Bronfman’s book, Why Be Jewish? which can be purchased on Amazon.
Rabbi Avital Hochstein
Visiting the sick is an important Jewish value. We learned this as children, and yet many of us still avoid the actual visit. Illness is complicated for both the one who is sick, and for the visitor. What do we say? How long do we stay? Where do we sit? What is the real purpose of the visit?
"Visiting the Sick" will explore a familiar topic from a uniquely Talmudic perspective and delve into the dynamic between visitor and visited.
This course is designed for someone with some previous Talmud study experience, and also for those interested in exploring this important topic.
Parenting young children, while often a blessing, can sometimes be an isolating experience. Now and then, we all need to talk to another grown-up. This course was created in partnership between Project Zug and Kveller to offer parents a way to meet and connect (digitally, or in person) through exploring what it means to be a Jewish parent.
This 4-session course uses text-study as a mode to explore the multiple demands and values that are constantly tugging at Jewish parents. What from your own parent(s) are you trying to pass on to your kids? When should you prioritize yourself over your kids? What does it meant to raise a child as Jewish?
The course was created by Rabbi Avi Killip, Kveller reader, mom to two young children, and Director of Project Zug at Mechon Hadar.
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.