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.**
Rabbi Jason Rubenstein
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.
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.
Rabbi Aviva Richman
Food is a powerful force at the center of ritual, community and ethics. This class will explore all of these aspects of food by studying passages on food found across the six Orders of the Talmud. How can the act of eating become a practice of gratitude? Who should receive food as charity, and how much? What rights do field-workers have?
Jumping into the lively debate of Talmud will pave the way for rich discussion to affirm, challenge and transform our own approaches to food.
Rabbi Avi Killip
Rachel is one of the most confusing, beautiful, and tragic characters in the Bible. We may think we know Rachel as Jacob's beloved wife, but there is so much more to learn and wonder about her.
In this course we will discover what makes Rachel such an interesting character, how she is embedded in and affects her family, and how she is presented and imagined throughout the Bible and Jewish thought.
In examining texts from the Bible to rabbinic and modern commentaries we will try to meet Rachel and allow Rachel to introduce us to broader themes within the Bible and beyond it.