Ki Tetzei -- Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19

German Jewish thinker Hannah Arendt once remarked: "Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core."

How do we discern the difference between hypocrisy and evil? And then how do we confront evil in life? For modern people, it has become habit to dissect evil into two categories: natural evil and moral evil. Hurricanes and toothaches are examples of natural evils whereas murder and lying are examples of moral evils. From the Torah’s perspective, there are those inevitable moments when we confront moral evil of the most radical kind. The symbol of greater moral evil and the need for its effacement – Amalek — serves as the strong conclusion to this week’s Parashat Ki Tetzei reading, yet this awareness of evil also permeates the 74 other laws (of the 613) recorded here that deal with lesser evils.

Lesser evils all focus on the most granular of human interactions, including: eating on the job, proper treatment of a debtor, the prohibition of charging interest on loans, dealing with wayward children, returning lost objects, sending away the mother bird before taking her birdlings, and erecting safety fences around the roof of one’s home. The greater evils emerge on the battlefield, so that the whole notion of whether war is obligatory or optional is also an emergent issue in our sacred text.

While pragmatism is important, Judaism teaches that there is little sense in compromise when it comes to accepting moral evil – rather every seeker is enjoined to always be moving toward the just and the good so as to live with hypocrisy-free integrity.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's illustration of defaced wheatpaste posters on an urban wall is inspired by Deuteronomy 25:19: " shall obliterate the remembrance of Amalek from beneath the heavens. You shall not forget!" This biblical injunction is the basis for three of the 613 mitzvot: Remember what Amalek did to the Israelites; Wipe out the descendants of Amalek; Do not forget Amalek's atrocities and ambush on our journey from Egypt in the desert. If you’re an art aficionado and this portrayal of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named seems vaguely familiar, it’s because the portrait is a wild-haired riff on one of Austrian artist Egon Schiele’s famous self portraits. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Shul School Continues – More Thinking Matters

ThinkingMattersWe're excited to share the winter and spring line-up for our popular Thinking Matters: Modern Jewish Philosophy mini-course series.

Below, we provide an overview of February – May 2017 Thinking Matters course offerings. (The full 2016–17 mini-course overview can be accessed by clicking here.)

Join our impressive line-up of local star teachers and CBS experts to wrestle with today's urgent questions of Jewish philosophy. Can there be such a thing as a Jewish philosophy, or a philosophy of Judaism? How does Judaism relate to the broader question of the relationship of ethics, religion, and theology to philosophy? (For an introduction to Jewish modern thought and philosophy, we recommend Steven Katz's essay, "Eliezar Berkovits & Modern Jewish Philosophy.")

All classes meet on Thursday evenings from 6:30 – 8 p.m. All sessions are FREE for CBS members, but students are encouraged to make a donation to CBS. For nonmembers, each single session is $12. Alternatively, nonmembers can purchase an 8-session pack for $84, or the full semester subscription for $180.

Facebook_ArendtOrigins Of Totalitarianism From Hannah Arendt To Today
February 9, March 9, April 6, & April 27
(4 sessions w/ Dr. Michael Loebs)

Course Description: Join Dr. Michael Loebs for a re-evaluation of the famed German Jewish political philosopher, Hannah Arendt. This four-session mini-course will involve much interactive discussion about the diverse themes in Arendt’s political philosophy, including authority, legitimacy, popular sovereignty, and its moral implications throughout the world and at home.

Readings: from The Portable Hannah Arendt, "Perplexities of Rights of Man" and "Little Rock"
Session 1: Click here to download
Session 2: Click here to download
Session 3: Click here to download
Session 4: Click here to download


Thinking Through Halakhic Mind/Man In Soloveitchik
February 16 & TBD (due to postponement)
(2 sessions w/ Dr. Adrian Mirvish)

Course Description: What exactly is the status of Jewish law or Halacha? Is it a set of sometimes arcane laws that have simply, historically, over time, evolved to stand as commandments? Is this set of laws obeyed on a subjective basis, because of what Jews over the ages have come to feel and experience - both communally and personally - or is the Halacha rather in some sense truly objective, and if so how exactly does it affect our lives? Another question that can be asked in connection with these positions: is there is any viable connection or relation between objective and subjective poles of religious experience?

Soloveitchik deals with all these issues, setting up a fascinating dialectic between objective and subjective forms of experience plus the phenomenon of revelation. We will explore these topics in the two classes dealing with his thought.

Readings: The Lonely Man of Faith, by Joseph Soloveitchik