"What Is Talmud Study?" Chapter Three

TractateShabbatHenry Hollander, leader of our CBS Talmud shiur (study or lesson), is contributing regular blog posts that explore the Talmud, thus providing members of the community who can not participate in the Tuesday night sessions with a taste of the wonder and complexity the Talmud offers.

CHAPTER THREE of his exploration appears just below. You can read "CHAPTER ONE: In which a simple question proves not so simple" by clicking here. Read "CHAPTER TWO: In which Talmud study will be explained without a single reference to the Talmud itself" by clicking here.

* * * * *
What is Talmud Study?

Chapter Three: In which God uses his words and Abraham uses sharp objects.

In order to fully understand the difference between the written and the oral in Jewish texts, we need to look at the story of creation.

The cosmology that we receive at the beginning of the Torah is difficult. We know from the first verse that certain "things" already exist at the moment of creation – these precursors are darkness, the deep, God, and God's intention to create. The ambiguity inherent in the existence of these "things" creates a philosophical conundrum that medieval Jewish philosophers, Maimonides above all others, address but are unable to resolve: out of what source is the material of creation derived? If God is all, then how can God be changeable? Can a changeable God be perfect? If God is not all and creation is separate from the Divine, how can God be limitless and all powerful? These are rankling questions. The sword that Maimonides wields to cut this Gordian knot is the idea that the natural laws that apply to our physical existence do not also apply to God.

Maimonides places the understanding of this essential dilemma beyond the realm of human cognition and beyond words, but the Torah itself goes another way - "God said, 'let there be light; and there was light.'" God speaks, and through speech alone the physical world manifests.

How are we to understand this act of speech? It is presented in the Torah in words that are easily understandable to us because they are presented in a human rendering of a divine language. But who hears these words and who records them for posterity? The next verse, "God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness," shows that speed and intellection are not identical. "Let there be light" truly is a verbal utterance. The text continues, "God called the light day, and the darkness Night." This shows us that discernment and naming are related, and that both are consequences of separation (division).

The story of creation is a story of speech, of distinction, of judgement, and of naming. Out of speech comes life and activity. The first act of creation echoes through the whole work of creation. It is both foundation and model.

What begins in speech is also accomplished through naming, the means of distinction. Judgement can only be rendered on what has been made distinct. The Written Law begins with spoken words. In the process of discernment (seeing things as distinct from one another), things become separated from each other in name and in the physical world. God makes these separations through speech and thought. But we know that human will does not translate into reality without physical action.

God models this translation for us in the way that convenants between God and Abraham are accomplished. A covenant is made through acts of physical separation – cutting. While all of these cuttings are marks in flesh, it is important to remember cutting (carving, incision, and gouging) was also the action required to produce writing in Abraham's time. One carved into stone, incised into metal and wood, and gouged or traced in clay or even sand.

The first of these covenantal moments is the very odd covenant of the pieces. Abraham (Abram at the time) is told by God that he will come to possess the land and he asks for a divine sign. God calls for Abram to bring a three-year heifer, a three year she-goat, a three-year ram, a turtle dove, and a young bird. Abram does this and cuts all of the animals in half (except, without explanation, the young bird) and lays the two halves of each opposite one other in two symmetrical rows. Abram then falls asleep in the heat of the day and sinks into a feverish dream. In the dream, he is told of the long road his descendants will have to take before they take possession of the covenant-promised land. When he awakes, it is already the darkest of dark nights and "there appeared a smoking oven, and a flaming torch which passed between those pieces."

Abram is brought to a moment that reenacts creation (with a hint of the fourth day in the presence of two different lights). The torch that passes between the pieces reiterates and sanctifies through fire the sacrifice through separation that Abram has made. Abram has made his inscription in the flesh of his offerings, a symmetrical division which mirrors the symmetrical separations made by God in the creation – day/night, heaven/earth, water/land, etc.

This divine sanctification of a human act of physical separation is not yet the equivalent of a full transition to written record, but it is the initiation of the use of signs as abstractions for words and ideas. The Covenant of the pieces is a sign that Abram/Abraham would keep in memory. The next step in this process is brit milah. Brit is the inscription of the covenant onto the living human body. It is the first permanent mark. The technology of covenant is converging with the technology of writing.

This relationship to permanent marking is clarified in the Akedah (the "Binding of Isaac"). Abraham is told to offer up his son as a sacrifice. God’s motivation is a classic conundrum. Whether or not God intends this as a test of Abraham, it becomes exactly that. The usual interpretation is that the Akedah is a test of Abraham’s faith, but it can also be interpreted as a test of Abraham’s understanding of the mechanics of the written aspect of covenant. Isaac already bears the covenantal text on his body. A sign has been inscribed. We are being told that written signs are made to create clarity and for permanence. The misunderstanding on Abraham’s part that needs to be corrected is his belief that a covenant that ends life can overwrite a covenant in life. This second sign would negate the first and is prevented. Subsequent prohibitions on tattoos, scarification, and even beard cutting reinforce this understanding.

In our next installment, we will talk about Jeremiah and the transition from the inscribed to the scribed.

Image credit: A photograph of the title page of Tractate Shabbat in a 1865 printing of the Babylonian Talmud, published by Julius Sittenfeld, Germany

Beshalach -- Exodus 13:17–17:16

Facebook_CoverDesign_BeshalachAre miracles possible?

While the renowned medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides downplayed miracles as momentary exceptions when supernaturalism erupts into the dominant naturalism scripted by the Creator, one of our great modern thinkers, Abraham Joshua Heschel, sought to reclaim miracles as daily moments of radical amazement.

However we define miracles, we must confront them this week as Moses receives the divine command to raise his staff over the water so that the Reed Sea then splits, relieving the Israelites of their predicament, trapped as they are "between a rock and a hard place," and allowing them safe passage. This opening quickly turns into a dead end for the Egyptian armies pursuing the Israelites. Once they are safe on the far side of the sea, Moses, Miriam, and the Children of Israel erupt into redemption songs.

Now in the desert, however the challenges mount. The Israelites suffer from thirst and hunger, and complain to their new leaders, Moses and Aaron. Their thirst is slaked only when the bitter waters of Marah are sweetened. Moses also brings forth water from a rock by striking it with his staff, and causes nourishing manna to rain down on his people each morning and quails each evening. The Israelites gather a double portion of manna on Fridays, since none will fall from the sky on the divinely decreed day of rest known as the Sabbath. Aaron even jars a morsel of manna as testimony for future generations.

The trials continue as the Israelites are attacked by the tribe of Amalek, who is ultimately defeated by Moses and Joshua. It is noteworthy that Moses uses the spiritual power of prayer, while Joshua uses the political power of armed forces.

Where then do miracles and the traces of the miraculous resonate for us in our lives today?

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork is inspired by the Song Of The Sea, the victory song sung by the Israelites after their safe crossing of the Reed/Red Sea. "Your right hand, O Lord, is most powerful; Your right hand, O Lord, crushes the foe." (Exodus 15:6) This is just one example of the Torah's favoring the right hand (or eye) over the left. This preference is shared by many other cultures, and neurologists believe it may be socially as well as biologically enforced. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Shul School Is Back In Session!

ThinkingMattersOur popular Thinking Matters: Modern Jewish Philosophy mini-course series kicks off a new semester next week!

Below, we provide an overview of September – November 2016 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.")

Details and readings for upcoming Thinking Matters single classes and mini-courses are included below.

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.


Elie Wiesel and the Problems of Holocaust Representation
September 22 & October 27
(Sessions continue in 2017: January 12, January 19, February 2, March 2 & 30, & April 20)
(8 sessions w/ Dr. Michael Thaler)

Course Description: Elie Wiesel is universally recognized as the leading voice of Holocaust commemoration and interpretation. This course will highlight significant differences in content and message between Wiesel's original Yiddish memoir, Un di velt hot geshvign (And the World Remained Silent), which is known only to a handful of scholars, and the universally acclaimed French (La Nuit) and English (Night) versions. Dr. Thaler will also compare Wiesel’s work of Holocaust representation with the accounts of other key witnesses, both Jews and non-Jews, including Jerzy Kosinski (The Painted Bird), Tadeusz Borowski (This Way To The Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen), Charlotte Delbo (None Of Us Will Return), Jean Améry (At The Mind’s Limits), and Primo Levi (Survival In Auschwitz). Additionally, to examine the impact of Holocaust narratives on younger American Jewish writers, we shall look at Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, and Jonathan Safran Foer's Here I Am.

Jewish Thinking & Activism In Black Lives Matter
November 3
(1 session w/ Ilana Kaufman)

Course Description: Jewish identity. Jewish values. Black lives. They all matter. Thinking about and reflecting on Jewish identity and values, Ilana Kaufman will present experiences from field work and data, and delve into interesting community dilemmas connecting who we are as Jews and the Racial Justice movement.

Readings: TBD

Ethics In Sacrificing One Life For Another
November 17
(1 session w/ Rabbi Doug Kahn)

Course Description: "Two people were traveling, and [only] one of them had a canteen of water. [There was only enough water so that] if both of them drank they would both die, but if one of them drank [only], he would make it back to an inhabited area [and live]. Ben Petura taught: 'Better both should drink and die than that one see his friend’s death,' until Rabbi Akiva came and taught: 'Your brother should live with you' (Vayikra 25:36) – your life takes precedence over the life of your friend's.'" (Bava Metzia 62a) This one-session class wrestles with the ultimate ethical issue – saving one life at the expense of another. Rabbi Kahn will examine how Jewish law was applied to agonizing life-for-life situations during the Holocaust and continues to be relevant in today’s world.

Readings: None


New Books In Our Library Collection

Rosemary Rothstein and the rest of the CBS Rabin Family Library Committee have been quite busy this past year. New books are added to our collection all the time. We invite you to come by and take a look!

If you would like to check out a book, just take a card from the library desk, sign your name and date, and place the card in the black mesh wire box. If you have an interest in some Jewish subject and can’t find what you are looking for, email Rosemary or Henry Hollander and they will see what they can do for you.

Below, congregant and bookseller Henry Hollander provides a few short reviews of some recently-acquired titles.

* * * * *

Heart of Many RoomsA Heart of Many Rooms: Celebrating the Many Voices within Judaism,
by David Hartman

The late David Hartman (z"l), founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, encouraged thoughtful re-evaluation of Jewish ideas within a traditional Jewish setting. This collection of essays includes sections on "Family and Mitzvah with an Interpretive Tradition," "Educating Towards Inclusiveness," "Celebrating Religious Diversity," and "Religious Perspectives on the Future of Israel." Hartman’s contribution to Jewish education has had an invigorating effect on the many teachers who have studied at the Hartman Institute. While his legacy continues to benefit and shape the institute, we are now deprived of Hartman’s direct teaching. A Heart of Many Rooms provides a a good introduction to this significant Jewish thinker's thought.

Survival in SarajevoSurvival in Sarajevo: How a Jewish Community Came to the Aid of its City,
by Edward Serotta

Serotta is a European journalist and photographer who reported and photographed Sarajevo during the long and brutal Bosnian siege of the city. The war that occurred in the period following the collapse of Eastern European communism pitted Muslims, Croats, and Bosnians against each other. The Jewish community was no one’s enemy. Within the besieged city, the small Jewish population very actively worked to maintain public health, find food for the population, reach out to the isolated elderly, and provide a route of escape for as many people as possible, Jew or non-Jew. Serotta tells the story of this community, nearly destroyed in the Holocaust fifty years earlier, in a moment of very bitter triumph.

Bat Mitzvah of Ana RosensteinA guide for Shabbat worshipers in attendance at the Bat Mitzvah of Ana Rosenstein, Michal Bat Leah Hannah v’Benyamin, Shabbat Shira-Parshah Beshallach, February 11, 2006, 13 Shevat, 5766,
Congregation Beth Sholom, San Francisco, California.

At most of our b'nai mitzvot, the family provides a short brochure to help explain to the uninitiated just exactly what is going on around them and why. This deluxe version of such a production is very well done and can provide a helpful model for families preparing their own (simpler) brochures.

Schocken Guide to Jewish BooksThe Schocken Guide to Jewish Books: Where to Start Reading about Jewish History, Literature, Culture and Religion,
edited by Barry W. Holtz

Three thousand years of Jewish life is a lot to take in. It can be hard to figure out where to start. This guide is one of the best introductions to the world of Jewish books out there.

Wolloch HaggadahThe Wolloch Haggadah. Pessach Haggadah In Memory of the Holocaust,
Illustrated by David Wander with calligraphy by Yonah Weinrib

This Haggadah was originally commissioned as a one-of-a-kind, hand-written and illustrated manuscript. There was a subsequent, high-quality limited-edition portfolio produced. This edition is the first trade edition. It was dedicated to the memory of the Wolloch’s parents, both of whom perished in the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, Haggadot manuscripts were produced for surreptitious use, and they reveal much about how Jews lived and maintained their spiritual lives in the face of overwhelming adversity.

A Haggadah that is a commemoration of the Holocaust is not something I am not always comfortable with. There is an implicit and often explicit connection between the ideas "we were slaves in Egypt" and "we were victims in the Holocaust" that is too rigid for my tastes. That said, this particular rendering of the story of the Exodus from Egypt, drenched as it is in what Salo Baron referred to as "the lachrymose conception of Jewish history," is both beautiful and horrible in its telling of the tale. Come and review it and make your own conclusions!

Meet Claire Ambruster, JVS Summer Intern

CBS is pleased to introduce our Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) Kohn Summer Intern, Claire Ambruster. Claire is supporting multiple departments at CBS during her internship (June 21 - August 12), including communications. Wearing her communications hat, Claire will learn about thoughtful development and management of social media strategy and also gain blogging experience. Today, we're sharing her first blog contribution.

We've been very impressed with Claire so far, and are fortunate to have her on our team, even if only for the summer!

* * * * *

My Journey to Working in the Jewish World

Facebook_ClaireAmbrusterLast week, I began my summer internship through the Kohn Summer Intern Program – a project of Jewish Vocational Service. My fellow interns and I met for the first time at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. We enjoyed a tour of the museum, schmoozed, and discussed our goals for the summer. As Kohn interns, we each work separately at different Bay Area Jewish nonprofits. On Fridays, we come together for interesting seminars, during which we discuss everything from Jewish life to job skills. I will be working with Congregation Beth Sholom (CBS) this summer, and am very excited for the opportunity to explore the inner workings of this synagogue – from drafting CBS Facebook posts to managing membership databases. I am also enjoying getting to know the Beth Sholom community. Simultaneously, I look forward to getting to know the other Kohn interns and learning about the different types of work they are doing to invest in the Jewish world.

Although I now am committed to Jewish practice, I did not always envision that for myself. I grew up in a secular home in San Francisco. Although we lit Hanukkah candles each year, we also strung colored lights around our Christmas tree. As I grew older, I wanted to learn more about my tradition, and I asked my parents to enroll me in Hebrew school. Once enrolled, I quickly became inspired by Jewish teachings. When the time came to pick a high school, I decided to further my Jewish education and enrolled in a pluralistic Jewish high school. I soon fell in love with Jewish studies – from Talmud to contemporary Jewish thought. As I grew, I developed confidence in my faith. I began to contemplate taking larger concrete steps towards Judaism, and I pondered the idea of having a bat mitzvah ceremony and eventually going through conversion, as I am not yet considered halachically Jewish.

Last summer, I was given the opportunity to have my long-anticipated bat mitzvah ceremony. I was participating in the Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI) summer program in Los Angeles, and had spent several weeks engaging in a whirlwind of profound learning with my peers. On the final Shabbat of the program, I stood before a crowded room, eagerly anticipating the ceremony. I read from the Torah, singing notes I had learned only weeks beforehand. Afterward, I reflected on the biblical passage, in which the daughters of Tzelafchad demanded to receive their father’s inheritance, which traditionally went to sons. In the same spirit of the daughters of Tzelafchad, I stood in front of the community to inherit and reaffirm my Jewish identity. After years of questioning my Jewish identity, it was incredibly redemptive and exhilarating to read from the Torah and feel the joy surrounding me.

It is moments like this one – where communities come together in joy and in loss – which remind me how important Judaism is in my life. I look forward to helping build the Jewish world here at Beth Sholom for the remainder of the summer!

Shul School: Spring Thinking Matters Series

Our popular Thinking Matters: Modern Jewish Philosophy
mini-course series continues this spring!

Join our impressive line-up of teachers to wrestle with the exciting and challenging questions of modern Jewish philosophy! How have Jewish traditions participated in the philosophical canon? How are Judaism and Jewish ideas relevant to the modern relationship of ethics, theology, and philosophy? (For an introduction to Jewish modern thought and philosophy, we recommend Steven Katz's essay, "Eliezar Berkovits & Modern Jewish Philosophy.")

Details and readings for the Thinking Matters mini-courses taught in April - June 2016 are included below.

April 7, 14 & May 5, 12
Philosophies of Early Zionism
(4 sessions w/ Ephraim Margolin, Esq.)

Ephraim Margolin's class will meet on Thursday nights in the CBS Board Room from 6:30-8 p.m.
April 7: Biblical Zionism
Source Sheet 1: In-depth outline, Sessions 1-2
Source Sheet 2: Zionism 1 (w/ imagery)

April 14: 1800 Years of Diaspora; Political Zionism

Reading: Stefan Zweig, In The Snow
Source Sheet 1: In-depth outline, Sessions 1-2
Source Sheet 2: Zionism 2

May 5: Political Zionism, Cultural Zionism

Recommended Reading (Not Required): New Essays on Zionism, Edited by David Hazony, Yoram Hazony, and Michael Oren, 2007

Recommended Reading (Not Required): The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul, by Yoram Hazony, 2001
Reading: Ahad Ha'am
Source Sheet 1: In-depth outline, Session 3

May 12: Socialist Zionism, Birth of the State, & Personal Comments
Source Sheet: In-depth outline, Session 4

June 2
On the Prejudice of Philosophers & the Search For Authenticity
(1 session w/ Rabbi Aubrey Glazer)

Rabbi Glazers's class will meet on Thursday night in the CBS Board Room from 6:30-8 p.m.

June 2: On the Prejudice of Philosophers & the Search For Authenticity

Reading: Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, Amud ha'Emet (selections)

June 16
Interrogating the Academic BDS of Israel on Campus
(1 session w/ Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and Russell Berman)

BDSlogoTammi Rossman-Benjamin & Russell Berman's class will meet on Thursday night in the CBS Board Room from 7-8:30 p.m.
June 16: Interrogating the Academic BDS of Israel on Campus
Reading: TBD

Image credits: "Visual History of Nations, Israel (1948)," by Arthur Syzk (CC BY-SA 4.0); the logo of the BDS movement

An Overview of Rabbi Glazer's Israel Trip

From Sunday, December 20, 2015 - Sunday, January 3, 2016, Rabbi Glazer will visit Israel to present some of his recent research, give book talks, study with renowned Israeli scholars, and participate in a program for college students.

7911984On December 24, he will teach in the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem's Winter Break study program, Ta’amu U’r’u – Taste and See. His session is titled “Beginnings Forever After: How do we understand the depths of beginning a relationship to Talmud Torah according to Kabbalah & Hasidut?”

Rabbi Glazer will also give book talks at two Masorti communities -- Neve Schecter, in Tel Aviv, on December 24, and the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem on December 31. His talk, "Is Jewish Thinking Possible After Auschwitz?," interrogates the (im)possibility of Jewish thinking -- and serious metaphysical thought at large -- following the essays of philosopher, pianist, and aesthetician Theodor W. Adorno. These two talks occur in conjunction with the Hebrew-language publication of Rabbi Glazer's A New Physiognomy of Jewish Thinking: Critical Theory After Adorno as Applied to Jewish Thought (Resling Press, Tel Aviv).

"The Zohar: East and West" international conference takes place December 28-30, with two days of sessions at Ben Gurion University, Be'er Sheva, and the final day at the Yad Ben Zvi Institute in Jerusalem. Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 3.52.39 PMCelebrating the culmination of Daniel Matt’s Priztker Edition translation of the Zohar, Rabbi Glazer will present his research on Tiberean Hasdisim's usage of Kabbalah. His presentation will be drawn from his paper, “Between Quietism of the 'Still Mind' & Merging in 'Ecstatic Kisses' In the Holy Land: Zohar as Hermeneutics of Contemplation in Tiberean Hasidism," which explores how the spiritual practice of quieting the busy mind can allow the practitioner to be more fully present and self-actualizing in their interactions with others. In particular, Rabbi Glazer considers how these ideas are expressed in the 18th century spiritual community of Tiberias and its application of the Zohar?

We wish Rabbi Glazer nesiyah tovah (good travels) and fruitful teaching and learning while abroad!

If you need pastoral services during Rabbi Glazer's absence, please contact the CBS offices; we have emergency clergy available in case of birth, death, or serious illness.

Shul School: "Thinking Matters" Resumes

Our "Thinking Matters: Modern Jewish Philosophy"
course series continues this winter!

thinker Join an impressive line-up of teachers to wrestle with the exciting and challenging questions of modern Jewish philosophy! Can there be such a thing as a Jewish philosophy, or a philosophy of Judaism? How have Jewish traditions participated in the philosophical canon? How are Judaism and Jewish ideas relevant to the modern relationship of ethics, theology, and philosophy?

For an introduction to Jewish modern thought and philosophy, we recommend Steven Katz's essay, "Eliezar Berkovits & Modern Jewish Philosophy."

Details and readings for the "Thinking Matters" mini-courses taught in January - March 2016 are included below.

s51-benjamin-540x304 January 7
People of the Book (1 session w/ Henry Hollander)

Henry Hollander's class will meet on Thursday night in the CBS Board Room from 7-8:30 p.m.

January 7: People of the Book, Modernity, & Philosophy of Book Collecting

Reading: Walter Benjamin, "Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting," Illuminations, pp. 59-67

January 14, 21, 28, & February 4
Walter Benjamin: A Jewish Nietzsche? (4 sessions w/ Michael Loebs)

Michael Loeb's classes meet Thursday nights in the CBS Board Room from 7-8:30 p.m.

January 14: On Friendship As Metaphysics

Reading: Friedrich Nietzsche, "of the Three Metamorphoses," "Of War and Warriors," and "Of the Friend," from Thus Spake Zarathrustra, Part I
Reading: Walter Benjamin, "Dialogue on the Religiosity of the Present" (1912)

January 21: Morality and the Critique of Violence

Reading: Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, Part I

Reading: Walter Benjamin, Zur Kritik der Gewalt (Critique of Violence, 1921)

January 28: Art, Culture, & Technology

Reading: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (Book 2, pp. 57-59, 78-89, 107)

Reading: Walter Benjamin, Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1936)

February 4: Redemption from History & Messianism

Reading: Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Advantage & Disadvantage of History (Forward, Sec. 1-3, 6-7)

Reading: Walter Benjamin, Über den Begriff der Geschichte (On the Concept of History / Theses on the Philosophy of History, 1940), w/ "Theologico-Political Fragment"

February 11, 18, & March 17, 24
Philosophy of Purim: Modernity & Perennial Parody (4 sessions w/ Rabbi Aubrey Glazer)

Rabbi Glazer's classes meet Thursday nights in the CBS Board Room from 7-8:30 p.m.

February 11: Philosophy of Purim in Woody Allen, Part I: God, Suicide, & the Meaning of Life
Source Sheet: Beyond Good & Evil: Philosophy of Purim & Hypernomianism
Source Sheet: Source in the Ethical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant

February 18: Philosophy of Purim in Woody Allen, Part II: Zelig, Inauthenticity, & Personal Identity

Source Sheet: Costumes, Masks, & (in)Authenticity

a-texas-judge-cited-the-big-lebowski-in-a-legal-decision March 17: Philosophy of Purim in The Big Lebowski, Part I: “I don’t roll on Shabbos," Jewish Identity, & the Philosophy of History
Source Sheet: Beyond Good & Evil: Philosophy of Purim & Hypernomianism

March 24: Philosophy of Purim in The Big Lebowski, Part II: “That Ain’t Legal Either," Rules, Authenticity, & Hyper-nomianism
Source Sheet: Beyond Good & Evil: Philosophy of Purim & Hypernomianism

February 25, March 3, 10, & 31
Ghetto Thinking: From the First Ghetto in Venice to the Last Ghetto in Lodz
(4 sessions w/ Dr. Michael Thaler)

Dr. Thaler's classes meet Thursday nights in the CBS Board Room from 7-8:30 p.m.

February 25: The Venice Ghetto

Source Sheet: Venice: The first ghetto

March 3: The Venice Ghetto

Source Sheet: Venice, 1616

March 10: The Lodz Ghetto

Source Sheet: Lodz: The last ghetto

March 31: The Lodz Ghetto
Source sheet: Lodz ghetto, 1942

Image credits: uncredited photo of Walter Benjamin; Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche by Hans Olde, 1899/1900; Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi, and John Goodman in the Coen brothers' The Big Lebowski (Courtesy of Universal Studios)

Shul School: "Thinking Matters"

Congregation Beth Sholom's Thinking Matters course series
continues this fall.

Join our impressive line-up of teachers to wrestle with
some of the exciting and challenging questions of modern Jewish philosophy!

"Thinking Matters: Modern Jewish Philosophy"
Can there be such a thing as a Jewish philosophy, or a philosophy of Judaism? How have Jewish traditions participated in the philosophical canon or in philosophical questioning in modern times? How do Judaism and philosophy relate to the broader question of the modern relationship of ethics, religion, and theology to philosophy? Given that modern philosophy claims universal validity, what does it mean to emphasize its historically or culturally determinate sources?

For an introduction to Jewish modern thought and philosophy, we recommend Steven Katz's essay, "Eliezar Berkovits & Modern Jewish Philosophy."

The dates, topics, and educators of the remaining two sections are detailed below, and the relevant readings for Dr. Berman's section can be downloaded by clicking on the hyperlinks.

October 8, 15, 22, & 29
German Political Philosophy & Jewish Thinking (4 sessions with Dr. Russell Berman)

Dr. Russell Berman's classes meet Thursday nights in the Beth Sholom Board Room from 7-8:30 p.m.

October 8: Hannah Arendt, Zionism and Ethnic Politics

Reading: Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

October 15: Eichmann in Jerusalem: Deception and Denial

Reading: the Gershom Scholem-Hannah Arendt exchange of letters
; Hannah Arendt, Reflections on Little Rock

October 22: Hannah Arendt as a Thinking Weapon Against Israel

Reading: Judith Butler, selected chapters from Parting Ways

October 29: Post-Zionism & Thinking against Academic BDS of Israel

Reading: Elkhanan Yakira

November 5, 12, 19, & December 3
Shoah & Postmemory (4 sessions with Dr. Murray Baumgarten)

Murray Baumgarten's classes meet Thursday nights in the Beth Sholom Board Room from 7-8:30 p.m.

November 5: Reading Primo Levi, Se questo è un uomo -- Narrator, Character, Identity, & the 'Hier ist kein Warum'

Reading: Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (part 1)

November 12: Primo Levi, the Chemical Laboratory, and the Periodic Table

Reading: Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (part 2)

November 19: Poetry and Hurbn: Speaking Jewish in German, Yiddish, English, & Hebrew

Readings: Paul Celan's poem "Death Fugue," and poems by Pagis, Glastein, and Reznikoff