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


Beraysheet -- Genesis 1:1-6:8

facebook_coverdesign_bereshitNew Beginnings: How do I want to begin again this year?

Whenever a new chapter in life is about to begin, it is wise to take a step back and ask: How do I want to begin? What are my hopes, aspirations, and dreams?

The Jewish New Year is a time to ask ourselves similar questions: How do I want to begin again this year? And, as we begin again at the Torah scroll's start, with Genesis, what role does my kehillah kedoshah (my sacred community) play in this new beginning?

Six decades ago, on Yom Ha'atzmaut, the American Jewish community was searching for a way to begin again with its religious Zionist dreams. Rabbi Yosef Dov haLevi Soloveitchik (z”l) delivered a now-classic talk about religious Zionist philosophy at Yeshiva University. "The Voice of My Beloved Knocks (Kol Dodi Dofek)" elaborates upon God’s tangible presence in the recent history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel — does this relationship constitute a "covenant of fate" (berit goral) or a "covenant of destiny" (berit yi’ud)?

Let's contrast fate and destiny. Although Jonah did not necessarily experience the joys of fate once the lots were drawn and he was cast off the ship by the sailors, we can still discern four positive consequences of the awareness of a shared fate: 1. shared historical circumstances; 2. shared suffering; 3. shared responsibility and liability; 4. shared activity. As opposed to the "covenant of fate," which was made with an enslaved people without free will, the "covenant of destiny" was made with a free nation which could, and did, make up its own mind. God does not simply impose the Torah on community; God offers it to us. And every year, God is still awaiting our response — anew. As a "people" (‘am, from the word ‘im, meaning "with"), therefore, we have no way to determine our own fate; as a "nation" (goy, related to the word geviyah, meaning "body"), however, we have the ability to forge our own destiny.

The story of creation we read of this week in Genesis 1:1-6:8 is a story of beginnings and creative inspiration, and all of this transpires within the creation that has already occurred – the divine Creator creates more than once. God as Creator forms the first human body from the unformed earth, blowing a living breath into it to form a soul. A help mate, Eve, is then formed for Adam. Moving from a state of radical loneliness to begin building community happens in relationship. But not all beginnings bode well or even last, and creation begins again with Noah, a righteous man alone in a corrupt world.

Are the end and the beginning of these episodes in the human condition "always there"? If so, what does this teach us about the way we wander and dwell in the here and now? I suggest that God offers us the opportunity to begin again by becoming a goy kadosh ("holy body") not only at Sinai (in the Book of Exodus), but also at the beginning of each year's Torah cycle – we have this opportunity for real growth.

Whether we live up to the challenge and take hold of Torah in our lives is really our choice – and our destiny. Each of us has the potential and creative power to harness a renewed covenantal relationship with our kehillah kedoshah, our sacred community at CBS. May this year give us all another opportunity to join and deepen our relationships to each other as we take hold of Torah – once again at the beginning everafter...

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork is inspired by one of the best known lines in the Torah. "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Genesis 1:3) The image was created with both the Kabbalistic creation story (the nitzotzot, or sparks of the divine) and prevailing cosmological theory (the Big Bang) in mind. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.