This course will introduce students to a variety of ethical issues that concern contemporary society. We will do this by studying Jewish ethical responses to the debates surrounding the beginning of life, end of life, relationships, war and peace and the environment. As we reflect on, and discuss, these issues we hope to demonstrate the relevance and timelessness of Jewish teachings.
This class will study the primary texts associated with the festival that occur in the spring and summer. The first is the Book of Esther which forms the basis for the holiday of Purim. The students will study the entire book, with a focus that they be able to understand it in the original Hebrew, together with many comments on the book that appear in the Talmud and classical commentaries. This will enable the students to appreciate the Purim holiday on a much deeper level. Approximately 10 weeks will be devoted to this topic.
This class will also study the Passover Haggadah, the book through which Jews fulfill the Biblical command to retell the story of the exodus each year at the Seder. The students will study the Haggadah, with a focus that they be able to understand it in the original Hebrew, together with insights culled from an array of sources that may provide a deeper and more meaningful lesson about the exodus, the holiday of Passover and its related Mitzvot. Approximately 4 weeks will be devoted to this topic.
Finally, this class will study the Book of Rut which is read in the synagogue during the holiday of Shavuot. The students will study the entire book, with a focus that they be able to understand it in the original Hebrew, together with many comments on the book that appear in the Talmud and classical commentaries. This will enable the students to better understand why this book is connected to the Shavuot holiday and better appreciate the main theme of the book which is the performance of charity and acts of kindness. Approximately 4 weeks will be devoted to this topic.
This course is a study of the first and second books of Kings.
At the beginning of the semester the class will learn an introduction to this book where much background information related to the book will be presented. In the introduction the class will review the history of the Jewish people until the final days of David, and also discuss several important issues that will emerge during the study of Kings.
The first book of Kings, historically, the fourth book of the prophets, contains events that occurred during the reign of Solomon and the first several kings who reigned after him.
The second book of Kings, historically, the fifth book of the prophets, contains the end of the story of the prophet Elijah and his successor Elisha. It continues to chronicle the troubles that beset the northern kingdom of Israel and Judea and ends with the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Beit HaMikdash (Temple.)
In the first semester this course will examine a Jewish approach theodicy, faith in the face of tragedy and post-Shoah theology. Torah thinkers through the ages have wrestled with halachic and philosophical issues arising out of communal tragedies such as the Crusades, pogroms, and the Holocaust. We will delve into some of this material with an eye to understanding the role of faith in the midst of communal trauma; and how individuals and communities may come to terms with the mundane and spiritual questions that follow such events.
In the second semester, “Religious Zionism,” we will focus on the history of the Religious Zionist movement in Europe and then in pre-State and independent Israel. Viewing Religious Zionism through the lens of connection to Torah and Eretz Yisrael, we will delve into the various political and philosophic viewpoints that came together to create this movement. We will examine the teachings of Rav Kook and his disciples, as well as studying the components of our tradition that connect the Jewish people to Israel. In the latter part of the semester we will also look at the historical development of the movement over time since the 1967 war and the reclamation of Jerusalem.
In this class students will learn aspects of Jewish law that can be particularly relevant while living on a college campus. The topics included in this course will include details of keeping a kosher kitchen and avoiding non-kosher food, how to “kasher” utensils or appliances that have come in contact with non-kosher food, the rules of instructing a non-Jew to perform forbidden labor on behalf of a Jew on Shabbat and holidays and the rules of seclusion between members of the opposite gender. This class will provide the students with a basis for understanding which circumstances can potentially present a problem with regard to Jewish law and how to circumvent those potential problems.
This course will introduce students to some of the most difficult philosophical and ethical issues facing the Jewish world and contemporary society. It aims to give them an opportunity to engage with Jewish texts and ideas that address these topics and prepare them for life after high-school.
We will address issues such as the existence of G-d, why do bad things happen to good people, different Jewish religious movements, Jewish approaches to other religions, sexuality and gender, and personal values and identity.