The Future of Jewish Law and Theology: A Conversation with Rabbis Shai Held and Ethan Tucker
The Future of Jewish Law and Theology:
A Conversation Between Rabbi Shai Held and Rabbi Ethan Tucker
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
190 Amsterdam Avenue (at 69th Street)
Join Hadar's Rashei Yeshiva in a remarkable evening of conversation.
First, Rabbi Shai Held will interview Rabbi Ethan Tucker about the meaning and future of Halakhah—about Halakhah and values, about whether and how Halakhah unfolds over time, about Halakhic observance in the modern world, and much more.
Then, Rabbi Tucker will interview Rabbi Held about the meaning and future of theology—about why theology is so central for a vibrant Judaism, about the interplay of theology and hesed, about what it means to serve God, and much more.
Becoming Like God: A Kabbalistic View of the Good Life
Becoming Like God:
A Kabbalistic View of the Good Life
An interactive lecture with Dena Weiss
Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
190 Amsterdam Avenue (at 69th Street)
Free of charge
The Tomer Devorah is a work of ethical instruction written by the 16th century kabbalist R' Moshe Kordovero (Rama"k). The Tomer Devorah joins the central idea of striving to be like God with the Kabbalistic representation of God in the Sefirot. It's a unique approach to right action and self-improvement which can provide us with new ways to think seriously about the ways we interact with God, the world, and our fellow human beings.
What Is the Story of the Jewish People? A Close Reading of the Haggadah Narrative
A lecture with Rabbi Elie Kaunfer
Tuesday, March 19 * 7:30pm 190 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10023 Free and open to the public.
At its core, the Haggadah is a story about the formation of the Jewish people. How one tells this story has great significance for how we think of ourselves as Jews and as freed people. In this class, we will examine the different approaches to telling the story that are embedded in the Haggadah. By looking at some ancient versions of the Haggadah discovered in the Cairo Genizah, we will explore the basic question of how we tell our story on Passover.
Rabbinic innovation was not limited to shaping the Torah’s mitzvot; the rabbis created new mitzvot as well and even appended brachot to them. We will examine the boundaries the rabbis needed to negotiate to engage in this enterprise and the role the rabbis saw for themselves as preservers and innovators of the tradition. This is a more advanced class; sources will be available only in Hebrew.
The kindling of lights before Shabbat is both an ancient practice and one that also took centuries to evolve. At its inception, the lighting of these candles was done out of necessity; later, it evolved into a sacred ritual. We will trace these early beginnings as well as examine a vociferous debate between the Tosafists regarding the place of this ritual in Jewish tradition. Sources will be available in English translation.
Is Life in Diaspora Godless? The Land of Israel and the Observance of Mitzvot in the View of Ramban
This lecture looked at Nahmanides’ radical notion that the fulfillment of the mitzvot is contingent upon living in the land of Israel. Nahmanides’ approach is cosmological. God’s relationship with the land of Israel is unmediated, thus, when the people of Israel are in their land that they can connect directly to God. Exile is not just exile from the land but exile from a relationship with God. The restoration of a direct relationship with God is also not dependent on sovereign control of the land; in this way it places premium value on living in the land of Israel but does not lead to a particular political vision.
What does a "Jewish government" look like? Is there an indigenous Jewish picture of government other than a king? What resources do we have to think about Jewish politics independent of halakha?
Surprisingly, some of the most thoughtful and learned Jewish thinkers of the middle ages developed theories of government that we would describe today as "separation of church and state" - long before the Reformation and the Enlightenment.
This class explores the most elegant and developed piece of this school, a sermon given by the great Rabbein Nissim of Gerona in the 14th century. In it R' Nissim, building on Maimonides, lays out a theory of the Jewish sovereign whose responsibilities are to uphold universal morality - even when that leads to different actions than would be dictated by halakha. In other words, according to R' Nissim, the answer to "what does a good Jewish government look like?" is "just like any other good government."
Finally, we'll take a look at how R' Nissim's legacy emerges in the debate between two 20th-century scholars who took up opposite sides on the debate over creating a Jewish government - this time in the land of Israel.
One of the most surprising halakhic expressions of a deep commitment to the status of Israel is a halakha that appears near the end of the tractate of Kettubot, which permits a spouse desirous of making aliyah to impose this decision on the rest of their household, regardless of the personal feelings of individual members. Is this halakha, in fact, applicable in all situations and at all times? What might be the ramifications of such a sweeping generalization, and what different factors might come into play in shaping its boundaries? What do various commentaries on it have to tell us about the value of living in Israel, on the one hand, and preserving conjugal and family peace, on the other? The ways in which this halakha was interpreted and its ideas were developed over time offer a fascinating view into the philosophical and religious underpinnings of Jewish communities and Jewish law in different periods of history, and explore core ideas and practicalities as they interplay around a particular halakhic concept.
Introduction to the Yom Iyun: Framing the Question
Rabbi Ethan Tucker
This introduction lays out the goals of our learning around Israel at Hadar: the creation of a shared vocabulary and canon of texts to which we are all held accountable. Our goal is not to limit the potential range of opinions on the topic of Israel but rather to encourage two key dynamics: 1) Encountering and accounting for views and ideas that challenge our preconceived notions of how we should think about the land of Israel, political power and sovereignty. 2) Giving people more transcendent language for ideas and commitments they already held dear but did not have the means by which to translate them into the age-old conversation of Jewish sources.
Was Abraham Asked to Sacrifice His Ethics? Tuesday, January 29
This lecture will explore anew the classic conflict between ethical commitments and religious duty: the Binding of Isaac. This Biblical narrative plays a central role in Jewish prayer, has inspired countless Jews throughout the generations and continues to haunt us when read on Rosh Hashanah. But in the modern period, the Akedah has been used for more dramatic effect: making true devotion to God dependent on transcending one's own ethical instincts. We will reevaluate this reading in an effort to reclaim the Akedah without sacrificing our own ethics in the process.
Between Wisdom and Honor: When Divine Commands Threaten Human Dignity Tuesday, February 5 Human beings are created in the divine image, and the Torah is built on a foundation of basic human decency. How do we deal with situations where the observance of a commandment gets in the way of this larger vision? We will continue this series by exploring a Talmudic passage that addresses this tension and attempts to lay out a framework for integrating these sometimes competing impulses.
Ethical Norms as the Foundation of the Torah Tuesday, February 12 This lecture will delve into a bold essay by R. Moshe Shmuel Glasner (19th-20th c., Hungary), who spells out a theory of how Judaism ought to relate to modern values that stem from deep ethical impulses, albeit from outside Judaism. We will explore his text as a possible basis for rethinking the interrelationship of traditionally Jewish obligations with contemporary crusades for environmental and economic justice and the never-ending quest to secure human dignity for all. Can we affirm the power of universal ethics without vitiating our commitment to Judaism?
Entering The High Holidays through an Analysis of Yom Kippur
Rabbi Ethan Tucker
One of the most difficult aspects of teshuvah is figuring out what to leave behind and what to carry forward with us. Do we simply write off past failures and press the reset button? Or do we enter into the new year with full consciousness of our failings and preemptively try to address them for the future? We will explore this question through an analysis of the history of Kol Nidre, one of our most famous and confusing pieces of liturgy.
Devarim 21 offers some pretty unsettling views on some pretty unsettling situations. What are we to make of this? Featuring: "Hungaria," by Latché Swing, "Ballade No. 3 in A Flat Major, Op. 47," by Donald Betts, and "Midori," by Beat Culture.