Purim Eve On (and Off) Broadway!

Purim Eve On (and Off) Broadway!

Mar 16, 2022 By Jan Uhrbach | Public Event video | Purim

Watch the parody songs: View the whole service: For Ma’ariv (Evening Service) and Megillat Esther (Book of Esther), we will be using the Rabbinical Assembly’s newly published volume featuring a new translation of Esther by Dr. Pamela Barmash, an alumna of JTS’s Rabbinical School, and the translation of the evening service from Siddur Lev Shalem. […]

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Kollot Rabbinic Literature, 2021-22

Kollot Rabbinic Literature, 2021-22

Nov 4, 2021 By Jan Uhrbach

November 4, 2021 December 2, 2021 January 13, 2022Download Sources February 3, 2022Download Sources (Page 3) March 24, 2022Download Sources April 28, 2022Download Sources May 12, 2022Download Sources

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Choosing to Choose

Choosing to Choose

Sep 3, 2021 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Nitzavim | Rosh Hashanah

The rabbis taught that Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of the world, or by some accounts, the sixth day of creation, the day that humanity was created. Liturgically, the day is seen as more than just an anniversary. We pray “Hayom Harat Olam,” today the world is born, suggesting that the world, humanity, and each of us individually, are created “today,” every Rosh Hashanah.

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Like It—Or Not? The Existential Tension of Similarity and Difference

Like It—Or Not? The Existential Tension of Similarity and Difference

Apr 26, 2021 By Jan Uhrbach | Public Event video

Foundational Jewish texts point to a series of irresolvable dilemmas or polarities at the heart of the human condition, among them the way in which each of us is both like, and unlike, all others. How does this fundamental tension manifest in our personal relationships, our collective challenges, and our religious expressions, and what wisdom does our tradition offer to help us manage, and even grow from, our differences?

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Strangers to Ourselves

Strangers to Ourselves

Dec 18, 2020 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Miketz

The Joseph narrative contains a striking number of contranyms—words that simultaneously convey opposite meanings. Why?

Contranyms are a natural linguistic expression of the Torah’s insistence that a “both/and” perspective is essential to understanding deep truths, other people, and ourselves. The portrayal of Joseph is a prime example.

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Kollot Rabbinic Literature, 2020-21

Kollot Rabbinic Literature, 2020-21

Nov 12, 2020 By Jan Uhrbach

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The Torah’s Take on Happiness

The Torah’s Take on Happiness

Nov 2, 2020 By Jan Uhrbach | Public Event video

Moses’ final speech concludes with a declaration of the happiness of being a Jew: “Happy are you, O Israel!” But does the Torah describe any individual as happy? While the pursuit of happiness, as expressed in the Torah and its interpretations? Is the American ideal of happiness a Jewish concept at all? 

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Faith, Forgiveness and Prayer: Finding Meaning in the Days of Awe

Faith, Forgiveness and Prayer: Finding Meaning in the Days of Awe

Aug 31, 2020 By Jan Uhrbach | Public Event video | Video Lecture | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

A series of online classes with JTS faculty and staff

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God of the Faithful, God of the Faithless: Belief and Doubt in Prayer

God of the Faithful, God of the Faithless: Belief and Doubt in Prayer

Aug 17, 2020 By Jan Uhrbach | Public Event video | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

Do we need “faith” in order to pray? Can synagogue services be worthwhile and meaningful even if we’re not sure what we believe? We are hardly the first generation to struggle with contradictions among our intellectual beliefs, traditional Jewish liturgy, and the act of prayer. What do biblical and rabbinic texts about prayer, and the prayerbook itself, teach us about these conflicts, and how can they help us connect to prayer even in times of doubt or faithlessness?

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First Failures: Falling Apart and Starting Over in the Book of Genesis

First Failures: Falling Apart and Starting Over in the Book of Genesis

Aug 10, 2020 By Jan Uhrbach | Public Event video

The first book of the Torah is filled with stories of crisis, brokenness, disappointments, and failure, both human and Divine. What religious meaning can we derive from the Torah’s focus on failure rather than success? Through a close look at some of its key narratives, we will mine the Book of Genesis for strategies for living through difficult times, and as the grounding of a hopeful and resilient theology. 

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The Journey

The Journey

Jun 12, 2020 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

How do we progress toward our goals? Individually and societally, how do we know when to move forward, and which direction to go?

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Memory and the Exodus from Egypt

Memory and the Exodus from Egypt

Jan 11, 2019 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Bo

Zakhor—Remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, from the house of bondage, for with a mighty hand Adonai brought you forth from this . . . (Exod. 13:3).

The Exodus from Egypt is the first of several things the Torah commands us to remember (zakhor). What does it mean to remember, and how do we accomplish it?

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Seventh haftarah of consolation

Seventh haftarah of consolation

Sep 7, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Ki Tetzei

We might expect that for the seventh and final haftarah of comfort, the Sages would have chosen a passage recounting complete redemption. Instead, we are given a vision of the removing of obstacles, and the building of a solid foundation, to permit a path forward. Two such obstacles—“rocks” to be removed—are highlighted.

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Sixth haftarah of consolation

Sixth haftarah of consolation

Aug 31, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Ki Tetzei

In the sixth haftarah of consolation, Isaiah draws heavily on the metaphor of light and darkness, and the repair and redemption is imagined as individuals’ and society’s embodiment of divine light. When God’s presence truly shines upon a person or nation, that person or nation is in turn able to bring light to others. This light—which may be understood as moral guidance and instruction, truth, compassion, justice, unification, love—is the true source of power and honor, the “wealth” of which the prophet speaks.

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Fifth haftarah of consolation

Fifth haftarah of consolation

Aug 24, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Ki Tetzei

This fifth haftarah of comfort describes a process of reconciliation. Now on the other side of the abyss, God’s anger and “hiding of the face” can be seen in retrospect as temporary, even momentary, and confidence on the reliability of love and kindness can be restored.

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Fourth haftarah of consolation

Fourth haftarah of consolation

Aug 17, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Shofetim

This fourth and middle haftarah of consolation and comfort begins with a challenge to the people: why do you allow a mere mortal, however seemingly powerful, to send you into a tailspin of fear and anxiety? Isaiah points out that the people are suffering not only from externally imposed oppression, but from their own internal response—dread, reeling like a drunkard, despair. This hopelessness that denies or ignores unforeseen possibility and unexpected redemption is called “forgetting God.”

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Third haftarah of consolation

Third haftarah of consolation

Aug 10, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Re'eh

This third haftarah of consolation and comfort contains a beautiful promise of a society established on righteousness, and consequently free of oppression and fear and safe from ruin. Most strikingly, it critiques the worldview that sees the accumulation of wealth and material possessions as the highest value, offering an alternative vision, in which that which truly satisfies is available “without money.”

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Second haftarah of consolation

Second haftarah of consolation

Aug 3, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Va'et-hannan

Underlying this second haftarah of comfort is a sense of near-despair: the people lament having been abandoned by God, and God responds to their unspoken fear that God is powerless to save them. As the honest grief of the heart and soul that knows what it has lost, such despair is necessary; without it, comfort and hope are false. But despair is dangerous too; it can lead to helplessness, disengagement, and resignation to injustice. It can also create an inability to embrace a redemptive message: while the people lament being abandoned by God, God is calling to them and being ignored.

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First haftarah of consolation (Shabbat Nahamu)

First haftarah of consolation (Shabbat Nahamu)

Jul 27, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Va'et-hannan

This special haftarah, which begins nahamu nahamu ami—“comfort, oh comfort, My people,” is the first of seven special haftarot of comfort (drawn from Isaiah 40–63). During these seven weeks, the relationship between the people and God—strained almost to breaking on Tishah Be’av—is slowly rebuilt, allowing us to stand before God once again on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

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Third Haftarah of Rebuke (Shabbat Hazon)

Third Haftarah of Rebuke (Shabbat Hazon)

Jul 20, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Devarim | Tishah Be'av

In this third haftarah of calamity or rebuke, the opening chapter of Isaiah, the once noble society has sunk to the level of Sodom and Gomorrah. Strikingly, there is no dearth of external piety (indeed, God is over-satiated to the point of disgust with the people’s offerings and prayers), nor is there any charge of sexual impropriety or impurity. Rather, the suffering of the people is caused by injustice, indifference to the cries of the vulnerable, oppression, systemic greed, and selfish and self-serving leadership.

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