Compassion and Love in Jewish Mystical Sources

Compassion and Love in Jewish Mystical Sources

Mar 14, 2022 By Eitan Fishbane | Public Event video

Through study of Kabbalistic texts ranging from 13th-century Spain to 16th-century Tzfat, Dr. Eitan Fishbane, associate professor of Jewish Thought, JTS, explored how the related themes of love and compassion were central to the spiritual and ethical thinking of key Kabbalists. For these mystics, compassion and love were simultaneously ideals in relation to other people and in relation to God; what is more, many understood interpersonal compassion and love as actual manifestations of Divinity in the earthly realm. Our createdness in the image of God brings the ideals of emotion and virtue to life in the physical world.

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Space, Place, and Communities of Faith

Space, Place, and Communities of Faith

Mar 13, 2022

Renowned architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien say that the foundation of architecture “lies in believing that it is possible to make places on earth that can give a sense of grace to life.” Join Williams, Tsien, and their partner Paul Schulhof when they speak with Professor Barbara Mann about their philosophy and how it is reflected in their design for the JTS campus.

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“Tis the Gift to Be Simple”

“Tis the Gift to Be Simple”

Mar 11, 2022 By Gordon Tucker | Commentary | Vayikra | Shabbat Zakhor

Parashat Vayikra inaugurates the book of Leviticus, the center(piece) of the Torah. Following immediately on the completion of the meticulously constructed Tabernacle (Mishkan) and its sumptuous appurtenances, it launches a set of instructions for how that sacred space was to function, and under whose authority. No wonder it was called in Rabbinic times “Torat Kohanim”—“the priests’ manual.” This week thus presents an opportunity to reflect on the relationship between that Mishkan—and all its successor institutions in Jewish life—and spiritual quests.

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The “Burning Heart”: <br>From the Book of Jeremiah to the Metropolitan Opera

The “Burning Heart”:
From the Book of Jeremiah to the Metropolitan Opera

Mar 7, 2022 By Alan Cooper | Public Event video

In Jeremiah 20:9, the prophet compares the divine word to “a burning fire in my heart, shut up in my bones.” This powerful image of irresistible passion constrained has long been interpreted in both positive and negative ways.  Dr. Alan Cooper examined how the image has been used by Jewish authors and also glance at the way it has come to prominence as the title of both Charles M. Blow’s memoir and Terence Blanchard’s pioneering opera based on the memoir. Dr. Alan Cooper examined how the image has been used by Jewish authors and also glance at the way it has come to prominence as the title of both Charles M. Blow’s memoir and Terence Blanchard’s pioneering opera based on the memoir. 

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Can You Rival and Respect Your Teacher?

Can You Rival and Respect Your Teacher?

Mar 4, 2022 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Pekudei

Parashat Pekudei brings the Book of Exodus to a close. Strikingly, Exodus opens with the loss of one home as the Israelites descend into Egyptian enslavement, and that same book closes with the festive completion of another home, the Mishkan or Tabernacle that is the dwelling place of God’s presence. As Pekudei opens we are reminded that the Tabernacle project, far from being the work of one person, involves the entire Israelite “village”—God, Moses, Israelite craftsmen, and Israelite donors. Still, most significantly, we are reintroduced in this Torah reading to the master artisan of the Tabernacle and its appurtenances, Bezalel.

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Can American Judaism Change Jewish Identity in Israel?

Can American Judaism Change Jewish Identity in Israel?

Mar 3, 2022

THE HENRY N. AND SELMA S. RAPAPORT MEMORIAL LECTURE “The New Jew”—a recent Israeli TV documentary series exploring the diverse and creative ways in which American Jews express their Jewishness—was immensely popular in Israel. What accounts for Israelis’ positive response to several distinctively American models of Jewish identity and practice? How can religious expression in […]

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The Jewish Community of Ukraine and the Current Crisis

The Jewish Community of Ukraine and the Current Crisis

Mar 2, 2022 By David Fishman | Public Event video

There are between 50,000 to 100,000 Jews in Ukraine today. This talk, featuring Dr. David Fishman and senior JTS rabbinical student Alisa Tzipi Zilbershtein, analyzed the state of the community, and its reactions to the unfolding events.

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Jealousy and Gender in Rabbinic Literature

Jealousy and Gender in Rabbinic Literature

Feb 28, 2022 By Sarah Wolf | Public Event video

“Men are more likely to have anger issues.” “Women are more sensitive than men are.” We are all familiar with gendered beliefs and stereotypes about emotion in today’s world. Presumptions about gender and emotion also existed in the time of the rabbis, though not necessarily the ones we’d expect. Join Dr. Sarah Wolf to look at rabbinic texts about jealousy and other emotions that are portrayed as negative or dangerous, noticing how gender roles function in these texts, and to reflect on how rabbinic ideas about gender and emotions can help us shed light on our own.

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The Sanctity of the Schoolroom

The Sanctity of the Schoolroom

Feb 25, 2022 By Ofra Backenroth | Commentary | Vayak-hel | Shabbat Shekalim

In the Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard (1884–1962) highlights the importance of the home for each of us: “The house, even more than the landscape, is a “psychic state,” and even when reproduced as it appears from the outside, it bespeaks intimacy” (72). This week’s parashah speaks about building a home—a home for God. Reading the description of this process underscores for me, an educator and a scholar of the arts, the importance of aesthetics and beauty in what we study, the manner in which we study, and above all, the spaces where we study.

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Protected: ‘Out of Zion Shall Go Forth Torah’: Exploring and Unpacking the Weekly Parashah

Protected: ‘Out of Zion Shall Go Forth Torah’: Exploring and Unpacking the Weekly Parashah

Feb 24, 2022 By Matthew Berkowitz

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

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On Needing Certainty Now

On Needing Certainty Now

Feb 18, 2022 By Yitz Landes | Commentary | Ki Tissa

Imagine, for a moment, that you are an Israelite at the foot of Har Sinai. Over the past few weeks, your life has been turned upside down: you have witnessed mind-boggling miracles, you have been freed from slavery, and you have been brought out into the wilderness, to the bottom of Har Sinai. Too scared to go up the mountain (Exod. 19:18, 23), you and your fellow Israelites remain camped out below as Moses goes up and down, eventually staying up on top as God teaches him and prepares the Tablets. You know that you are going somewhere that you should consider home—to be sure, a place that you have never seen—and you know that many of your practices must change.

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Love During the Holocaust

Love During the Holocaust

Feb 14, 2022 By Edna Friedberg | Public Event video

The Holocaust was one of the most profound ruptures in Jewish history. And yet, the foundational human emotion of love persisted—and even blossomed—in the most devastating circumstances. Dr. Edna Friedberg explores the varied manifestations of love—romantic, parental, platonic—at a time of terror and loss. Each of these forms of deep affection and connection offered psychological sustenance and sometimes spurred life-saving acts of courage and altruism. The session will draw from primary sources including diaries, oral testimonies, artifacts, and historical photographs.

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Garments of Light

Garments of Light

Feb 11, 2022 By Raymond Scheindlin | Commentary | Tetzavveh

Last week, we read God’s orders to Moses for the construction of the Tabernacle and its accoutrements. This week, our parashah continues on the subject of the Tabernacle and the preparations for starting the sacrificial cult, focusing on the Tabernacle’s personnel: the priests—particularly their vestments and the rituals for the priests’ consecration.

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Unlocking the Gates of Heaven: The Transformative Power of Grief

Unlocking the Gates of Heaven: The Transformative Power of Grief

Feb 7, 2022 By Rachel Rosenthal | Public Event video

Grief is a primal emotion, often associated with paralysis, but sometimes it has the power to generate great change in the face of loss. In this session, we will study some rabbinic sources that focus on grief and the ways that the rabbis use it to transform their circumstances and their communities.  

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Holding God, Our Tradition, and One Another Close

Holding God, Our Tradition, and One Another Close

Feb 4, 2022 By Jacob Blumenthal | Commentary | Terumah

As a leader in the Conservative-Masorti Movement, I see my own ambivalence around the use of technology on Shabbat and to form minyanim shared among many communities, clergy, and synagogue leaders. How should we position ourselves? Should the new opportunities provided by these technologies lead the way? Should we temper our enthusiasm?  Should we heed Abraham Joshua Heschel’s call to experience Shabbat “independent of technical civilization” and trust in our inherited traditions to hold us together (The Sabbath, 28)? 

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Emotions and Reason, Experience and Intellect: Two Views of the Book of Psalms

Emotions and Reason, Experience and Intellect: Two Views of the Book of Psalms

Jan 31, 2022 By Benjamin D. Sommer | Public Event video

What sort of religious experience does the Book of Psalms reflect and encourage? Does the book primarily appeal to our emotions, or is it first and foremost a work to be studied on an intellectual level? Join Dr. Benjamin Sommer to see how the Book of Psalms provides its own answers to these questions. By addressing these questions, we will have an opportunity to think about the relative places in Judaism of emotion and reason, heart and mind, and to explore the relationship between prayer and text-study in the Bible and rabbinic Judaism.

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The Torah’s Creative Team

The Torah’s Creative Team

Jan 28, 2022 By David Shmidt Chapman | Commentary | Mishpatim

The metaphor of a playwright and director crafting a new play together can be applied to our parashah. The playscript God is developing is the set of mishpatim (rules), expanding on the Ten Commandments. God begins developing the “script” in a speech to Moses in Exodus 21:1: “And these are the rules that you shall set before them . . . ”

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Between the Lines: When I Grow Up

Between the Lines: When I Grow Up

Jan 26, 2022 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Author Ken Krimstein discussed his book, When I Grow Up, a graphic narrative based on newly discovered, never-before-published autobiographies of Eastern European Jewish teens on the brink of WWII—found in 2017 hidden in a Lithuanian church cellar.

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Between the Lines: Sanctified Sex

Between the Lines: Sanctified Sex

Jan 24, 2022 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Author Noam Zion when he discusses his book, Sanctified Sex, which draws on 2,000 years of rabbinic debates addressing competing aspirations for loving intimacy, passionate sexual union, and sanctity in marriage. Noam Sachs Zion guides us chronologically and steadily through fraught terrain: seminal biblical texts and their Talmudic interpretations; ultra-Orthodox rabbis clashing with one another over […]

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The Importance of Shame in Rabbinic Tradition

The Importance of Shame in Rabbinic Tradition

Jan 24, 2022 By David C. Kraemer | Public Event video

We often think of shame or embarrassment as an experience to be avoided, and, to be sure, rabbinic tradition considers shaming someone else in public to be a grievous sin. But the Talmud also teaches that the capacity to feel shame is important, for the fear of shame will keep one from sin. Join Dr. David Kraemer to discuss this complicated emotion and how Jewish tradition “feels” about it.

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