Rebuilding the Temple Within

Rebuilding the Temple Within

Jul 16, 2021 By Eitan Fishbane | Commentary | Devarim | Tishah Be'av

With this parashah, we begin the book of Deuteronomy, the opening of a book of memory—a recalling of the forty years of desert wandering while simultaneously anticipating the entrance of the people into the Land of Israel.

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“The Catastrophist”: A Theatre Talkback

“The Catastrophist”: A Theatre Talkback

Jul 15, 2021 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Watch the recording of our conversation with the team behind the acclaimed virtual drama “The Catastrophist,” a stirring meditation on scientific discovery, Judaism, family, life, and loss.

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Who Gets the Last Word?

Who Gets the Last Word?

Jul 9, 2021 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Masei | Mattot

Mattot and Masei, the last two portions of the book of Numbers (30:2–36:18), are usually read one after the other on the same Sabbath. Are these portions linked by something other than the quirks of the Jewish calendar?

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In the Face of Violence, a Covenant of Peace

In the Face of Violence, a Covenant of Peace

Jul 2, 2021 By Marc Gary | Commentary | Pinehas

Karen Armstrong, the scholar of religion and popular author of such works as The History of God, relates that wherever she travels, she is often confronted by someone—a taxi driver, an Oxford academic, an American psychiatrist—who confidently expresses the view that “religion has caused more violence and wars than anything else.” This is quite a remarkable statement given that in the last century alone, tens of millions of people have been killed in two world wars, the communist purges in the Soviet Union and its satellites, and the Cambodian killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, none of which were caused by religious motivations.

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Backstage Pass: Ben, Jonah, and Henry Platt in Conversation with Abigail Pogrebin

Backstage Pass: Ben, Jonah, and Henry Platt in Conversation with Abigail Pogrebin

Jun 29, 2021 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Watch the recording of our conversation with Ben, Jonah, and Henry Platt as they discuss their professional achievements and aspirations as well as how their Jewish experiences and involvements have influenced their careers. The annual Henry N. and Selma S. Rapaport Memorial Lecture.

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Greater than Moses?

Greater than Moses?

Jun 25, 2021 By Burton L. Visotzky | Commentary | Balak

Although this week’s Torah reading is named for the Moabite king Balak, who sought to curse the Israelites, the real star of the show is the gentile prophet Balaam ben Be`or—with a special comedy cameo by his talking ass. Three whole chapters of the Torah (Num. 22–24) are given over to the efforts of Balak and Balaam to curse the Jews. In the end, of course, God prevails, and on Friday nights in Schul we still sing Balaam’s blessing, “Mah tovu ohalekhah Yaakov—How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel.”

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Heroes and Humans

Heroes and Humans

Jun 18, 2021 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Hukkat

One of the things I love most about the Bible is that it presents humans, not heroes. Even the Bible’s greatest figures have virtues and vices.

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Korah Had Options and So Do We

Korah Had Options and So Do We

Jun 11, 2021 By Stephanie Ruskay | Commentary | Korah

Korah is most famous for challenging Moses’s authority, framing rebellion in the guise of populism, and calling on Moses to share power and religious titles. The Rabbis understand Korah’s call for shared leadership and responsibility as a selfish desire to see himself awarded the role of the kohen gadol. He did not actually want “people” to have power; rather, he personally wanted authority and prestige and framed rebellion as something he was doing for the greater good.

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Jewish Bible Translations: Personalities, Passions, Politics, Progress

Jewish Bible Translations: Personalities, Passions, Politics, Progress

Jun 9, 2021 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Author Leonard J. Greenspoon discussed his book, Jewish Bible Translations: Personalities, Passions, Politics, Progress, in which he highlights distinctive features of Jewish Bible translations and offers new insights regarding their shared characteristics and their limitations.

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A Wandering People: Jewish Journeys, Real and Imagined

A Wandering People: Jewish Journeys, Real and Imagined

Jun 7, 2021 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Video Lecture

Notions of home and homeland have been redefined by Jewish wandering. Drawing on literary, spiritual, and historical sources and responses, JTS scholars explore what happens when Jews—whether by force or voluntarily, whether in reality or in the imagination—travel from one place to another. 

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Contempt for God’s Word?

Contempt for God’s Word?

Jun 4, 2021 By Gordon Tucker | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

Numbers chapter 15, having set forth instructions for how to atone for unintentional sins, next turns its attention to deliberate transgressions (30–31):

But the person who transgresses with a high hand, whether native or sojourner—he reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from the midst of his people. For he has shown contempt for the word of the Lord [devar adonai bazah], and God’s commandment he has violated. That person shall surely be cut off, his crime is upon him.

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Help Wanted

Help Wanted

May 28, 2021 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

In recent years, Jewish institutions have joined efforts to address issues of equity in the workforce, encouraging transparency in publicized pay scales, promotion criteria, and job requirements. This endeavor has been facilitated by pioneering organizations such as the Gender Equity in Hiring Project that did not exist when I negotiated salary for my first classroom teaching position. I reflect back on the hiring process, which felt at the time like a puzzle for which I was meant to know the solution but could not access; I now understand that these feelings of isolation were common, particularly when no formal pay scale existed. Today as an activist for workplace equity, I benefit from the wisdom of current advocacy; at the urging of some of our alumni, The William Davidson School weekly newsletters have recently begun to only post descriptions that include salary ranges. This seemingly small change enables a level playing field, putting employers and job candidates on more equitable negotiating grounds.  

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These are the Developments of the Human

These are the Developments of the Human

May 26, 2021 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Ethan Daniel Davidson discussed his book, These are the Developments of the Human, a compilation of wisdom and insights that he captured over years of various study partnerships of Jewish text with rabbis and other learners from across the world.

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Parenting Lessons from the Priests

Parenting Lessons from the Priests

May 21, 2021 By Abigail Uhrman | Commentary | Naso

It is a beautiful moment in this week’s parashah: God asks Moses to instruct Aaron and his sons to bless B’nei Yisrael on God’s behalf. Not only is the sentiment and poetry of the priestly blessing stirring in and of itself, but given its use in contemporary religious life, it carries even further resonance. In Jewish households across the world, parents offer this blessing to their children as part of their Friday night ritual. In my own experience, I have vivid memories of my grandparents and parents blessing me and my sisters with these words, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to do the same for my children each Shabbat. Those few precious moments—where my husband and I get to hold each of our kids, whisper these ancient verses, and kiss them “Shabbat shalom”—have become a sacred occasion in our home. I’ve repeated these phrases now over many weeks and years and, at times, with little thought to the meaning behind the words. A closer reading of the text, though, has affirmed for me some essential parenting lessons.

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Counting the Moments

Counting the Moments

May 14, 2021 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Shavuot

Among the many ways that the pandemic has impacted us this past year has been our relationship to the passage of time. On the one hand, time felt like a blur, with one day bleeding into another. Save for Shabbat, each day looked like the day before and the day after. We wore the same clothes and interacted face-to-face with the same few people in our pods. We sharply curtailed, cancelled, or postponed the life-cycle celebrations, sporting events, live performances, and travel that would normally punctuate our year. Our lives constricted dramatically, as did our hopes and dreams, and even if we were fortunate enough not to suffer illness, death, or job loss, many of us experienced a sense of monotony or diminishment.

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Crushing the Red Flowers

Crushing the Red Flowers

May 13, 2021 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Author Jennifer Voigt Kaplan discussed her book, Crushing the Red Flowers, which tells the story of how two ordinary boys cope under the extraordinary circumstances of Kristallnacht.

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Reparations for Black Americans—What Can Holocaust Reparations Teach Us?

Reparations for Black Americans—What Can Holocaust Reparations Teach Us?

May 12, 2021 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

What can we learn from the history of Holocaust reparations that can inform our thinking about reparations for Black Americans? The Bernard G. Segal Memorial Lecture in Law and Ethics.

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Why Do Jews Still Adhere to the Torah’s Covenant?

Why Do Jews Still Adhere to the Torah’s Covenant?

May 7, 2021 By Jeremy Tabick | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

Why do we, as Jews, have fealty to the Torah? Why do many of us feel bound by the Torah’s laws?

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Racial Justice and Jewish Values

Racial Justice and Jewish Values

May 2, 2021 By Gordon Tucker

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Struggling to Celebrate

Struggling to Celebrate

Apr 30, 2021 By Naomi Kalish | Commentary | Emor

While Parashat Emor contains one of the Torah’s discussions of holidays and instructions for their observances, rabbinic literature provides guidance for their observance in the context of the complexities of the participants’ lives, even those who might be struggling to celebrate.

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