The Desperate (and Comprehensible) Project of the Golden Calf

The Desperate (and Comprehensible) Project of the Golden Calf

Mar 1, 2024 By Ilana Sandberg | Commentary | Ki Tissa

After the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, the Torah focuses on the project of how they could ensure God’s immanence, or retained presence, within their world. God instructs the Israelites to build the Mishkan, or Tabernacle, and establishes the sacrificial system to insure God’s continued presence. The episode of the Golden Calf seems like a grave error in this process that demands interpretation. Why would the people violate the second commandment they had just received and turn to idolatry?

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Ilana Sandberg – Senior Sermon (’24)

Ilana Sandberg – Senior Sermon (’24)

Feb 29, 2024 By JTS Senior Sermon | Commentary | Senior Sermon | Ki Tissa

Ilana Sandberg shares her senior sermon for Parshat Ki Tissa

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Senior Sermons: Class of 2024

Senior Sermons: Class of 2024

Feb 29, 2024 By JTS Senior Sermon | Commentary | Senior Sermon

Each year, student in their last year of Rabbinical School give a Senior Sermon for fellow students, faculty, and special guests and offer a sample of their unique Torah. All of the Class of 2024 will have their sermons listed here.

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Between the Lines: Postwar Stories

Between the Lines: Postwar Stories

Feb 27, 2024 By Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Dr. Rachel Gordan joins us to discuss her book Postwar Stories: How Books Made Judaism American. The period immediately following World War II was an era of dramatic transformation for Jews in America. At the start of the 1940s, President Roosevelt had to all but promise that if Americans entered the war, it would not be to save the Jews. But by the end of the decade, antisemitism was in decline and Jews were moving toward general acceptance in American society. Drawing on several archives, magazine articles, and nearly forgotten bestsellers, Postwar Stories examines how Jewish middlebrow literature helped to shape post-Holocaust American Jewish identity. 

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Jewish History and Education through the Lens of JTS’s Rare Manuscripts

Jewish History and Education through the Lens of JTS’s Rare Manuscripts

Feb 26, 2024 By Yitz Landes | Public Event video | Video Lecture

With Dr. Yitz Landes, Assistant Professor of Rabbinic Literatures and Cultures, JTS

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The Jewelry of a Master Teacher

The Jewelry of a Master Teacher

Feb 23, 2024 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Tetzavveh | Purim

Without using alchemy, the 16th-century Italian commentator Seforno (1470–1550) turned gems into gold. Writing a few short words about the gemstones that adorned the clothing of the High Priest, described in Parashat Tetzavveh, Seforno shares a truly fine insight about achieving greatness as an educator.

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Terumah—The Gift That Elevates

Terumah—The Gift That Elevates

Feb 16, 2024 By Eitan Fishbane | Commentary | Terumah

Sometimes we all feel like we’re giving more than we get, that we do more than our share, or that our individual needs are being sacrificed for the sake of someone else’s happiness. It is an emotional struggle that we encounter in our families and friendships. Why should I give when the other person doesn’t reciprocate in the way that I would want? If I give, will I also get what I deserve?

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Between the Lines: Absurdity and Meaning in Contemporary Philosophy and Jewish Thought

Between the Lines: Absurdity and Meaning in Contemporary Philosophy and Jewish Thought

Feb 13, 2024 By Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Part of Between the Lines: Author Conversations from The Library of JTS In his recent book, Absurdity and Meaning in Contemporary Philosophy and Jewish Thought, Dr. Alan L. Mittleman, Aaron Rabinowitz and Simon H. Rifkind Emeritus Professor of Jewish Philosophy at JTS, addresses the question of the meaning of life in a philosophical spirit, which […]

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How Can Humans Uphold Divine Justice?

How Can Humans Uphold Divine Justice?

Feb 9, 2024 By Caleb Brommer | Commentary | Mishpatim

In Parashat Mishpatim, the Ten Commandments are immediately followed by a more thoroughgoing account of the Israelite legal code. God, through Their intermediary Moshe, reveals some of the particularly sticky, tricky, and challenging cases of civil law. Mishpatim begins to answer the questions “What happens when human beings are slammed together in community? What happens when they disagree, make mistakes, and cause incidental or intentional harm? What happens when they kill each other?”

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Talia Kaplan – Senior Sermon (’24)

Talia Kaplan – Senior Sermon (’24)

Feb 7, 2024 By JTS Senior Sermon | Commentary | Senior Sermon | Mishpatim

Mishpatim All the Class of 2024 Senior Sermons

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Between the Lines: Polish Jewish Culture Beyond the Capital

Between the Lines: Polish Jewish Culture Beyond the Capital

Feb 5, 2024 By Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Polish Jewish Culture Beyond the Capital: Centering the Periphery is a path-breaking exploration of the diversity and vitality of urban Jewish identity and culture in Polish lands from the second half of the nineteenth century to the outbreak of the Second World War (1899–1939). In this multidisciplinary essay collection, a cohort of international scholars provides an integrated history of the arts and humanities in Poland by illuminating the complex roles Jews in urban centers other than Warsaw played in the creation of Polish and Polish Jewish culture.

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The Limitations God Shares with Us

The Limitations God Shares with Us

Feb 2, 2024 By Gordon Tucker | Commentary | Yitro

But how do you reconcile the idea of God’s transcendent power with such things as a failure to anticipate human flaws, or a weakness for the smell of roasting meat, or jealousy, or suffering the travails of exile? Texts such as these raise eyebrows because they seem to lower God in our estimation.

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Amalya Volz – Senior Sermon (RS ’24)

Amalya Volz – Senior Sermon (RS ’24)

Feb 1, 2024 By JTS Senior Sermon | Commentary | Senior Sermon | Yitro

Yitro All the Class of 2024 Senior Sermons

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Where Are We Now?  Rethinking Exile, Diaspora and Home in Israel and America

Where Are We Now?  Rethinking Exile, Diaspora and Home in Israel and America

Jan 29, 2024 By Arnold M. Eisen | Public Event video | Video Lecture

For many Jews in Israel and America, the war with Hamas has provoked a reconsideration of long-held assumptions about Israel, the Diaspora, and the relationship between the two. This lecture considers whether America can be a true home for Jews or whether is it another instance of exile, albeit different in some respects from all others—and it aska these same questions regarding Israel. We examine a variety of responses to these questions by Americans and Israelis, Zionists and non-Zionists, that sharpen debate and challenge convictions that we hold dear. 

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Destiny in the Details

Destiny in the Details

Jan 26, 2024 By Rachel Rosenthal | Commentary | Beshallah

Why are those small moments so poignant? It seems to be a strange question to ask at this climactic point of the Torah. This week’s parashah, Beshallah, contains one of the Torah’s biggest moments. The Israelites finally break free of the Egyptians, crossing the Red Sea on dry land while the Egyptians drown in the closing sea behind them. Jubilant in their triumph, they sing to God, led by Moses and Miriam. For a brief moment, they are united in their faith and in the glory of the moment.

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Lilli Shvartsmann – Senior Sermon (RS ’24)

Lilli Shvartsmann – Senior Sermon (RS ’24)

Jan 25, 2024 By JTS Senior Sermon | Commentary | Senior Sermon | Beshallah

Beshallah All the Class of 2024 Senior Sermons

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Timely Insights, Timeless Wisdom 

Timely Insights, Timeless Wisdom 

Jan 22, 2024 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Join JTS’s renowned faculty to learn about their current work and greatest passions. Drawing on their expertise, scholars will offer inspiring learning and expose us to new ideas and insights that help us connect the Jewish past with the Jewish future. Topics will include: 

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“Zion in the Diaspora”: How Jews Imagined They Lived in Zion Wherever They Actually Lived

“Zion in the Diaspora”: How Jews Imagined They Lived in Zion Wherever They Actually Lived

Jan 22, 2024 By David C. Kraemer | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Jews through the ages have hoped that one day the Messiah would come, leading them back to Zion. But in the meantime, they lived all over the world, making homes in one diaspora or another. And remarkably, they often spoke of their diaspora homes as “Zion,” a place of redemption long before actual redemption. In this session, we will examine multiple such teachings and traditions including teachings of the great Maharal of Prague (16th century), early Hasidic masters (18th century), and others. We will consider what it means for Jews to imagine themselves in their eternal homes while living abroad

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Between the Lines: Soloveitchik’s Children

Between the Lines: Soloveitchik’s Children

Jan 22, 2024 By Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Professor Arnold Eisen, chancellor emeritus and professor of Jewish Thought at JTS and author Daniel Ross Goodman discuss Soloveitchik’s Children, a book that delves into how three of Soloveitchik’s most influential disciples in Jewish thought and philosophy—Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, Rabbi David Hartman, and Jonathan Sacks—learned from and adapted his teachings in their own ways, while advancing his philosophical and theological legacy.

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What Do Tefillin Do?

What Do Tefillin Do?

Jan 19, 2024 By Lara Rodin | Commentary | Bo

Our sages explained that the placement of our tefillin as a “sign upon our hands” and a “reminder on our foreheads” is meant to represent the intellect (tefillin shel rosh) and the physicality (tefillin shel yad) of a person. For Keli Yakar, Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz, both the tefillin that sits on our arm and the tefillin that sits above our eyes are meant to represent the dichotomy that is at play between thought and action.

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