Can God Prohibit an Emotion?

Can God Prohibit an Emotion?

Feb 5, 2021 By Sarah Wolf | Commentary | Yitro

Part of my current research focuses on how human emotions are discussed and legislated in the Talmud and other ancient rabbinic texts, and so the last of the Ten Commandments (as counted in the Jewish tradition) raises for me some fundamental questions.

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Sufferings Large and Small

Sufferings Large and Small

Dec 15, 2020 By Sarah Wolf | Public Event video | Video Lecture

The ancient Rabbis struggled with the classic problem of theodicy: why would God let terrible things happen to good people? But they also struggled with what may seem like a more contemporary problem: if suffering is supposed to be meaningful in some way, is there any significance to our more mundane, everyday disappointments? Explore the rabbis’ perhaps surprising take both on what counts as “suffering” and what it ultimately means.

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Retelling the Past

Retelling the Past

Jul 24, 2020 By Sarah Wolf | Commentary | Devarim

Since the wave of protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, Americans have begun to reckon with the narratives many of us have taken for granted about our national past. As part of this national awakening, the legacies of some formerly beloved past leaders are being revisited. Demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, toppled a statue of Thomas Jefferson, a “founding father” who also owned hundreds of slaves; the statue of Teddy Roosevelt in front of New York City’s American Museum of National History, which portrays him on horseback next to an African and a Native American man, has been removed. Although this is an unprecedented moment of introspection for the United States, we can turn to the Book of Devarim for some insight on what is at stake in telling and retelling the past.

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Why Everyone Should Cry in Public

Why Everyone Should Cry in Public

Jan 3, 2020 By Sarah Wolf | Commentary | Vayiggash

Vayiggash brings us to the culmination of the drama between Joseph and his brothers that began in Parashat Miketz. Ten of Joseph’s brothers—all but Benjamin—had travelled to Egypt to buy food during a famine. Joseph, newly in command in Egypt, had disguised himself and, perhaps in retaliation for the way they had treated him earlier, forced his brothers to go through various ordeals and humiliating situations. One of Joseph’s demands was that his brothers bring their youngest brother Benjamin when they returned to Egypt, with which they now comply, despite their father Jacob’s resistance to putting his youngest and beloved son in danger. 

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Falling Wisely

Falling Wisely

Nov 2, 2018 By Sarah Wolf | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Hayyei Sarah offers us a scene straight out of a romantic comedy. By the middle of the parashah, Rebekah has agreed to follow Abraham’s servant back to Canaan, where she will meet and marry Isaac. Rebekah and the servant near their destination on camelback as the afternoon draws to a close, and Isaac is wandering in the fields. The mood is set for an elegant and romantic first meeting.

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