(Not So) Hidden Anti-Gospels: Suppressed Talmudic and Medieval Polemics Against Jesus

(Not So) Hidden Anti-Gospels: Suppressed Talmudic and Medieval Polemics Against Jesus

Oct 31, 2022 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video

Jews always viewed Jesus as one of their own, and they felt the need to account for the power he had in converting millions to a new religion that they viewed as a perverse usurpation of their own. They responded by writing parodic versions of the Gospels narratives, which are found both in the Talmud and in an early medieval work called Toledot Yeshu (The Jesus Chronicle). Eventually Christians became aware of these “anti-Gospels” and Jews had to engage in both self-censorship and apologetics. We will look at these texts and their history, concluding with a look at a very different approach to Jesus in the 20th century by Rabbi Stephen Wise.

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The Liberator and the Zealot

The Liberator and the Zealot

Jul 22, 2022 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Pinehas

In his recently published book, The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom,  H.W. Brands contrasts the attitudes of Brown and Lincoln toward slavery, and the methods used by each to end it. In doing so, he makes the case that the terms “liberator” and “zealot” accurately encapsulate the role of each in abolishing slavery.  

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How to Make Work Meaningful for Us: Exploring the Value of Work in Biblical and Rabbinic Sources

How to Make Work Meaningful for Us: Exploring the Value of Work in Biblical and Rabbinic Sources

Nov 22, 2021 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video

Work can be uplifting; it can also be draining and demoralizing. This depends not only on what we do but on how we do it. We’ll look at Jewish sources that offer us different ways of thinking about work and some wisdom about how to make the work we do work for us.

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The Give and Take of Biblical Vows

The Give and Take of Biblical Vows

Nov 12, 2021 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayetzei

We live in a world of give and take. Transactions involving the exchange of money for goods and services, which the rabbis explicitly call משא ומתן, “taking and giving,” are central to economic life. Successful relationships, whether professional or personal, are the result of effectively balancing the pursuit of one’s own wants and needs with acknowledging and accommodating the needs and desires of others.

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Preparing for the Final Journey: <br>The Tahara Ritual and its Significance

Preparing for the Final Journey:
The Tahara Ritual and its Significance

Jun 21, 2021 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video

The period between death and burial is understood in Jewish tradition as a moment of transition in which the deceased is suspended between this world and the next. Join Rabbi Eliezer Diamond to study the ritual known as Taharah, which prepares the body of the deceased for burial. It will show us that Jewish tradition assumes the continued existence of our individual identities even after death. The Taharah ritual, through word and action, radically transforms our understanding of the body of the deceased as we prepare it for the journey to the next world.

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Freedom for Whom?

Freedom for Whom?

Mar 22, 2021 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video

First and foremost, the traditional Haggadah celebrates our liberation from Egypt. At the same time, it reflects our experience of oppression over the course of many centuries. It is therefore a plea to be redeemed anew that reflects and potentially re-enforces an adversarial relationship with the non-Jewish world. In our own time the Jews of the United States and Israel enjoy unprecedented freedom. How do we honor the voice of tradition while also including the modern voices seeking liberation for all?

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Standing at the Gates

Standing at the Gates

Mar 19, 2021 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayikra

In Kafka’s cryptic parable “Before the Law,” a man stands before a gate seeking entry into the Law. The gate is open, but at its side is a gatekeeper who refuses his request to enter. The man uses every stratagem that he can think of to gain the gatekeeper’s permission, but every attempt fails. This stalemate continues until the moment of death arrives. 

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Demanding or Disengaging: How to Respond When We Feel Abandoned by God

Demanding or Disengaging: How to Respond When We Feel Abandoned by God

Jan 12, 2021 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video

Part of the series, “Hope in the Time of Covid” at B’nai Torah Congregation, Boca Raton, FL.

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Generosity, Gratitude, and Faith: Rav Eliyahu Dessler’s Integrative Approach to Creating a Meaningful Life

Generosity, Gratitude, and Faith: Rav Eliyahu Dessler’s Integrative Approach to Creating a Meaningful Life

Oct 12, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video

What is the relationship between our level of generosity and our beliefs, our attitudes, and our actions? For Rav Eliyahu Dessler (1892-1953, England/Israel), love, faith, empathy, and social bonding are consequences of generosity—not its causes. In this session, we will discuss Rav Dessler’s insights and his vision for living meaningfully. 

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We are All Sukkah-Dwellers

We are All Sukkah-Dwellers

Oct 2, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Sukkot

Since the accidental discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Röntgen in 1895 and the subsequent creation of X-ray machines, we have been able to view our bodies through two different lenses. The first is what we see in the mirror—a body of flesh, which takes various forms and distinguishes one individual from another. The second is not visible to the naked eye; it is the skeletal structure that supports the flesh and organs that surround it. Though both are necessary constituent elements of our physical being, we are generally much more conscious of our outer being than our inner one. And yet, our bones are more durable than our flesh. Long after we die and our flesh has wasted away, our skeletal structure continues to exist.

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Seeking and Offering Forgiveness: What are We Doing and How Do We Do It?

Seeking and Offering Forgiveness: What are We Doing and How Do We Do It?

Aug 24, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

Forgiveness is at the heart of the High Holy Days season, yet it is far from clear what we mean by this term. Employing insights from rabbinic sources, mussar literature and psychology, we will think out loud about what we hope to achieve and how to achieve it as we seek forgiveness for ourselves and are asked to forgive others.

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The Ten Commandments in 20/20

The Ten Commandments in 20/20

May 26, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video | Video Lecture | Shavuot

The Ten Commandments, read on the first day of Shavuot, are a foundational text of Judaism. But their prominence is also a puzzle. Why were these statements singled out from all other mitzvot to be publicly proclaimed to all Israel? What gives these brief pronouncements their distinctive significance?

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Beyond the Flag: The Religious Dimensions of Yom Ha’atzma’ut

Beyond the Flag: The Religious Dimensions of Yom Ha’atzma’ut

Apr 27, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video

Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Israel Independence Day, commemorates a historical event – the declaration of the new State of Israel. From the beginning, however, it was also framed as a religious holiday. We will look at how, drawing on the liturgy of Hannukah, Purim, Shabbat and Passover, a holiday ritual was created, one that provides the religious language with which to speak of a fundamentally political event. 

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How Do We Mourn?

How Do We Mourn?

Apr 17, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Shemini

In these dark times, we are faced not for the first time with the question: how do we deal with unbearable pain? There are no easy answers. For some, the solution is to find a way not to feel it, and one way to do that is to drink oneself into oblivion.  

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To Fulfill a Mitzvah

To Fulfill a Mitzvah

Dec 20, 2019 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayeshev

There is an interesting moment in this week’s parashah during Joseph’s search for his brothers. Initially, Joseph seeks them in Shechem, where Jacob supposes them to be. As Joseph fruitlessly seeks his brothers, a man who perceives that Joseph is wandering aimlessly asks Joseph the purpose of his search. When Joseph replies that he is seeking his brothers, the man tells him he has heard that they are headed for Dothan. Joseph then follows his brothers there, and the story unfolds of his sale as a slave and his descent to Egypt.

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Do Not Turn Away—Then and Now

Do Not Turn Away—Then and Now

Sep 9, 2019 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Ki Tetzei

In 1861, as a great conflagration spread across our nation, the Bostonian abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Samuel Joseph May published a slender tract entitled The Fugitive Slave Act and Its Victims, an impassioned polemic against the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This federal law, born of the Missouri Compromise of the same year, required all federal, state and local authorities, including those in free states, to return fugitive slaves to their masters, while also criminalizing any attempt to aid and abet a slave seeking to escape bondage.

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Hearing the Scream

Hearing the Scream

Dec 7, 2018 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Miketz

Perhaps no scream is more famous than the one portrayed in Edvard Munch’s painting popularly known simply as The Scream. The irony is that almost none of us is aware of the scream that Munch intended to portray.

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First Fruits, New Thoughts: A Pilgrim Reflects on the First Fruits Ritual

First Fruits, New Thoughts: A Pilgrim Reflects on the First Fruits Ritual

Aug 31, 2018 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Ki Tavo

Peace be with you, friend! My name is Micah; I hail from Anav. And you? Shemaryahu, from Jericho, you say; a Benjaminite, then. Well, if you don’t mind sharing the road with a Judahite let’s walk together.

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The Give and Take of Strength

The Give and Take of Strength

Mar 9, 2018 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

Rituals of closure are common in both the secular and religious realms. An example of the first is the sounding of retreat and the lowering of the flag marking the end of the official duty day on military installations. An instance of the second is the siyyum, a liturgical ritual and festive meal that is occasioned by the completion of the study of a Talmudic tractate. Closure rituals relate not only to the past but to the future as well. On the one hand, the temporal demarcation of a past event facilitates the emergence of its distinct identity, internal coherence, and significance, thereby providing insight, understanding, and, at times, a sense of accomplishment. At the same time, by declaring an end, a closure ritual creates space in which one can—and must—begin anew; the past is to be neither prison nor refuge.

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Leaving Home

Leaving Home

Nov 10, 2017 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

To the best of my knowledge, Hayyei Sarah contains the only instance in Tanakh of a parent asking his child’s wishes. Laban and Betuel cannot come to an agreement with Abraham’s servant—who we’ll call Eliezer—about whether Rebecca should remain in Haran for a time or depart immediately to Canaan. And so, they ask Rebecca to state her preference. Contrary to her family’s express wishes, Rebecca decides to leave immediately.

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