Between Moscow, Kyiv, and Jerusalem: How The Wars in Ukraine and Gaza Have Changed Russian and Ukrainian Attitudes Toward Israel and Jews

Between Moscow, Kyiv, and Jerusalem: How The Wars in Ukraine and Gaza Have Changed Russian and Ukrainian Attitudes Toward Israel and Jews

Jan 15, 2024 By David Fishman | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Dr. David Fishman, expert on Ukrainian Jewry, discusses the complex connections between the wars in Ukraine and Gaza and how Russian and Ukrainian attitudes toward Israel and Jews have evolved as a result—both for better and for worse.

Read More
When the Nile Gave Up Its Terrible Secret

When the Nile Gave Up Its Terrible Secret

Jan 12, 2024 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Va'era

Rabbinic commentators, in referring to an earlier exegete, sometimes say, “His interpretation requires its own interpretation.” All the more so it can be said that a midrashic interpretation sometimes needs its own midrashic interpretation, for in an effort to solve theological or textual difficulties, the midrash can present us with farfetched, even phantasmagoric, scenarios. Upon deeper reflection, however, we often discover that these phantasms are actually manifestations of profound truths. Let’s consider such a midrash, which both illuminates and is illuminated by a passage in this week’s Torah portion.   

Read More
Moshe the Mindful?

Moshe the Mindful?

Jan 5, 2024 By Lilliana Shvartsmann | Commentary | Shemot

Moshe’s journey mirrors the struggles many face in navigating transitions and seeking purpose amidst uncertainty. The 19th-century Polish commentator Ha’emek Hadavar suggests Moshe intentionally led his flock to the most remote location, a place no other shepherd dared venture, seeking solitude. He needed such desolation to encounter God. While we don’t know if Moshe had his own meditation, journaling, or spiritual practices that promoted solitude, his courage and strength in recognizing the necessity of solitude are evident.

Read More
Is it Heretical to Ask God for Protection?

Is it Heretical to Ask God for Protection?

Dec 29, 2023 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Commentary | Vayehi

Jacob’s words of blessing to Joseph in chapter 48 surprise me every time that I read them. Though putatively an attempt to bless his son, they are primarily directed at his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and gain authority from Jacob’s fathers and from the shepherding and redeeming God he has known so intimately throughout his life.

Read More
The Reason(s) Jacob Went Down to Egypt

The Reason(s) Jacob Went Down to Egypt

Dec 22, 2023 By Ira Tokayer | Commentary | Vayiggash

Parashat Vayiggash is a good place to illustrate the modern scholarship, which sees the Torah’s Joseph story as a combination of three source documents with separate accounts of how and why Jacob descended to Egypt.

Read More
A World in Crisis Needs a Yosef

A World in Crisis Needs a Yosef

Dec 15, 2023 By Avi Garelick | Commentary | Miketz

Our society today faces crises of overwhelming proportions on many fronts—some observers have called our situation one of polycrisis, to emphasize how crises interact and amplify each other. Climate change is breathing down our necks, wars proliferate, and pandemics threaten our health, all while governments struggle to react sufficiently. Many who enjoy relative peace and affluence suffer from a sense of helplessness and foreboding. We need a Yosef.

Read More
Rabbinic Webinar – Biblical & Rabbinic Perspectives on War

Rabbinic Webinar – Biblical & Rabbinic Perspectives on War

Dec 12, 2023 By Eliezer B. Diamond

Deuteronomy describes a protocol to be followed when Israel heads out to battle. We consider what that passage and its rabbinic interpretation tell us about the tensions between aspirations and realities and the needs of the individual and the community.

Read More
Between the Lines: Professor Schiff’s Guilt

Between the Lines: Professor Schiff’s Guilt

Dec 12, 2023 By Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Israeli author Agur Schiff discusses his novel Professor Schiff’s Guilt. In this gripping story, an Israeli professor travels to a fictitious West African nation to trace a slave-trading ancestor, only to be imprisoned under a new law barring successive generations from profiting off the proceeds of slavery. But before leaving Tel Aviv, the protagonist falls in love with Lucile, a mysterious African migrant worker who cleans his house. This satire of contemporary attitudes toward racism and colonialism examines economic inequality and the global refugee crisis, as well as the memory of transatlantic chattel slavery and the Holocaust. 

Read More
Civic Friendship in Times of Crisis and War: Jewish Thought, Political Theory, and the Story of Hanukkah

Civic Friendship in Times of Crisis and War: Jewish Thought, Political Theory, and the Story of Hanukkah

Dec 11, 2023 By Shira Billet | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Ancient philosophers described a political ideal of “civic friendship,” the idea that fellow citizens in a political community ought to pursue a certain kind of bond of friendship, in order to create flourishing societies steeped in a robust social fabric. Dr. Shira Billet explores the central role of notions of civic friendship in traditional Jewish sources. In light of current events in Israel, we will turn our attention to Jewish texts that relate to civic friendship in wartime and in times of crisis, with special connections drawn to the holiday of Hannukah.

Read More
Tamar, Our Mother

Tamar, Our Mother

Dec 8, 2023 By Yael Landman | Commentary | Vayeshev

Parashat Vayeshev begins the story of Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son. But just after this narrative kicks off, the text veers for the length of a chapter into the story of another of Jacob’s sons, Judah, as well as Judah’s three sons and his daughter-in-law Tamar. Just as the Joseph story is foundational for the broader narrative of B’nei Yisrael—the children of Jacob who become the Israelites—the story of Judah and Tamar is foundational as well.

Read More
Paradigms of Friendship: What Philosophers and Rabbis Can Teach Us

Paradigms of Friendship: What Philosophers and Rabbis Can Teach Us

Dec 4, 2023 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video | Video Lecture

The Greek philosophers asserted that there are four types of friendship. This model, which was adopted by Maimonides, considered shared joint engagement in intellectual matters the highest form of friendship. Missing from this paradigm is the importance of certain character traits in creating and sustaining friendships. We consider the “four friendships” model and then take a mussar oriented approach to suggest alternative paradigms. 

Read More
Remember Dinah; Listen to Women

Remember Dinah; Listen to Women

Dec 1, 2023 By Ayelet Cohen | Commentary | Vayishlah

Dinah’s story is often overlooked in a parashah rich with other narratives that are easier and more pleasant to explore. But this is not a time to shy away from difficult stories or avoid stories of sexual violence. Shabbat Vayishlah can be an opportunity for our communities to center the stories of women and girls in their fullness and explore the ways our communities can become communities of support.

Read More
Caleb Brommer – Senior Sermon (RS ’24)

Caleb Brommer – Senior Sermon (RS ’24)

Nov 30, 2023 By JTS Senior Sermon | Commentary | Senior Sermon | Short Video | Vayishlah

Vayishlah All the Class of 2024 Senior Sermons

Read More
Sami Vingron – Senior Sermon (RS ’24)

Sami Vingron – Senior Sermon (RS ’24)

Nov 28, 2023 By JTS Senior Sermon | Commentary | Senior Sermon | Vayetzei

Vayetzei All the Class of 2024 Senior Sermons

Read More
Friendship During Crisis: Learning from the Book of Job  

Friendship During Crisis: Learning from the Book of Job  

Nov 27, 2023 By Mychal Springer | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Job’s friends come to Job in the midst of his unspeakable losses and try to comfort him. We will learn from the Book of Job and explore the challenges of being a good friend when someone is suffering.

Read More
Listening with Yaakov

Listening with Yaakov

Nov 24, 2023 By Naomi Kalish | Commentary | Vayetzei

A Thanksgiving meal, or any family gathering, in our time of divisive politics and social polarization can be a source of great anxiety. How will we remain civil to those with whom we profoundly disagree? Parashat Veyetzei provides us with a model of how one of our ancestors, Yaakov, managed conflict with a family member and was able to move toward reconciliation.

Read More
Between the Lines: Shadows We Carry

Between the Lines: Shadows We Carry

Nov 21, 2023 By Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Part of Between the Lines: Author Conversations from The Library of JTS Meryl Ain discusses her new award-winning novel, Shadows We Carry. In this sequel to the award-winning post-Holocaust novel The Takeaway Men, the Lubinski twins struggle with their roles as women and coming to terms with their family’s Holocaust legacy at the same time […]

Read More
Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? A Talmudic Teaching

Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? A Talmudic Teaching

Nov 20, 2023 By Aaron Koller | Public Event video | Video Lecture

What do we owe our neighbors? How much are we obligated to contribute to our cities, our neighborhoods, our streets, and how much can we just take of ourselves and let everyone else take care of themselves? These are modern questions, but they are ancient Jewish questions, too. The Talmud speaks in a different language than we do, so it probes these issues through law and narrative. We read a short passage from the Talmud about what it means to be a good neighbor, and unpack it to see how these questions are broached and what insight the text has to share. 

Read More
Isaac: Schlimazel, or Something More?

Isaac: Schlimazel, or Something More?

Nov 17, 2023 By Aiden Pink | Commentary | Toledot

In his book The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten defines one of the most useful words in our tradition: “When a schlimazel winds a clock, it stops; when he kills a chicken, it walks; when he sells umbrellas, the sun comes out; when he manufactures shrouds, people stop dying” (347).

In the entire Torah, it seems, there is no bigger schlimazel than Isaac.

At the beginning of his life, he’s nearly killed by his father. At the end of his life, he’s deceived by his son. He barely participates in the courtship of his own wife. Isaac is hapless, passive, an eternal victim—the archetypical schlimazel.

Read More
Friendship and Interfaith Engagement 

Friendship and Interfaith Engagement 

Nov 13, 2023 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video | Video Lecture

In a world where religious differences have often been a source of division, the concept of friendship emerges as a powerful tool for forging connections, fostering receptiveness to others, and nurturing understanding. Beginning with a discussion of Aristotle’s friendship, followed by several case studies, we investigate how friendship has been actualized and experienced throughout history within the context of interfaith dialogue. We will also consider to what extent an ambivalence about friendship exists in Jewish-Christian relations from the Middle Ages up to the present day.

Read More

SUBSCRIBE TO TORAH FROM JTS

Our regular commentaries and videos are a great way to stay intellectually and spiritually engaged with Jewish thought and wisdom.