Values in Jewish Texts
Free Will and do we really have it?
This unit will explore Jewish perspectives on free will in light of the Jewish belief of hashgachah, divine providence. Belief in an all-knowing God that controls the universe complicates a belief in the existence of free will. Yet, free will is a critical component in determining sin or its opposite, the fulfillment of a mitzvah. If there is no free will, how can one be responsible for their actions?
Introducing the Laws of Kashrut
What does it mean to keep kosher? There are a multitude of complicated laws that are the starting point to answering that question, and in this lesson we will look at their sources.
Wearing a Kippah as a Symbol
In this lesson, the custom to wear a kippah is explored through talmudic and through talmudic and modern sources, taking a specific focus on the kippah as an expression of Jewish identity.
Tzitzit as a Symbol
In this lesson, the symbolism of the mitzvah of Tzitzit will be examined, through looking at the biblical source for the mitzvah, and then exploring different approaches through talmudic and modern voices.
Mezuzah as a Symbol
In this lesson, the symbolism of the mitzvah of Mezuza will be examined, through looking at one of the biblical sources for the mitzvah, and then exploring different approaches through talmudic, medieval, and contemporary voices.
Tefillin as a Symbol
In this lesson, the symbolism of the mitzvah of Tefillin will be examined, through looking at the biblical source for the mitzvah, exploring a national symbolism of Tefillin in a medieval commentary on the Torah, and a more personal approach taken by a modern thinker and a teen author.
From Communal to Personal Calling
In this lesson we will focus on the more personal impact of the Exodus on our lives as individuals. Using the quote from the Haggada “In each and every generation a person is obligated to see oneself as if they had [personally] come out of Egypt” as a launching point, the thinkers presented here describe if and how we can create a personal connection to the story, and how this can change us as people.
You Left Egypt – Now Pay It Forward
In this lesson we explore how the Exodus story in the national consciousness of the Jewish people has been a moral compass, instilling the values of protecting the vulnerable in society. This is legislated in Jewish law, can be seen in Jewish history, and is a national calling for the future – to build a society on the values of protecting the weak and vulnerable amongst us.
The Exodus Narrative as an Inspiration in Modern History
In this lesson we explore how the Exodus story has been an inspiration for Jews and non-Jews alike during historical periods when freedom and liberty could not be taken for granted. These include the refuseniks in Soviet Russia, appartheid South Africa, and the the struggle for civil rights for African Americans.
What the Bible says on remembering the Exodus
In this lesson the themes of the Exodus in Judaism and Jewish history are explored, including the importance to remember the Exodus, and the lasting impact that this experience has had on Jewish national memory, on the Jewish psyche, ethics, and living.
Chosen for What?
Before the Israelites received the Torah God instructed Moses to describe them as a “Segula” (treasured) and a “Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation”. This is a biblical source for being a chosen people. But chosen for what?
Chosenness: Privilege or Responsibility
God promises a special relationship with the Jewish people. That He will love and protect them, and ensure they are prosperous and safe. But is this relationship unconditional? Is it a privilege or is there responsibility that comes with these blessings?
Who Chose Whom?
Chosenness has sometimes come with a steep price, leading some to question who did the choosing, the fairness of this covenant, and if the two partners in the transaction were equally free to accept the ramifications.
Why were the Israelites Chosen? – Intrinsic vs.Extrinsic Holiness
The Jewish people are often referred to as the “Chosen People”, based on references in the Torah that describe the Israelites as singled out by God from among the nations of the world for a specific reason and a purpose. In this lesson we will explore these references and the way several Jewish thinkers approach them to evaluate for ourselves whether this “chosenness” was because of a defining and intrinsic holiness or a potential extrinsic holiness to be achieved.