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The House of Study / Beit Midrash / áéú îéãøù

Theological Implications of the Destruction and Rebuilding of Jerusalem

Rabbi Rich Kirschen

When Jerusalem was destroyed in 66 CE/AD, Jewish theology was in crisis. How could one be a Jew without the holy city? What would replace the Temple? Could the village of Yavne ever take on a primary theological role? The long journey of faith needs our attention as we wander through Zion and the Diaspora. We need to experience the joy of the Talmud and the pain of the Holocaust before we see our contemporary Jew recreating a modern, viable State.

Judaism on War and Peace

In the Book of Kohelet it says that there is a time for war and a time for peace. How does Jewish tradition help guide us in understanding these concepts? What is our responsibility when we disagree with the conclusions of our tradition. How do we react to uncomfortable texts which are firmly set within our tradition. And ultimately who determines what texts will be the face of Judaism during questions of war and peace.

Machloket (Arguments) for the Sake of Heaven

We often hear the term “Judaism says…”. However this is exactly the antithesis of what Jewish tradition is all about. The rabbis teach us that there are 70 faces of Torah. The problem or rather the advantage with Judaism is that it says almost everything and therefore the secret is to know where to find it (hence the expression, “the Sea of Talmud”). Come learn about the importance of dialectic and why arguing is well…so Jewish.

Israel and Jerusalem as an Immigrant Society

An anthropological stroll around Jerusalem delights the eye. Wherever we look we see a vast variety of faces and bodies. We hear the range of the world's languages and smell the food from different cultures. The hidden messages of clothing styles give us signals of diversity and choice. Join us as we delve into the here and now of a new society on the streets of Jerusalem and its surrounding areas.

American & Israeli Jews: A New Relationship – Giving and Giving

The American and Israeli Jew stand together. Both look to a past of disagreement about "one center", "two centers", "many centers". The present and the future demands of us healthy dialogue. Regardless of where we live, we are family. We stood together at Sinai as we stand together now. Let us develop combined projects, delve into collective challenges and discuss a common language.

The Roots of Reform Judaism in Israel

Along King David Street in Jerusalem we see a large and beautiful building - the Hebrew Union College. On the same grounds, facing the Old City, with a view of a lifetime, stands Mercaz Shimshon, the center of the World Union of Progressive Judaism. A short distance away is the vibrant synagogue of Kol HaNeshama and towards the city we meet the Har El congregation. In the Negev Reform kibbutzim work the harsh desert soil and in Tel Aviv and Haifa, progressive Judaism develops. It is an exciting and challenging journey, through the labyrinths of the Israeli establishment. The voyage is ours and yours as we build history with bricks and bodies, facts and human stories. Join us.

From the Despair of Achad Ha-Am to the Angst of Judah Magnes

This course looks at the work of two intellectual giants who had a tremendous impact both on Zionism and on Reform Judaism. Both men were lonely prophets who longed for the renewal of Jewish life in the land of Israel. And both were highly critical of the Zionist approach during their time. Achad Ha-Am was the champion of cultural Zionism advocating a reform of national Jewish life and Judah Magnes was a builder and visionary of pre-State Israel but desperately concerned about its ethical character while achieving statehood.

G-d, Mitzvot and Ethics: In Search of Authority

If Judaism does not have ethics, but rather mitzvoth (commandments) what is the source of authority for Reform Jews? Is it self, is it God and what is our sense of commanded ness if at all. Is there a role for Reform Halacha (Jewish law) that is binding and what do we really mean when we say autonomy in terms of our Jewish duty work of two intellectual giants who had a tremendous impact both on Zionsim and on Reform Judaism. Both men were lonely prophets who longed for the renewal of Jewish life in the land of Israel. And both were highly critical of the Zionist approach during their time. Achad Ha-Am was the champion of cultural Zionism advocating a reform of national Jewish life and Judah Magnes was a builder and visionary of Pre-State Israel but desperately concerned about its ethical character while achieving statehood.

Zionist Responses to the Desert

The leader of Zionism, Theodore Herzl pondered about the chances of his dream ever becoming actualized. Would it happen in 50 years? Later generations moved his ideas to realities. Throughout this arid land, the young and old have built new cities, fledgling village and lonely settlements. However, it is the desert that attracts us as we open our ancient Biblical texts that direct us even today. The Zionist dream was about the collective, not the individual. It was about dreams, not realities. Jerusalem is a city on the edge of the desert. Let us depart from the urban to nature, from the manicured delights of human endeavor to the rough terrain of the untouched.

Can You Ever Walk By Without Giving to the Poor?

The Tosaphsits in the Talmud claim, “One who is obliged is greater than one who volunteers.” If giving to the poor is tzedakah and not charity, is this obligatory or voluntary? And who do we appreciate more, the person who is obliged or the person who volunteers to give to the poor?

The Temple of Jerusalem: From Reality to Myth

The building of the Tabernacle was ordained by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, immediately after having been given the Ten Commandments to Israel (Ex 25:8). And since its very inception, the desert Sanctuary and its substitute --i.e., the Temple of Jerusalem-- played a key role in real Israel's history in Biblical and Second Temple periods. And even after its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE, this foundational institution became a kind of cultural myth which has influenced Jewish art, literature and thought until these very days.

The Bar Kochbah Syndrome: Dilemmas of the Past/Dilemmas of the Present

In 132-135 CE a small and vulnerable Jewish group, led by Bar Kochbah, revolted against the mighty Romans. They were defeated. That distant story rings for centuries and centuries as Jews ponder the best ways of how to survive in the volatile Middle East. The issues of yesterday are the dilemmas of today. How do we move forward from conflict to peace? How does the State of Israel develop and grow, giving all its citizens better lives? Can we truly, one day, be a "light unto the nations"?

The Voices of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav was the great-grandson of Rabbi Yisrael, the Baal Shem Tov - founder of the Chassidic movement. He was born in 1772 (1 Nisan 5532) in the Ukrainian town of Medzeboz. He grew to be an outstanding teacher and Chassidic master. During his lifetime he attracted a devoted following of Chassidim who looked to him as their prime source of spiritual guidance. Ironically this Chassidic teacher who died in 1810 has had an immense revival among modern Israelis both religious, secular, liberal and traditional. A fascinating personality and a remarkable storyteller understanding Nachman of Bratslav is an important key to understanding religious trends in Israel.

Sex Out of the City

Study three Biblical stories of the women who used everything they had to achieve their goals, creating the foundation of the family line of King David. Compare the narratives of Lot’s daughters, Tamar, and Ruth, and see how they understand themselves and explain their actions holding Jewish destiny in the balance.

The Destruction and Rebuilding of the Jewish People in the Modern Period

As we wander through the awesome and awful concrete routes of Yad Vashem, we ponder on our past and present. We read Elie Wiesel's "Night" and look at the day all around us. The crucial period of 1945-1948 give us scope for some of the most challenging discussions that a people and nation can imagine. Our route is from Europe to Eretz Israel, from a blood torn Second World War to a battling new State. Who were the actors? What was the stage? Who held the props?

The Holidays and Seasons in the Jewish State

Holiday and Holy Day interact as the modern Jewish State lives its multi-dimensional existence. What are the existential meanings of Pesach (Passover) and Memorial Day? Each month in this ancient land has its own story and its own message. How do we blend a Biblical event, a Rabbinic thrill and a contemporary reality? The challenge is to see the places of memory and memorials and meet the actors of pain and joy. Jerusalem provides us with a graphic guide book – what more could one want?

Jerusalem: Foundation of Three Faiths

This course takes advantage of the unparalleled historical and spiritual setting of Jerusalem, holy site to three major world religions. Each subject is broken down into themes that give the participant an up-close understanding of these religions and their connection to Jerusalem. The interplay between sacred space and sacred text is phenomenal and the complexity and paradoxes that surround this city expose the deeper meaning of Jerusalem.

Exodus: They're Leaving Home, Bye Bye

Before cutting through the Red Sea, wandering in the desert, receiving the Torah, and entering the Land of Israel, the Israelites faced their longest and strangest night. Reflect on how the night of departure from Egypt sets the stage for both Exile and Redemption through the lens of contemporary art, literature, and music about the pain and freedom of leaving home.