All lectures run from 7:00 to 9:00 pm, and are held at Washburn Auditorium, 10 Phillips Place, Cambridge.
September 4, 7:00-9:00 pm: Rabbi Tali Adler, Children of Kayin: Original Sin and the Improbability of Teshuvah
While we usually think of Kayin as the original murderer, some midrashic traditions paint Kayin in a different light: as the original baal teshuvah, or penitent. In this class we will explore the story of Kayin and its midrashic reception. We will ask ourselves: is the concept of teshuvah intuitive? Is there anything that is beyond forgiveness? And how would our Yom Kippur change if we imagined ourselves, on that day, as descendants of Kayin?
September 11, 7:00-9:00 pm: Rabbi Avi Killip, When We Can’t Go it Alone: Teshuvah as Community Engagement
What is teshuvah and why does it require us to engage with our community? Repentance is a deeply personal endeavor, so why do more Jews come together on Yom Kippur than any other day of the year? Together we will explore the social and theological intersections between sin, forgiveness, repentance and change.
September 17, 7:00-9:00 pm: Rabbi Shai Held, The Fast That God Desires: Love, Justice, and the Meaning of the Yom Kippur Haftarah
The haftarah for Yom Kippur confronts us with a searing question many would prefer to avoid: What if our worship is no more than a sham? Moving beyond rebuke, the prophet Isaiah offers a stunning alternative, a powerful vision of what genuine worship would look like— and by extention, of what a good community and society look like. In brief, the prophet demands a deep and abiding commitment to both love and justice. In this session, we'll wrestle with Isaiah's words and with their implications for our lives.
March 19, 7:00-9:00 pm: Dena Weiss, The Case of the Stolen Matzah: Do the Ends Justify the Means?
One of the enduring questions of human political life and our attempts at progress is whether the ends justify the means. The Talmud uses the case of some stolen matzah to probe the question of whether I can do a mitzvah with an object with a tainted pedigree. At what point must I draw the line and refuse to use an object that came to me illicitly and at what point can I say that what is in the past is in the past?
March 26, 7:00-9:00 pm: Rav Shai Held, The Defeat of Chaos, The Triumph of Life, and the Dream of a Compassionate Society (Or, What Is the Exodus Really About?)
In this session, we'll examine the biblical portrayal of Yetziat Mitzrayim (the Exodus) with new eyes. We'll see how the Torah interprets what's really at stake in the battle between God and Pharaoh and why God's victory over the tyrant is so essential. Then we'll see how the Torah sets out to build a society that is the antithesis of Egypt, one that has internalized the lessons of oppression and degradation and chosen a life oriented by compassion and solidarity instead
April 2, 7:00-9:00 pm: Rav Tali Adler, This is My God: Mirrors, Diapers, and Where Redemption Happens
When we think of the Exodus from Egypt certain symbols immediately come to mind: blood, frogs, the split sea, and the burning bush. These symbols are awe-inspiring, but they are also only part of the story. In this session we'll explore Biblical and rabbinic texts that take a different view of slavery and the Exodus, focusing on private family moments rather than plagues and national salvation. We'll ask ourselves what's at the stake in the way we tell the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim and what a seder that centers a different narrative of salvation might look like.
April 9, 7:30-9:30 pm: Rav Shai Held, Turning Memory Into Empathy: The Lessons of Exodus
In this session, we'll explore the biblical ideal of "loving the stranger." We'll see how the mandate to love the outsider develops from Exodus to Leviticus to Deuteronomy; we'll ask about the role of memory in ethics (it's far more complex than we usually assume!); and we'll discuss how the mandate to love the outsider can be personalized; and we'll explore what it would really mean to love a God who loves the vulnerable and exploited.
A Collaboration of:
Temple B’nai Brith
JSA Harvard pinity School
Congregation Eitz Chayim
MIT Grad Hillel
Tremont Street Shul
Washington Square Minyan
Camberville Open Beit Midrash
Jewish Law Student Association
Progressive Halakhah Conference at Harvard Law School featuring a keynote by R. Ethan Tucker
Join us in Cambridge/Somerville for a weekly beit midrash in preparation for the high holidays.
Each session will include delicious kosher dinner, community building, and learning with a different member of the Hadar faculty, inlcuding R. Tali Adler, R. Shai Held, R. Avi Strausberg, and Dena Weiss.
August 15: R. Shai Held
Why Don't People Change? (and How We Could)
Contemporary culture gives us a lot of mixed messages. On the one hand, we're told that free will is an illusion, and that we're conditioned by countless circumstances beyond our control. On the other hand, we're told that human beings are malleable, and that even our brains our "plastic." A mature spirituality recognizes, first, that it's extremely hard to change who we are, and second, that we're nevertheless obligated to work on doing just that. With the help of Rabbinic, Chassidic, and Mussar texts in conversation with modern psychology and, we'll explore both obstacles and opportunities for change and personal growth.
August 22: R. Avi Strausberg
Magnetic Verses of Zikhronot (Remembrances): Selective Memory for the Win
The Musaf Service of Rosh HaShanah is defined by the insertions of Malkhuyot (Kingship), Zikhronot (Remembrances), and Shofarot (Blasts of the Shofar) into the Amidah. In this session, we’ll take an in-depth look at the compilation of verses that make up Zikhronot. We’ll ask ourselves what are we looking to remember, what are we hoping to forget, and just who is doing the remembering anyway. After we dig deep into the rabbis’ choice of verses and try to understand their selection, we’ll get a chance to compose our own Zikhronot.
August 29: Dena Weiss
In Hiding or In Plain Sight? An Alternative Model of Repentance
The Yom Kippur liturgy is centered around confession and acknowledgement of sin. But, what if we have been doing it all wrong? What if the proper way to repent and engage with our sins is to conceal, rather than reveal them? In this class we'll approach teshuvah through this counter-intuitive lens and see what we can uncover about our best selves when we cover up our worst transgressions.
September 5: R. Tali Adler
Sacrifice: What It Is, What It Could Be, And Why It Matters
Akeidat Yitzhak, the Torah reading for the second day of Rosh HaShanah, is usually seen as the ultimate Jewish model of personal sacrifice. But is willingness to die for God really the epitome of sacrifice? In this session we will explore a midrash that questions Akeidat Yitzhak's role as the central model of personal sacrifice, and offers a story about Rachel our Matriarch as an alternative. We will use the midrash to explore questions such as: What does sacrifice look like? What role should it play in our religious lives? And what might our High Holidays look like with a different model of religious sacrifice at the center?
Wednesdays March 7, 14, 21, and 28, 2018
Braun Room in Andover Hall, Harvard Divinity School,
Join us in Cambridge/Somerville for a weekly beit midrash in preparation for the holiday of Passover.
Each session will include delicious kosher dinner, community building, and learning with a different member of the Hadar faculty. Cost per person is $5 per session or $15 for all four classes. We hope that you will join us!
March 7: Dena Weiss
Enslaving Ourselves: A New Look at the Exodus
On Pesah, we celebrate the liberation of our people and the difficult process by which we became free. In this class we'll look at the story of the Exodus from the very beginning and ask ourselves, how did we lose this freedom? What were the political and psychological factors and forces at work in the Egyptian and Hebrew communities that led to the dire state of slavery and how are those dynamics still at play in our own relationships to freedom, work, and responsibility? Our conversation will center around the commentary of the extremely popular and psychologically astute 18th century commentary of R. Hayyim ibn Attar, the Or HaHayyim.
March 14: Jason Rubenstein
If Slavery is Not Wrong, then Nothing is Wrong: The Torah and the Struggle Against Slavery Past, Present, and Future
How does the Torah orient us to freedom and enslavement of Jews, and of others? What strategies can bridge the Exodus's assault on slavery with much of the tradition's acceptance of slavery as a social institution? We'll look closely at Jewish reflections on freedom and enslavement in both classical sources and more recent American history, with the goal of moving beyond the either-or of particularism/universalism to a stance that integrates universal human dignity with distinctive historical experience.
March 21: Ethan Tucker
Positive and Negative Liberty: Freedom from or Freedom to?
In this session, we will look closely at the question of the purpose of freedom and its role in the Passover story. Following the insights of R. Yitzhak Hutner, a prominent 20th century rabbinic educator, we will reexamine just what this festival of freedom is about and how it is meant to shape our lives.
March 28: Elie Kaunfer
What is the story of the Jewish People? A close reading of the Haggadah narrative
At its core, the Haggadah is a story about the formation of the Jewish people. How one tells this story has great significance for how we think of ourselves as Jews and as freed people. In this class, we will examine the different approaches to telling the story that are embedded in the Haggadah. By looking at some ancient versions of the Haggadah discovered in the Cairo Genizah, we will explore the basic question of how we tell our story on Passover.
A Collaboration Of:
The Tremont Street Shul
Camberville Open Beit Midrash
Jewish Student Association at Harvard Divinity School
Harvard Hillel Graduate Student Community
MIT Grad Hillel
384 @ KI
Wilson Square Minyan
Asiyah Jewish Community
Temple B’nai Brith
Hadar Alumni Committee: