Student D'var Torah by Sophie Kaufman
Plenary with Rabbi Shai Held, "Because We Have To Or Because We Want To?"
Does Judaism care only about what we do, or also about who we are? In other words, what is the place of virtue ethics in Judaism? Does Halakhah exhaust our obligations as Jews? How does a commitment to worshiping a universal God of creation affect our understanding of ethics? (Why) Does Halakhah sometimes seem to permit less-than-ideal ethical behavior? What is the ideal motivation when we engage in interpersonal mitzvot (bein adam lehaveiro)—should we care for people because we have to, or because we have taught ourselves to want to?
Rabbi Shai Held, "Is Self Love A Virtue Or A Vice?"
For some thinkers, self-love is a crucial and fundamental virtue, without which we cannot really love others; for other thinkers, self-love is an insidious vice which leads to selfishness and immorality. What this likely means is that the right question is not whether self-love is a virtue or a vice but rather what kind of self-love is a virtue and what kind a vice? In this session, we turn to Biblical and (especially) Rabbinic tradition for a series of radical and deeply surprising answers.
Rabbi Avi Strausberg, "The Art of Selective Hearing: Take the Best and Leave the Rest?"
From whom, can we learn? Can we read books, appreciate art, sing songs created by deeply flawed individuals? Can we vote and elect people into to office who may be able to execute the functions of the office but whose personal morality we find repugnant? In this session, we'll look to the story of Rabbi Meir and Aher, asking the question the rabbis asked, how did Rabbi Meir learn Torah from Aher and what does it mean to learn Torah from one who is like an angel?