Egypt, Exodus & Sinai: Building blocks of a Nation – 7

The beginning of Jewish peoplehood occurred in Egypt. This is striking in the first verses of Exodus where the text lists the sons of Jacob who came to Egyptas individual families and then just a few verses later Pharaoh designates them – for the first time ever- as the nation ofIsrael. The birthing process of our people included enslavement, redemption and revelation, all which occurred disconnected from a national homeland. This lesson will explore the historical, philosophical, social, theological and moral significance of that process. Through discussion and comparative sources we will attempt to understand the implications of those particular beginnings: how they imprinted the nation ofIsrael, their consequences, the effects they had on our character, self image and destiny.  (more…)

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The Covenant, the Land, the Hand of God in History – 10

We will discuss the covenantal view of history and its implications for our reading of the biblical historical narrative and rabbinic texts; does God determine history as a response to our merits/sins? Does this imply we should undertake a passive role when national disasters occur, since they are simply the hand of God dealing out our due punishment? Is there a rational way to interpret the same concept of historical consequences for our actions?  How do we relate to and teach this concept after the Holocaust?  What does this mean for the modern State of Israel – do we have an unconditional right to the Land, or is it dependent upon our actions?


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Adam v’adama: The relationship between people and land – 11

This lesson looks at our relationship to the land through an ecological lens.  What can we learn from the Bible regarding the general obligation of humans to care for the earth vs. their right to exploit it for their benefit?  And what obligations, if any, do we have as Jews to care for the natural resources and landscape of the Land of Israel?  Today it is common in the west to speak of our species’ obligation to use the land without abusing it, to see our benefiting from the land as conditional upon our respecting it.  We tend to associate these ideas of integration of human activity into the cycles of nature as vaguely pagan in origin or in spirit.  The question is: in an ecological perspective, what kind of relationship to the land do we find in Jewish sources?  How does the modern enterprise of reclaiming and settling the Land of Israel relate to Jewish ecological concepts?


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