Adath Shalom Scholar-In-Residence Events 2017-2018
Sept 9, 2017 Shabbaton:
Parsha Ki Tavo retierates a key concept of the book of Deuteronomy, the Torah as a whole, and later Judaism: Israel’s chosenness. In Deut 26:18-19 the people are reminded that they are to be a “treasured possession” to their God. I will discuss various meanings and interpretations of this idea of chosenness in the Bible, and in the history of Judaism.
If I had to pick the one biblical book that is the most significant for the history of Judaism, it would be Dvarim (Deuteronomy). Through the lens provided by the concept of covenant, this book looks back at the history of Israel from Abraham to Moses, and then forward to the rise and fall of Israel and Judah, serving as a crux between the first four and the next four books of the Tanakh. In bringing together history, law, and covenant in the way that it does, Deuteronomy establishes the concept of Torah. In aiming to represent an embodiment of Israel’s religious tradition superior to that of prophet, priest, or king, Deuteronomy creates the notion of a canon of sacred legislative tradition. The book aims to provide both the framework for a national constitution of Israel and a summary of every citizen’s rights and duties, as well as to exhort the proper feelings and attitudes toward God and fellow citizens; it strongly endeavours to bring all of life—its private, social, and more openly religious aspects—under an awareness of obligation and duty toward God. In so doing, Deuteronomy takes the first major step toward promoting Judaism as a religion of a book. We will look at the content and themes of Deuteronomy against a reconstruction of the circumstances in which it was written.
March 3, 2018 Shabbaton:
Parashat Ki Tisa tells the story of the Israelites’ creation of a golden calf in the wilderness while awaiting Moses’ return from atop the mountain. Although at first glance it seems that Aaron has helped the people to break the first two commandments of the ten just received, biblical scholars perceive a more complicated back story. The D’var Torah will tease out this backstory to show the ways in which political polemic intertwines with religious rhetoric in the Golden Calf narrative. With this in mind, after lunch we’ll delve into an exploration of the Ten Commandments and what each may have meant in the context of the religion and politics of ancient Israel – as opposed to the ways in which they are commonly understood (in religion and politics) today.
June 16, 2018 Shabbaton:
Parshat Korah provides an interesting and difficult narrative on leadership and its challenge(r)s. The d’var Torah will discuss both the literary difficulty of the narrative as well as the content; a somewhat disturbing tale of what can happen to those who challenge Moses’ authority over Israel. Questions of politics and power in ancient Israel thematically link Korah with the Haftarah, which is an excerpt from the book of Samuel. The lecture after lunch will discuss this portion of Samuel and the questions and tension in the Haftarah around the institution of kingship in ancient Israel.