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Yom Kippur Study Sessions 5774


After the Yom Kippur morning service, learn, study and reflect in one of the study sessions led by scholars of the Temple. Participation is open to all congregants and their guests. Sessions are held from 12:15 PM to 1:15 PM.
Whatever Became of Sin?

Lecturer: Rabbi Bruce Block
Location: Room 628, Goldsmith Religious School Building (10 East 66th Street)

THE LATE KARL MENNINGER asked this question 40 years ago. The eminent psychiatrist wondered whether we dismiss religious notions of sin too readily, favoring psychological and sociological explanations for human behavior. If it is illegal or immoral, he mused, then could it also be sinful?

Sin is a dominant theme in many of the prayers of the High Holy Days; so is the plea for forgiveness. But have such concepts lost the power they once held over our religious imagination? Do we contemporary Reform Jews still believe there is such a thing as sin?

We will look at two key prayers from our prayer book — Al Cheit and Ashamnu — as we consider Jewish notions of sin and forgiveness. We also will discuss whether such notions have any contemporary relevance.
Turmoil and Stability: The Miracle and Brilliance
of Our Survival as a People and a Faith


Lecturer: Rabbi Bruce Cole
Location: Room 602, Marvin and Elisabeth Cassell Community House
(One East 65th Street)

IN THIS UNSETTLING AND tumultuous period in the Middle East, which stretches back more than a millennia, we will examine how it is that we as a Jewish people have survived intact and unified, whereas all other civilizations and faith groups have splintered apart, creating violent and unconscionable hatred and war between and among themselves.

Using a cultural, anthropological approach to our knowledge of tribal development and an evaluation of our biblical texts, we shall examine our development from Habiru to Hebrew to Israelite to Jew, and revel in the revelation that we still are here stronger than ever.
Dual Torah: A Secret Exposed
(It May Rock, or Enhance, Your Soul)


Lecturer: Rabbi Richard A. Davis, D.D.
Location: Room 402, Marvin and Elisabeth Cassell Community House

THE CREATION OF JUDAISM does not start with Abraham or even Moses. For a better focus, look to more recent ancient times, when the Romans decimated Jerusalem. A hearty band of sages, grief-stricken by their loss, rallied to revitalize the despondent Judean people. They invented a “Dual Torah,” an ingenious method of casting a new religion, “Judaism.”

This move replaced the shattered biblical cult that had until then justified the (single) Torah, the Torah that was written as if God at Sinai had revealed it. The Yom Kippur we celebrate now is the handiwork of that revolution.

Today Dual Torah, notwithstanding any message to the contrary, is the web of Judaism and a model strategy for facing transitional challenge. You can’t understand Judaism without it.
The Shofar: An Instrument of Choice

Lecturer: Rabbi Philip Hiat
Location: Room 405, Marvin and Elisabeth Cassell Community House

FROM THE BINDING OF ISAAC to pomp and circumstance, trace the role of this musical instrument, symbolic and actual, in the history and heritage of Judaism.
The Un’Taneh Tokef: Poetic or Problematic

Lecturer: Rabbinic Intern: Alexis Pinsky
Location: Room 633, Goldsmith Religious School Building

THIS PRAYER, which legend dates to the 11th century, instructs us: “Let us affirm the majesty and holiness of this day.” It also famously includes several scenarios of how we might die in the coming year. We’ll learn what the prayer means, the story behind it and what makes it so controversial. Together we will see how the Reform Movement dealt with the theological difficulties presented, along with other modern ways of approaching the text.


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