An Ethical Life

Note: At the end of this post is a reminder about our Adult B’nai Mitzvah service that will take place this Saturday, November 4.

I shared these words with our congregation in The Review, our bi-monthly printed newsletter.  I offer them here as well, along with my hope that many of you will take the opportunity to learn with me.

What is the essence of Judaism?  Is it prayer and worship, perhaps so because we wish to come closer to God?  Is it study and learning, perhaps so because we wish to discover faith?  Is it repair of the world, for there can be nothing more urgent than using our strength and resources to help the suffering?  Indeed, each of these practices has its place.  Yet, the strongest argument may be that the essence of Judaism is to live a life devoted to goodness, to being a good person in our actions and our thoughts.  All of Jewish life is a preparation for the ultimate human condition—to develop our lives into a symphony of goodness.

The study of ethics is a priority in Judaism.  A Jewish examination of ethics considers the values of Torah and the wisdom of the Talmudic sages and their intellectual and spiritual heirs.  The study of ethics from a Jewish perspective examines critical, current issues from a Jewish lens.

The Jewish Theological Seminary has produced a truly outstanding curriculum for adults to engage in the study of ethics from a Jewish perspective.  Here’s how the course is described:

From political and financial scandals to rapid progress in biomedical science and technology, the complex issues of modern society are, at their core, issues of ethical and moral concern. Now more than ever, we require a solid understanding of how Jewish ethics can inform our discussions and decisions about the critical questions of the day. Judaism has a long history of wrestling with moral questions, responding to them in a way that considers all sides of an issue. 

The course includes video presentations by JTS faculty members, as well as short videos featuring people who grapple with ethical challenges in their professional work.  Participants will be able to access all course materials, including videos, online.  Eight sessions of “The Ethical Life” will be offered, four on a Monday night and four on a Shabbat morning from November through March.  The Monday night sessions will be streamed online for those who cannot be physically present at the synagogue.  The Shabbat morning sessions will take place shortly after the start of the Kiddush luncheon (videos will be shown at the Monday sessions but not on Shabbat).

The topics are varied and interesting, and are presented independent of each other so that participants can attend sessions selectively.  Participants will chose which topics will be studied.

Ethical issues that will be offered for study include: food production; fracking; mass incarceration; modern-day slavery; torture and war; end-of-Life care; disabilities and inclusion; physical enhancement; and lying.

Monday dates: November 20, December 18, January 8, January 22 (8:00-9:30 PM)

Shabbat dates: December 2, February 3, March 3, March 17 (shortly after the start of the kiddush lunch)

I do hope that you will join me for what promises to be a stimulating and important time of learning and discussion.

Adult B’nai Mitzvah celebration- THIS SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4

I hope that you will attend Shabbat morning services this week as we celebrate with five adults who are becoming B’nai Mitzvah.  Rick Gilman, Adele Nagelberg, Debra Ginsberg, Susan Waters and Harriet Siegerman have been studying with me for nearly a year and have prepared to participate in the service.  For each of these people, becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah as adults means something different.  Their personal journeys are unique.  For all of them, becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a moment of affirmation of their Jewish identity and their place in the Jewish community.   I hope that you will be present to celebrate with them and their families.

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