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Theology

Divinity and God's role in the world

Atoning for the Golden Calf with the Kapporet

Atop the kappōret, the ark’s cover, sat the golden cherubim, which framed the empty space (tokh) where God would speak with Moses. Drawing on the connection between the word kappōret and the root כ.פ.ר (“atone”), and noting how the golden calf episode interrupts the Tabernacle account, the rabbis suggest that the ark cover served as a means of atoning for the Israelites’ collective sin.

Prof.

Rachel Adelman

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Lamentations in Seasonal Context

The reading of Lamentations on Tisha b’Av functions both as the climax of the three weeks of mourning and the beginning of the seven weeks of conciliation, which leads us into the High Holidays.[1]

Dr.

Elsie R. Stern

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The Faith of the Martyred Mother and her Seven Sons

2 Maccabees tells the story of a mother whose seven sons are killed before her eyes because they refuse to violate Jewish mores. The mother recalls the woman of seven sons and her bereft counterpart found in Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 2), and perhaps also the mother in Jerusalem described in Jeremiah 15, but offers a new theological twist on Jewish suffering: the promise of resurrection.

Dr.

Malka Zeiger Simkovich

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Is a First-Order Constructivist Theology Possible?

Prof.

Tamar Ross

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The Slaughter of Six Million Jews: A Holocaust or a Shoah?

What do the terms “holocaust” and “shoah” mean, and what do they reveal about how we view the respective roles of God and the Nazis in the Jewish genocide?

Prof.

Zev Garber

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Not What Happened But What Should Happen Now

Rabbi

Yuval Cherlow

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The Gender of God

What is the gender of the God of creation? Of YHWH in general?[1]

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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The Tabernacle: A Post-Exilic Polemic Against Rebuilding the Temple

The Priestly Torah discusses the Tabernacle at extraordinary length, emphasizing its portability. Nothing in P ever says this structure was meant to be temporary. P’s Tabernacle was not foreshadowing the Temple, but was a polemic against Haggai and Zechariah’s agitation to build the Second Temple.

Dr. Hacham

Isaac S. D. Sassoon

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Recasting the Temple Purification Ritual as the Yom Kippur Service

Leviticus 16 – ויקרא טז

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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The Ethical Problem of Hardening Pharaoh's Heart

It seems unethical for God to deny Pharaoh free will and then punish him for his actions. Rashi, Nahmanides, and Maimonides all struggle with this problem, and each assumes that even Pharaoh deserves to be treated fairly.[1]

Prof. Rabbi

Shaul Magid

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Punishing Children for the Sins of their Parents

Ezekiel challenges the divine (in)justice of intergenerational punishment, a concept that the Talmud notes appears in the Torah itself.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Abraham, Smasher of Idols, and the Question of the Torah's Historicity

Does the Torah’s Abraham really need the historical Abraham in order to claim an important role in Jewish religious consciousness or should the Torah be seen as the story of God and not as a historical account reported by God.

Dr. Rabbi

Amit Kula

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Does YHWH Remit Punishment?

As part of the selichot prayer service, the rabbis cut the biblical phrase וְנַקֵּה לֹא יְנַקֶּה “[YHWH] does not remit punishment” to read only וְנַקֵּה, which yields the opposite meaning, “[YHWH] remits punishment.” Although this edit is surprising, the rabbis are responding to a serious tension in the biblical text: Is YHWH a merciful God who pardons, or a vengeful God who will never remit punishment?

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Bringing It All Together: The Interactive Paradigm of Divine-Human Relations & Conclusion

Prof.

Tamar Ross

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The Chronicles of Divine Justice: Why God Destroyed Judah

When does God reward and when does God inflict punishment and why? A comparison of the books of Kings and Chronicles demonstrates that the Chronicler, troubled by the theology of Kings in which children can be punished for the sins of their parents, rewrote Israel’s history.*

Hartley Koschitzky

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The Incident of Nadav and Avihu

A Mysterious Transgression or a Mysterious Deity?

Prof.

Edward L. Greenstein

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When Pharaoh's Stubbornness Caught God by Surprise

A Supplementary Approach to the Theological Conundrum of Pharaoh’s Heavy Heart

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Shavuot: Why Doesn't the Torah Celebrate the Revelation on Mt. Sinai?

A Devar Torah inaugurating Project TABS / TheTorah.com

Rabbi

David D. Steinberg

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How God Was Sanctified through Nadav and Avihu's Death

After the shocking death of Nadav and Avihu, Moses says to Aaron that this is what God meant when he said, “through those near to me I will sanctify Myself.”  Rashi, Rashbam, and Nahmanides struggle to understand the meaning of Moses’ message.

Prof.

James A. Diamond

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The Paradigm of the Barren Woman: How God ‘Remembers’ on Rosh Hashanah

Prof.

Rachel Adelman

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"That Is What YHWH Said" — Moses Interprets Nadav and Avihu's Death

A fire comes forth from God and devours Nadav and Avihu but God does not actually say anything. It is Moses who infers what God was communicating through this act and even formulates a law based on his understanding of God’s message.

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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The Epistemic Standards of Biblical Scholarship

Sommer asks, “Can observant Judaism and modern biblical scholarship happily and honestly co-exist?” I’m concerned only with honesty, and will argue that Sommer’s theology fails to give an account of authoritativeness consistent with a commitment to biblical scholarship.

Prof. Rabbi

Jonathan W. Malino

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Relating to God in Calamity

The Approaches in Lamentations

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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Modern Faith in Sinai

Notwithstanding modern day biblical critical and historical critical claims, applying the tools of contemporary philosophy demonstrates how room still exists to have faith that something extraordinary happened to our ancestors and that this event had a permanent effect on the development of Torah and Judaism.

Dr. Rabbi

Samuel Lebens

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ניסוך המים a Sukkot Rain Making Ritual

The Rabbis describe how the ritual of ניסוך המים (water libation), which they believed was to have occurred every Sukkot in the Temple, was a point of contention between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, but why was it so contentious and what was at stake in its performance?

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Reintroducing the Myth of the Fallen Angels into Judaism

Literature and art are replete with images of angels descending to earth and joining humanity. One source for this image is a terse account in Genesis describing fallen angels, which is expanded upon in Second Temple literature. This interpretive tradition is suppressed in the classic rabbinic literature only to resurface again in the late narrative midrash, Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer.

Prof.

Rachel Adelman

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Biblical Authority: A Jewish Pluralistic View

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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The Smashing of the Luchot as a Paradigm Shift

Rabbi

Herzl Hefter

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The Sumerian City Laments and the Book of Lamentations

A Comparative Theological View

Dr.

Nili Samet

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The Import of Lex Talionis in the Story of the Blasphemer

Dr.

Shawna Dolansky

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In the Presence of God

The Difference between God’s “Name (שם)” and “Presence (כבוד)”

Dr.

Michael Carasik

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A Theological Revolution in Devarim

Dr.

Tamar Kamionkowski

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YHWH: The God that Is vs. the God that Becomes

The meaning of God’s names, especially YHWH, is central to Jewish theology. Two approaches have dominated: the philosophical, focusing on God’s essence (“being”) and the kabbalistic, focusing on God’s evolving relationship with Israel (“becoming”). Some modern thinkers such as Malbim and Heschel have looked for new syntheses or formulations.

Prof.

James A. Diamond

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Why Are there Demigods in a Monotheistic Torah?

Genesis 6 presents a narrative about divine beings who come to earth and have offspring with humans. What is a story which sounds like a pagan myth doing in the Torah?

Prof.

Benjamin D. Sommer

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Differing Conceptions of the Divine Creator

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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The Materiality of a Divine Dwelling

What makes a material suitable for constructing a sacred space, and why, given all of the details and repetitions concerning the mishkan, are none of its manufacturing techniques narrated?

Dr.

Jonathan Ben-Dov

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Understanding Idolatry

How the theologians of the ancient Near East made sense of idolatry through the ritual dedication of the statues that made them into gods.

Dr.

Uri Gabbay

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The Genre of Lamentations

In the ancient Near East, laments were written to mourn past destructions or to prevent future destructions. With which type of lament were the authors of Lamentations familiar?

Dr.

Uri Gabbay

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