Essentials of Judaism
A Syllabus for a New Class
Tentative Outline for "Essentials of Judaism"
A. Gd and Torah
1. The Masorah - Testing the Authenticity of the Torah and our Traditions
a. Freedom of Interpretation - Multiple levels of Torah messages (Peshat/Derash)
b. The Development of Jewish Law through the ages
c. Legitimate Differences in Practice - Ashkenaz, Sefard and beyond
d. Secrets of Torah - What is Kabbalah?
2. The Fundamentals of Jewish Belief
a. The Maimonidean view
b. Rav Yosef Albo's understanding
c. Disagreeing with Moses Mendelssohn
3. Who is HaShem [Gd]?
a. "One is HaShem"
b. What it means to come in first and yet finish last
c. Creation, Evolution and everything in between
d. Does Gd have a Body?
e. Does Gd know everything?
f. Can Gd make a rock He can't lift?
B. The Soul
a. When does the soul enter the body?
b. If the soul is ancient, why does a baby not display that?
c. Jewish views on abortion
2. Free Choice
a. Do we have "Free Will?"
b. Does it matter?
a. Is Death a bad thing?
b. Jewish attitudes toward suicide
4. Heaven/Hell, and Reincarnation
C. The Mitzvos [Commandments]
a. Why ask "Why?"
b. Is there an answer?
c. Does the "Why" affect the "How"
2. Humanism and the Commandments
a. Commandments regarding relating to other people
b. Finding our own personalities in the Commandments
c. Does Judaism make us choose between People and Gd
3. Divine Reward and Punishment
a. In this world
b. After death
c. Who will be Mashiach, and what's the point?
d. When will Mashiach arrive?
e. What will the Messianic world look like?
1. The point of prayer
a. Doesn't Gd know what I want?
b. Can I change Gd's verdict?
2. Structure vs. Spontaneity
a. History of Prayer
b. Pros and Cons
c. Group prayer vs. Personal meditation
3. Animal sacrifice
b. Life in the Temple Era
E. Living a Jewish Life
1. Jews and Gentiles
a. Jewish Racism
b. Handling Anti-Semitism
e. Does Gd reward Gentiles for their good deeds?
2. Gender Roles in Jewish law and thought
a. The Role of a Man
b. The Role of a Woman
c. What if I don't fit my "Role?"
3. The Jewish Home
a. Jewish Marriage
b. Jewish attitudes toward the marriage bed
c. Creating a Jewish environment
d. Child rearing
e. Honoring one's elders
f. Keeping Kosher
a. Commemorating Creation, or taking a day off?
b. What is "Work?"
c. All this "rest" is driving me crazy!
5. The Jewish Calendar
d. Rosh haShanah
e. Yom Kippur
f. Rosh Chodesh
g. Tishah be'Av
h. Public Fast Days
k. Private holidays and fasts
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