A lot can change in 3,000 years. We’ve gone from camel backs to Cadillacs, and have entered a world of fast-paced technological advance. We’ve gone from a Jewish world marked by prophets and pilgrimages to a world where students study Torah in cyber-classrooms and rabbis address ethical question posed by organ transplants.
Yet the elemental questions about our tradition remain the same. How do we know what G-d wants of us in this world? Do we have any evidence that the Bible text is divine and true? How can we understand its cryptic passages? Why are the rabbis so concerned with minute details? Who has the right to interpret the Bible? How do we adapt its laws to modern times and changing influences?
The answers to these questions are addressed in “From Sinai to Cyberspace,” the most popular course ever offered by the Jewish Learning Institute. Newly revised on the basis of feedback from students like yourself, this interactive course promises to intrigue and inspire as you explore the history and development of Jewish law and tradition.
The journey “From Sinai to Cyberspace” represents the inner story of our lives and of our people. We invite you to join us for the ride.
1. Bridging the Gap
No written text is sufficient to serve as a definitive guide to practice. In this lesson we discuss why understanding the Torah requires the presence of an oral tradition.
2. Isn’t the Bible Enough?
Why is it necessary for G-d to transmit his message through a system of law that is both written and oral? We will see that this system ensures structure and clarity on the one hand, richness and flexible adaptation on the other.
3. Mouth to Mouth
In this lesson we explore the various categories of oral tradition: textual meaning, information that goes beyond the text, and rabbinic innovation.
4. Point and Counterpoint
Torah makes room for authentic exploration and debate. This lesson discusses the rules for Jewish argument, and the system whereby disagreements are resolved.
5. Power of the People
The Torah assigns rabbis the right to innovate and introduce new laws within preset parameters. It expects humans to partner with G-d in creating a holy and ethical society.
6. The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
(Plus ca Change, Plus C'est La Meme Chose.)
Discover how unchanging truth guides a changing world, and how an ancient system can address unprecedented circumstances.
7. Pardes: Torah’s Multiple Perspectives
The text of Torah is rich, vibrant, and colorful, a veritable garden of meaning. Tradition identifies different approaches to reading the text to help us explore its many dimensions.
8. How Do We Know That the Torah is True?
It’s not only faith - we have reason to believe. History, archaeology, and the philosophy of science provide methodologies that underscore the logical foundation of our belief in the absolute truth of the Torah.