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Torah Cafe

Torah Cafe

By Zalman Gordon
A discussion on a topic from the week's Parsha covering many important parts of Judaism that are not regularly addressed.
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Trying to Escape From G-d - The Story of Jonah
Every year on Yom Kippur we read the book of Jonah about the prophet Jonah who tried to escape God by fleeing to Tarshish rather than fulfill his mission to warn the city of Ninveh that they would be destroyed. Listen to the fascinating story of Jonah, why he tried to escape and what Jonah's story means to each of us.
29:21
September 23, 2020
Why is the Jewish New Year so serious?
Rosh Hashanah is celebrated as the Jewish New Year but though it is a New Year, we do not make any wild parties or celebrate. It's not that Jews don't celebrate, we have other holidays when we party like Simchat Torah and Purim. Why then don't we party on Rosh Hashanah? Instead we spend much of the day praying in the synagogue. A discussion about the Jewish New Year, what it means and why it is so serious.
26:22
September 16, 2020
The Tashlich Ceremony
Tashlich is the little understood but widely observed ceremony we do near water on Rosh Hashanah. Learn about the Tashlich ceremony, what it actual is about, as well as its history and customs.
42:54
September 13, 2020
What are Selichot?
On a Saturday night a week or so before Rosh Hashanah, we go to the synagogue at midnight to recite the special prayers of Selichot. Every morning after that until Rosh Hashanah, we get up early to recite the Selichot. What are Selichot? What is unique about the prayers? Who wrote them? Why are they recited at unusual times?
44:32
September 9, 2020
The Founder of Chabad - Rabbi Shneur Zalman
One of the most influential Jeiwsh leaders in history was Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (b. 1745), known best as the founder of the Chabad movement and author of the mystical classic Tanya. Rabbi Shneur Zalman was one of the wisest Jewish scholars of all time and a charismatic leader whose movement changed the face of Jewish life in Europe in his day despite ongoing challenges he faced from his many detractors. Learn about Rabbi Schneur Zalman, his fascinating life story and the lasting impact he made of Jewish life we know today.
57:14
September 7, 2020
Have Humans Gotten Bigger Over Time?
How do you measure things? Feet, gallons & pounds? Meters, liters and kilograms? Judaism has its own measurement system. Many rules in Judaism require specific weights, lengths or volumes. Torah includes a full system of measurements for all of Jewish law.  Many of those measurements are based on the human body similar to the 'foot' that we use in the 'US customary system'. To accurately use those measurements today, we need to be certain that humans have not changed in size over time, but have they? Learn about Jewish measurements and the great debate over whether humans have grown over time.
47:15
September 2, 2020
Can Humanoids and Robots be Jewish?
AI (artificial intelligence) has greatly advanced in recent years. Today, robots can perform many human functions even better than people can. While robots are still not indistinguishable in all ways, that day is not too far off. Could an AI-powered robot might someday be considered a human according to Jewish law? Could it be counted for a minyan? Learn about the history of robots and other human-like creations in Judaism and their status under Jewish law.
50:50
August 30, 2020
Mezuzah - The Jewish Security System
One of the central commandments in Judaism is to place a Mezuzah on our doorposts. A detailed discussion all about the Mezuzah, how it is made, where it is placed and why we Jews consider the Mezuzah part of our home security system.
51:08
August 26, 2020
Do we have Soulmates?
Finding the 'right one' can be very challenging and daunting. Some find them immediately while others struggle waiting many years to find the right one or cycle through many partners whom they thought was the right one. What does Judaism say about finding your spouse? Is your spouse, your soulmate? Is finding a spouse our own choice or is it destined by G-d? Is there only one person out there for each one of us? Whether you have happily found your soulmate or you are still searching learn the Jewish perspective on marriage and finding your soulmate.
49:03
August 23, 2020
The Sanhedrin – The Jewish Supreme Council
For 1600 years, Judaism was controlled by the Sanhedrin or Supreme Council until it was disbanded about 1700 years ago. What was the Sanhedrin? How did they function? Why did it disband? And why don't we recreate the Sanhedrin? Learn about the ancient Sanhedrin and its role in Judaism.
50:59
August 20, 2020
King Solomon
King Solomon was one of the most unique leaders of our people and full of contradictions. The wisest of all men who make grave mistakes, the most powerful king who could not control his own home, celebrated for his righteousness yet struggled to do the right thing. Discover the fascinating and strange story of King Solomon.
49:58
August 16, 2020
Why do they hate us?
For more than 2,000 years, there has been constant hatred directed at the Jewish people. At times that hatred was religious (hatred of Judaism), at times it was cultural (hatred of Jewish culture) and sometimes nationalistic (hatred of the Jewish people). The hatred transcends time and place and was expressed by ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians, Christians, Muslims, Europeans, Arabs and even Japanese. What is the cause of this hatred? How can we combat it? Will we ever be able to end the near universal hatred of Jews? A discussion about the history of anti-Jewish hatred and what we believe is the cause for it.
52:10
August 12, 2020
Jerusalem: The Eternal Capital of Israel
Jerusalem is the most important city in Judaism. It was the capital of Israel for close to 3,000 years, the home to the Holy Temple and we face Jerusalem when we pray Learn about Jerusalem: its history, spiritual significance and place in Judaism.
50:09
August 9, 2020
The 13 Words of Mercy
The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are a collection of thirteen words or phrases that God taught Moses to invoke God's mercy whenever we are in need. Learn about the Thirteen attributes of Mercy, what they mean and what they represent.
44:24
August 5, 2020
Who Invented the Synagogue?
Synagogues as we know them did not exist in the days of Moses. How did they begin? Why did Jews start building synagogues to pray in? A discussion about the history and development of the synagogue and its role as a Jewish place for prayer.
47:39
August 2, 2020
The Temple Mount
The Temple Mount, the site of the two ancient Temple in Jerusalem is Judaism's holiest site. How was the Temple Mount chosen as G-d's special spot on earth? What is the history behind it? Our Temple was destroyed almost 2,000 years ago yet we still consider the spot very holy. What is it's current status in Judaism? Do we allow or encourage Jews to go up  on the mountain today? Should we allow non Jews to go up? And should we make any attempt to rebuild our holy Temple? Learn about the history of the Temple mount, its status today and the Jewish quest to rebuild the Temple.
59:45
July 31, 2020
The Destruction of the Second Temple
One of the greatest Jewish tragedies of all times was the Jewish-Roman War in 66-70CE. In that brutal war, one million Jews were killed, Jerusalem was leveled and the Holy Temple was destroyed. The war led to the exile of our people when most of us were forced out of Israel to wonder from land to land. While there are many accounts of this war, figuring out what actually happened is difficult given the contradictions and the knowledge that the most important account was largely falsified.  Listen to the fascinating story of this important historical event.
43:01
July 29, 2020
The Shema
The Shema Yisrael is a section of the Torah that is the most important prayer in Judaism, and includes the most important beliefs in Jewish faith and many of our central commandments. We recite the prayer twice daily.  Shema has become so central to the Jewish people that it is the climax of the final Ne’ilah prayer of Yom Kippur, and is traditionally a Jew’s last words on earth. A talk about the Shema, its meaning and its significance.
45:15
July 26, 2020
The Jewish View on Aging
Often our society has a negative look on age, seeing youth as an asset. Judaism sees youth as a liability and age as an asset. Learn why Judaism and the Torah put a premium on age.
46:29
July 23, 2020
Are the Torah and the Bible the same thing?
People often use the English word Bible where referring to our Torah. But is the Torah really the same as the Bible? While there are parts of the Christian Bible that are clearly not part of our Torah, what about the "Old Testament"? Learn about the differences between the Torah and the Bible.
40:40
July 19, 2020
How Kosher Meat is Prepared
The most complicated part of Kosher laws is the process of preparing Kosher meat from slaughter to checking for disease to cutting out forbidden parts and draining the blood. While in earlier times, our grandparents did most of this themselves, today it is all prepared in the factory so Kosher meat consumers are often oblivious to the complex preparation process. Learn about the entire process of preparing Kosher meat with all the details.
43:29
July 15, 2020
A Jewish Perspective on Law Enforcement
Our society today is grappling with the role of law enforcement and community safety. Is law enforcement today effective? Do law enforcement representatives use more force than necessary? Are there safer ways to keep the peace without harming others than current law enforcement practices? How can we keep society safe from harmful elements while avoiding the use of force that can unnecessarily harm both criminals and innocent victims. A discussion about the role of law enforcement and community safety in Judaism.
54:26
July 14, 2020
The Prophet Jeremiah
The prophet Jeremiah was one of the most important figures in Jewish history. He lived at the very end of the first Jewish kingdom and witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the holy Temple. He spent most of his days warning his people of the impeding catastrophe and imploring them to change their ways. A fascinating discussion of Jeremiah the prophet, and the tragic story of his people.
41:40
July 10, 2020
Do Jews Believe in Sacrifice?
Sacrifice was practiced by Jews from the days of Moses for over 1300 years while the temples stood in Jerusalem. Since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE we stopped offering sacrifices. Does Judaism today still believe in sacrifice? Why was it practiced in Judaism for so long? Learn about sacrifice in Judaism including why it was practiced for so long, why we no longer practice sacrifice and what the purpose of it was.
46:44
July 8, 2020
The Story of Joshua
After the death of Moses, his disciple Joshua, led Israel across the Jordan into the Promised Land leading the conquest of the land from the Canaanites and then dividing the land among the twelve tribes. Learn about the story of Joshua and Israel's conquest of the Promised Land.
51:43
July 5, 2020
The Secret of the Red Cow
One of the strangest commandments in the Torah is the Red Cow. When someone with a dead corpse, they may not enter the Temple in Jerusalem or eat sacrificial meat until they are sprinkled with spring water mixed with ashes from a red cow. The Red Cow commandment is so strange that King Solomon wrote he can understand every commandment except this one. A discussion about this strange Mitzvah and its significance.
44:36
July 3, 2020
The Priestly Blessing
There is a special blessing that the Torah tells us should be used by Kohanim, the priests descending from Aaron (Moses' brother) to bless the people. Thiss Sunday to learn about this blessing, its great power particularly for dreams,  the special hand motions that go with it and the riddle of why it's not done the way it is supposed to be done.
36:58
July 1, 2020
Shabtai Tzvi - The False Messiah
Shabtai Tzvi proclaimed himself as Moshiach in the early 1600's splitting world Jewry between his earnest supporters and opponents. As his popularity grew among Jews, Christians and Muslims he at one point appeared unstoppable until he converted to Islam and the Jewish community rejected him. Listen to the unbelievable story of this charismatic impostor who convinced so many and made such a great impact on our history.
42:19
June 28, 2020
The Ark of the Covenant
At the center of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem stood a golden box called the Ark of the Covenant. Inside the Ark sat the tablets the Moses had brought down from Mt. Sinai and the original Torah scroll written by Moses. The Ark was central to Jewish worship throughout the time we had it and was at times taken out of the Temple for unique events. It disappeared before the destruction of the Temple in 421 BCE and has been a mystery since. A fascinating discussion about the Ark of the Covenant and its history.
54:08
June 24, 2020
Conquering Anger
Anger is a challenging and problematic emotion that many feel at challenging times. Anger can be harmful to the person feeling the emotion and to others around them leading them to do and say things they later regret. Conquering anger is a challenge for everyone but particularly for people who struggle with constant anger outbursts. Judaism sees conquering anger as one of the most important goals in character building. Discover the powerful Jewish teachings on conquering anger.
50:22
June 21, 2020
Tanach; Understanding Our Jewish Scriptures
The Hebrew scriptures includes 24 books that Jews consider holy. What are those 24 books? How are they organized?
1:01:38
June 17, 2020
Why Jews Pray at Graves
For thousands of years Jews have prayed at the graves of our deceased loved ones and Tzaddikim (saintly individuals). But why do we pray at graves when we always pray directly to G-d without any intermediaries? What is the special significance to pray at graves and why has it been so important to most Jewish communities throughout history? A discussion about the Jewish tradition to visit and pray at graves.
45:53
June 14, 2020
How did Judaism splinter into so many factions?
Do you need a label to be Jewish? Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist; where did all these labels come from? How did Judaism become so fragmented?  Were we better off for over 3,000 years before these groups were created? Join us to learn the fascinating story of how Judaism fragmented over the past 150 years and the battles waged that split Jewish communities into warring camps. Together, we will look at the impact of that fragmentation on Jewish life and what we can do to reverse the divisions still apparent today.
57:09
June 12, 2020
Deborah the Prophetess
Deborah who lived more than 3,000 years ago was one of our 7 prophetesses mentioned in scripture. She was one of the few female Jewish leaders in ancient times. The fascinating tale of Deborah and the beautiful poem that she composed.
33:39
June 10, 2020
The Great Assembly and Its Impact on Judaism
The Great assembly or Knesset Hagedolah was a group of Jewish scholars and leaders led by Ezra that made a number of important contributions to Judaism and Jewish practice at the beginning of the Second Temple period. Among the achievements are canonizing the Tanach (holy scripture), composing prayers and blessing and creating the synagogue. Learn about the Men of the Great Assembly and their impact on Judaism
1:04:41
June 7, 2020
Sexuality in Judaism
Sexuality drives some of the most powerful feelings and experiences that humans have. Sexuality is both a primitive human instinct as well as the glue that joins two loving souls. Often sexual experiences can be powerfully positive while just as often they can be destructive and terribly harmful. Our society today grapples with the inherit contradictions in sexual relationships and experience. A frank and open discussion about the Jewish view of sexuality and how Judaism allows us to harness the positive power while avoiding the dangers of sexuality.
48:21
June 5, 2020
Where did the Jewish Year number come from?
We count a new Jewish year number every year starting a new year on Rosh Hashanah How did we get to that number? Jewish tradition tells us that our Jewish year number is the number of years from Creation but have we really been counting since creation? Moses, the Torah and our people began more than 2,000 years after the counting began. A discussion about the Jewish year counting and how we got to our current Jewish year number (class from 2018).
49:05
June 3, 2020
The Story of Samson
Samson was a Shofet, leader of Israel in the Shoftim period when Israel first settled in the land of Israel. He was best known for his superhuman strength and mighty feats in battle with the Philistines. He was later betrayed by his wife Delilah who shared the secret of his superhuman strength with the Philistines. Discover the fascinating story of Samson.
49:51
June 1, 2020
Maimonides: The Man Who Organized Judaism
One of the greatest Jewish figures in our history was Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon known as Rambam of Maimonides who lived in the 12th in Egypt. This Sunday will be the 813th anniversary of his passing. Discover the fascinating story of Maimonides, his impact on Judaism and the way he singlehandedly organized the Torah.
52:59
May 27, 2020
What is the Oral Torah?
The Torah we were given includes two parts. The Written Torah and the Oral Torah. We consider the Oral Torah to be the primary source of all our laws and rules in Judaism? What exactly is the Oral Torah? How do we know it is true and was transmitted accurately over the many generations? A discussion about the Oral Torah, what exactly it is and how we know it to be true.
1:00:05
May 24, 2020
Rashi - The Great Jewish Teacher
Rashi, a 12th century scholar from France was one of the greatest Jewish scholars of all times. Best know for his commentaries on the Torah and Talmud that have become the standard commentaries on those central Jewish text Learn about Rashi, his life story and the great impact he made on Jewish scholarship and Judaism.
47:15
May 17, 2020
The Jewish Rule of Tithing
Tithing or separating a tenth of one's earnings for charity originates in Judaism where it is known as Maaser Kesafim and has since been adopted by other religions built from Judaism. When did we start tithing? Why do we tithe? What kind of earnings should be tithed? Where should the tithes go? A discussion of Ma'aser Kesafim - Tithing in Judaism
49:23
May 10, 2020
The Jewish View on End-of Life-Care
Modern medicine has given us the power to extend lives even when the individual is not expected to recover and may be in extreme pain or not responsive. At what point can we stop offering live saving treatment that is just temporarily extending the suffering? Can we do anything to make them die sooner and end their suffering? End of life care is relevant to all of us who have had loved ones that have faced or likely will face End-of Life care dilemmas. We ourselves may need to deal with them one day. Unfortunately, it is hard to make the right ethical decisions while sick or while caring for a loved one. Learn about the Jewish perspective on End-of-Life treatment to get a better understanding of our Jewish ethics and how they contrast with prevalent medical ethics and practices.
56:41
May 3, 2020
What is the Jewish View on Martyrdom?
Do Jews have martyrs? There are religions in which it's a great thing to die for your faith, and doing so makes you a saint or gets you a ticket to paradise. What is the Jewish view? Millions of Jews have died for being Jewish but is it a central value in Judaism? Are martyrs heros? Do they get a ticket to paradise? Is Jew person supposed to die for their beliefs? What is the Jewish view on martyrdom?
44:02
April 28, 2020
Does Judaism believe in the death penalty?
The ethics of capital punishment has been hotly debated for decades with our Governor recently taking a strong position against capital punishment. Throughout this debate, the perspective of Judaism has been brought up repeatably by both side including by the Eighth Circuit in 1988 Hayes V. Lockhart case. What does Judaism in fact say about the death penalty? On which side of the debate does Judaism fall?
48:42
April 24, 2020
Does Judaism Allow Abortions?
One of the biggest cultural debates in the past century has been over abortion. Does allowing abortions protect a women's right to choose or does prohibiting abortions protect the fetus's right to live? What about abortion in cases of rape, teen mother, when the child poses a health threat to the mother or when the child is handicapped? What does the Torah say about abortions and the arguments on both sides?
1:07:21
April 19, 2020
Infertility: A Jewish Perspective
Many of our early ancestors including Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Rachel suffered with infertility. Today, we have modern medical solutions including in-vitro fertilization that allows for couples that would otherwise be infertile to have children. What is the Jewish perspective on infertility? Why does G-d give some people children and not others? Should those who are infertile, spare all expense and effort to have children? Does Jewish law allow infertility treatments? A fascinating discussion about the Jewish perspective on infertility and infertility treatments.
48:02
April 17, 2020
Does Judaism believe in Vaccines?
Vaccines have been administered across the world for decades as a way of building immunity to viral infections. While vaccines have limited the spread of disease and saved millions of lives, in recent years certain groups have organized against vaccines. Does Jewish law and values encourage vaccines? Should we require everyone to get vaccinated? What should we do when people refuse to vaccinate their children?
46:00
April 14, 2020
Understanding Animal Sacrifices in Judaism
Animal Sacrifices were a central part of Jewish practice when our Temple stood in Jerusalem. Though we no longer practice sacrifice since we have no Temple, we still study the rules of the sacrifices and pray for the temple to be rebuilt and for sacrifice to be restored. Learn about the different types of sacrifices, the process of offering a sacrifice and the logistics of how large amounts of sacrifices were offered in Temple.
43:47
April 13, 2020
Splitting of the Sea
The greatest miracle in our history and the greatest event in the Exodus from Egypt was the splitting of the Red Sea when the Children of Israel crossed the Sea while the Egyptians who followed them into the sea drowned. We celebrate the great miracle of the splitting of the sea on the holiday of the 7th day of Passover, the anniversary of the great event.  Learn about the great miracle of the Splitting of the Sea and what is means for us today.
48:33
April 12, 2020
Coronavirus: Plagues in Judaism
While we never imagined that we would experience the total shutdown of society due to a virus, our ancestors have dealt with plagues of different forms repeatedly throughout our more than 3,000 years of history. Learn how our ancestors responded to plague and how we can learn from them to alleviate our own challenges in dealing with the Novel Cornavirus today!
45:15
March 22, 2020
Gematria -The Ancient Jewish Code
In ancient Hebrew, letters and numbers are interchangeable. Words can be written in number format and numbers are written with letters. Every word has a number value and certain numbers have unique meaning. The system of Hebrew numerology is called Gematria. Learn about Gematria and other Jewish codes.
41:28
March 15, 2020
The Story of Esther
Esther was the unlikely heroine of the Purim story. She used her forced marriage to the Persian Emperor and position as queen Persia to save her people from annihilation. Listen to the full story of Esther, her background, ascendance as queen, her role in the Purim story and her impact on Jews in the Persian Empire.
50:43
March 9, 2020
The Power of the Ketoret (Incense)
One of the unique rituals practiced in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was the twice daily offering of incense. The incense had a unique recipe that was used only in the Temple and was the most sought after ritual in the Temple given the great power and blessings ascribed to it. . Learn all about the Ketoret (incense) in the Holy Temple, how it was made, the blessings is contains and how we can invoke its great blessings today.
45:28
March 2, 2020
Techelet - The Search for the Mystery Blue Dye
Techelet was a blue dye made from a creature called Chilazon that the Torah commands us to use in making Tzitzit strings worn on four cornered garments such as a Tallit. It was also used in the temple for the priestly garments. More than 1,500 years ago we lost the techelet and therefore no longer dye out tzitzit blue. Can the Techelet and the Chilazon it comes from be found today using Torah sources, archaeology and knowledge of biology and ancient dying techniques? A fascinating journey of how different scholars and researches attempted to find the mystery Techelet over the past century.
50:02
February 24, 2020
Do Jews believe in the evil eye?
Many ancient societies worried about the evil eye that could somehow harm them or their families? In Jewish Ashkenazi culture, we used terms like keinahora to ward off the 'evil eye'. Do Jews believe in the evil eye? If yes, what exactly is it? What are its powers? And how do we avoid the harm coming from the evil eye?
35:12
February 17, 2020
Is G-d a He, She or It?
G-d is often referred to in scripture and our prayers in masculine form or as our Father. But is G-d really masculine? Is G-d not beyond gender? Could G-d be female? Both genders? A fascinating discussion about G-d and gender.
49:29
February 10, 2020
Unique Jewish Foods
Over the years Jews have developed many unique Jewish foods. The Jewish diaspora has been spread out across many different lands. Some foods are unique to specific communities while others are universal used by all Jewish communities. Many foods developed from local cuisine where Jews lived while others were made for holidays or as part of specific Jewish laws. A fascinating discussion about Jewish cuisine.
44:08
January 27, 2020
What does Judaism say about animal rights?
Today, many are concerned with the ethical treatment of animals as pets, in commercial farming, in medical testing and other fields. What rights do animals have in Judaism? How should we be treating animals? Is killing for food okay? Killing for sport? Tests that cause animals pain? Are all animals the same?
49:51
January 22, 2020
Can a DNA Test Determine Jewish Status?
In 2003, the human genome project decoded the entire human DNA sequence. As a result, we can now easily read and match any person's DNA quickly and easily. Today, many services provide DNA testing to match people to unknown relatives and match them to ancestral groupings. Many people discovered through DNA testing that they had Jewish ancestry or that they were closely related to other Jews. Is the DNA test able to establish someone's Jewish status? Can we use it to rediscover Jews who's ancestors assimilated? A discussion about DNA in Halacha (Jewish Law) and using DNA to determine family and Jewish status.
1:13:16
January 12, 2020
The Jews of Babylon
One of the oldest - and for a long time the largest - Jewish communities in the world is the Jewish community of Babylon in modern day Iraq. Jews lived in Babylon continuously for over 2.500 including a long period where they had a Jewish autonomous state led by their own Jewish King. Babylon was also a center of Jewish scholarship most notable for the Babylonian Talmud, the central work of Judaism that was composed there in the Fifth Century. A fascinating overview of the history of the Jewish community of Babylon.
45:50
January 5, 2020
Does Judaism Permit Gambling?
Gambling, betting and lotteries are all old forms of entertainments that have been around for thousands of years. Some societies, frowned on financial risk games while other's encouraged it. What does Judaism say about gambling? Is it permitted? If yes, under what circumstances? A fascinating discussion about the Jewish view on gambling and other games of financial risk.
38:30
December 30, 2019
The Mystical Meaning of the Chanukah Lights
Chanukah is a festival of light. Every night we light one more candle in the Menorah to commemorate that miracle of light that occurred over 2,000 years ago. What is the meaning of light? Why do we light candles for eight days adding a candle each night? Jewish mysticism tells us that the Chanukah lights are very powerful and give us the ability to light up the darkness in our own lives.
37:45
December 23, 2019
The Kabbalah of Dreams
What is the meaning of dreams? What causes them? Are they just our imagination gone wild or it there a deeper meaning to dreams? Can dreams guide us or help us know what will happen to us? Learn what Kabbalah, our Jewish mystical teachings say regarding dreams.
44:57
December 15, 2019
Mama Rochel - Our Mother Rachel
Perhaps the most significant and memorialized of our Matriarchs is Jacob's favorite wife Rachel known in Yiddish as Mama Rochel. After waiting for many years to have children, Rachel died during the childbirth of her second son Benjamin. She was the only Matriarch not buried in Hebrew, instead her tomb is in Bethlehem. Rachel's unique role as the mother of our people, has made a tradition for Jews to go to her tomb and ask her to pray for us whenever we are in trouble.
31:51
December 9, 2019
Infertility: A Jewish Perspective
Many of our early ancestors including Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Rachel suffered with infertility. Today, we have modern medical solutions including in vitro fertilization that allows for couples that would otherwise be infertile to have children. What is the Jewish perspective on infertility? Why does G-d give some people children and not others? Should those who are infertile, spare all expense and effort to have children? Does Jewish law allow infertility treatments? The Jewish perspective on infertility and infertility treatments.
48:01
November 25, 2019
The Pidyon Haben Ceremony
Pidyon Haben (lit. Redemption of the Son) is a unique ceremony performed on first born sons when they are 30 days old. The ceremony is not performed for all firstborn sons so it is not all that common. At the Pidyon Haben, the son is given to a Kohen and the father then exchanges the son for 5 silver shekels. Learn more about how this unusual ceremony is performed and its special significance.
27:08
November 25, 2019
Kiddush & Havdallah
Central to Shabbat observance are the Kiddush and Havdallah ceremonies performed at the beginning and end of Shabbat with a cup of wine. What do the ceremonies entail? Why are they performed? What is the deeper meaning behind them? A fascinating discussion about Kiddush and Havdallah.
54:19
November 24, 2019
13 Principles of Judaism
What do Jews believe? While Judaism is very broad, the basic beliefs are organized by Maimonides into 13 principles that are considered the basics of Jewish belief. A conversation about the 13 principles that every Jew must know.
50:35
November 21, 2019
Halacha - Who decides Jewish Law?
Halacha is the Hebrew term for Jewish law. Judaism has details laws and rules covering every part of our lives including Jewish rituals as well as how we treat others. Who decides Halacha? Who makes up the rules? What happens when rabbis can't agree on what a rule should be? What happens when rules get outdated and need to be changed? A fascinating discussion about Halacha and how it is decided.
51:39
November 19, 2019
The Power of Shabbat Candles
Shabbat candles are lit by Jewish women and girls (or men), 18 minutes before sunset on Friday afternoon and on the eve of Jewish holidays. Why do women light Shabbat candles? What are their significance? How is it done? Learn about Shabbat candles and the blessings they bring to our home and to our life.
36:14
November 19, 2019
Don't worry!
Today many struggle with stress and anxiety worrying about everything in their lives. Judaism teaches us that we can overcome our worries with Bitachon, trust in G-d. An inspiring discussion about Bitachon and how we can use it to ensure we never worry. 
47:08
November 4, 2019
Can people be truly bad?
Some people have done some really bad things causing terrible harm to others. Are these people inherently bad? Is it possible for a person to be inherently bad or does everyone have some good? Should we always give everyone another chance or are there some actions beyond which one can never change? A discussion about the Jewish perspective on evil and how bad people can become.
44:13
October 31, 2019
Why is Judaism so expensive?
Being Jewish not only includes many rituals and rules of conduct but can also be very expensive. Being a member of a Jewish community usually includes expensive dues while the costs of Jewish education can be prohibitive. Even following specific rituals like eating Kosher meat, purchasing Shemura Matzah for Passover, making a Bris or Bar/Bat Mitzvah can be very expensive. When is money so central in Judaism? Should we really be charging for Jewish services and membership? Is there a way to take (at least some) of the expense out of Judaism? A fascinating discussion about the role of money in Judaism.
51:14
October 25, 2019
Why can't we use electricity on Shabbat?
When electrical grid where built in cities and our homes filled with electrical lighting and appliances, Jews were faced with the question of whether electricity could be used on Shabbat. Though the Torah does not mention electricity and it was virtually unknown for thousands of years, Jewish scholars unanimously concluded that electricity should not be used on Shabbat. But why? Learn about the rules of electricity on Shabbat and how it fits into our ancient rules of the Torah from over 3,000 years ago.
1:00:08
October 25, 2019
The Talmud
The Talmud, also called Gemora or Shas is the giant but difficult comprehensive work of Jewish rules and teachings that is the most important work in Judaism. Yet the Talmud remains a mystery for most given its immense size and complex discussions in Aramaic. Who wrote the Talmud? What is in it? Why is it so central to Judaism? Why is it so complex and difficult?
47:58
October 25, 2019
What are Kohanim?
The Kohanim or Cohens are a unique Jewish family that in ancient times served in the Temple in Jerusalem. They have many privileges as well as laws and responsibilities in Jewish tradition. What is the Kohanic family? Why are they different? Can we accurately recognize them today? What are the special rules that apply to them?
44:59
October 25, 2019
Does G-d wants us to be rich?
Many mega Churches believe in Prosperity Theology; if they do the right thing, G-d will make them rich and healthy. Wealthy spiritual leaders justify their immense wealth as reward from G-d. They believe that those who are not wealthy and successful must not be following G-d's will. Do Jews believe in Prosperity Theology? Do we believe that G-d want those who follow his will to be successful and wealthy? Do we believe that poor or sick people are not following G-d's will? Is there any correlation between material success and spirituality? Discover the Jewish belief in the correlation between material success and spirituality
47:57
October 25, 2019
Fire or Forgive: How to respond to public scandals
Whenever we turn on the TV or open a newspaper, we are inundated with stories of public officials who were caught up in scandals. Should we care? Are public officials always expected to make ethical decisions? Do they serve as our role models? Should bad actions lead to punishment or firing of public officials? Should we just leave them alone to do their jobs? Do the details of the scandal matter? A fascinating (politics free) discussion about the Jewish perspective on scandals involving public officials.
55:07
October 23, 2019
Creation Vs. Evolution - What do we believe?
Since Charles Darwin published the Origin of the Species more than 150 years ago, Jews (as other religions) have struggled to reconcile the theories of evolution with the traditional Jewish views of creation. A discussion of the Jewish perspective on the ongoing debate between Creationism and Evolution.
1:01:46
October 23, 2019
Why Jews are always studying
Historically Jews have always been recognized as a smart people and a people of knowledge. Key to that knowledge was the lifelong quest for study in Jewish life throughout our history. When most of our neighbors were still illiterate, our ancestors were studying daily. What is the secret to the Jewish passion for study and knowledge?
27:05
October 23, 2019
Ushpizin - The Mystery Sukkot Guests
According to the teachings of the Zohar and Kabbalah, every day of Sukkot another one of our Jewish biblical figures joins us in spirit in the Sukkah. A discussion about the Ushpizin, the mystery Sukkot guest, why they come, the significance of each one and how they impact us.
34:15
October 16, 2019
The Aleinu Prayer
One of the most central prayers on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the Aleuni prayer that is also recited at the end of each daily prayer. This ancient prayer expresses some of the most important principals of Judaism but has also drawn the ire of other religions who found the prayer offensive. Learn about the Aleinu prayer, its history and the controversies surrounding the prayer.
42:41
October 6, 2019
The Secret of the Shofar
Blowing the Shofar is the most central Mitzvah on Rosh Hashanah. Why do we blow a Shofar, an instrument that has only one note and cannot play a tune?
31:07
October 2, 2019
The Torah - an Overview of the Five Books
The Written Torah consist of Five Books split into 54 parshas (portions), 669 paragraphs, 5,845 verses, 79,976 words and 304,805 letters all contained within the Torah scroll. A full overview of the Torah with all of it's books and parshas explained.
45:13
September 16, 2019
Shatnez - the Kosher rules for clothing
The Torah prohibits us from wearing clothing that are mixed with wool and linen, called shatnez. Why does the Torah prohibit wearing shatnez? Are clothing made with wool and linen today? How do you know if your clothing has wool and linen?
32:40
September 9, 2019
Do we really have free choice?
Free choice is fundamental to Judaism and essential to the entire structure of society. But how do we understand that in a world where everything works on the laws of physics and with a belief in G-d who is total control of our world and knows how we will behave An analysis of the paradox of free choice and the philosophical dilemmas surrounding it that our ancestors have grappled with for thousands of years.
1:04:21
September 1, 2019
Does Judaism believe in democracy?
Having a democratically elected government that is answerable to people in free and fair elections, is a key principal in the United States constitution and central to the modern nothion of freedom and liberty. Does Judaism advocate for democratically elected government? When Jews lived in Israel as an independent nation, we were mostly ruled by monarchs. Is monarchy, the Torah's preferred form of government? Are there other forms of government that the Torah would advocate for? A fascinating discussion about the ideal Jewish government and how Judaism views democracy.
45:27
September 1, 2019
Are all fruits and vegetables kosher?
When we think of kosher we often thing of rules about preparing meat, fowl fish and other animal products. What about fruit and vegetables? Are there Kosher rules for them? Are all fruits and vegetables automatically kosher? A discussion about the rules of Kosher for fruits and vegetables.
52:17
August 27, 2019
Why is Judaism so intolerant of idol worship?
 The Torah warns us time and again to keep away from idol worship. The Jews were told that when they enter the Promised Land they must destroy all idols, altars and temples and obliterate any trace of idol worship from the land.  Why is Judaism so intolerant? Shouldn't we respect other beliefs and cultures even if we think they are wrong? A discussion on the Jewish view of idolatry and tolerance for other religions and beliefs. 
50:36
August 19, 2019
The Bar Kochba Rebellion
About 60 years after the destruction of the second temple, the Jews in Israel rebelled against the Roman Empire led by a charismatic leader and warrior Shimon Bar Kuziba also known as Bar Kochba. While the rebellion succeeded at first, the Romans crushed the rebellion, devastating Israel and destroying Beitar where Bar Kochba and his men took their last stand. 
41:42
August 12, 2019
Hebrew Pronunciation: Is it Shabbat or Shabbos?
It can be confusing. Some Jews pronounce the word Shabbat while others say Shabbos, some say Bat Mitzvah while others say Bas Mitzvah, some say Matzah while other says Matzo. Which pronunciation is correct? Over the years different Jewish communities have varied in how they pronounce Hebrew. How did these differences come about? How many different pronunciations of Hebrew are there? Who is closest to the original?
42:12
August 4, 2019
Where Exactly is the Promised Land?
G-d promised the Land of Israel as a gift to his Chosen People, the People of Israel. While the general geographic location of the Promised Land is clear, the exact location is not clear at all.  Where are ancient Israel's borders? Are those the same as the borders promised by G-d? Do they match the borders of modern Israel? Do we even know for certain where ancient Israel was?
50:35
July 28, 2019
What does Judaism say about Christianity?
 Judaism rejected Christianity from from its earliest days almost 2,000 years ago. Yet, Jews have lived as a minority in Christian lands for over 1,000 years. We've had to contend with a hostile Christian majority that for hundreds of years that persecuted us while trying to persuade us to convert to their religion. Yet Jews always rejected Christianity. What is the Jewish view of Christianity? How did we as Jews respond to the beliefs, rites and celebrations of Christianity? How has our relationship with Christianity changed today when Christians have become tolerant and even supportive of Jews and Judaism?
55:25
July 26, 2019
Dual Loyalty? The Story of the Jewish People in Exile
Almost 2500 years ago, we were exiled from our land, the Land of Israel for the first time. Since then, a majority of Jews have lived as minorities in other countries outside the Land of Israel. Yet wherever we lived, we were always accused of being outsiders and having dual loyalty, a charge we often suffered from greatly. Where should a Jew's loyalty lie, with Israel or their home country? Are we first Jews or first citizens of our country? 
38:48
July 22, 2019
Daniel
 Daniel, is a book in Tanach (the Jewish scriptures) about Daniel, a Jewish leader who interpreted strange dreams for the Babylonian emperors and then had dreams of his own predicting the future. A fascinating overview of the most difficult and cryptic book in Tanach predicting the future. 
43:18
July 15, 2019
The Kaddish Prayer
 The Kaddish prayer is one of the most important and well known Jewish prayers. However, Kaddish can be confusing, there are many different types of Kaddish said on different occasions and at different point during the prayer. Some Kaddish are said only by the cantor while others are said by mourners.  A fascinating discussion about the Kaddish prayer, it's history, connection with death and clarity on where and when each kaddish is said.
45:37
July 13, 2019
Which Tribe Are You From?
When the Children of Israel left Egypt over 3,000 years ago, they were split into 12 tribes. When they entered the land of Israel, each tribe settled in a different are. While the tribal identity remained for hundreds of years, over time, most Jews lost their tribal identity. What was the significance of the 12 tribes of Israel? How did their history and stories differ? How did we lose the tribal identity? Can we know today which tribe we are from?
46:38
June 17, 2019
Ruth; The Prototype Jewish Convert
Ruth was a Moabite princess who followed her poor mother-in-law Naomi to convert to Judaism in the only detailed conversion mentioned in scripture. Eventually she married Bo'az, a Jewish leader becoming the grandmother of King David. The fascinating story of Ruth and how she converted to Judaism.
48:45
June 2, 2019
Do Jews Believe in Heaven & Hell
What is the Jewish belief about heaven and hell? Do they exist? If yes, what are they like? What happens to us after we die? Should we be afraid of going to hell when we die? Should we hope to go to heaven? A fascinating discussion about the Jewish view on Heaven & Hell
46:20
May 27, 2019
Why have Jews been so successful in finance?
The Jewish people have dominated finance wherever they lived for thousands of years building complex financial instruments long before most people could read or do basic arithmetic. The Jews dominated finance though the Torah forbade us from lending with interest, the most common form of finance. How did Jews succeed in finance while avoiding loans with interest?  A fascinating discussion about the Jewish financial system. 
43:36
May 20, 2019
Why do many Jewish men have beards?
Many religious Jewish men have beards. In most Jewish communities throughout history, Jewish men generally had beards. Why have Jewish men grown beards? Does Jewish law allow shaving? Does it allow beard trimming? Why do many religious Jewish men and even rabbis not have beards?  A fascinating discussion about the role of beards in Judaism.
42:15
May 6, 2019
Do Jews believe in Satan
 Do we believe that there is such a thing as Satan? If yes, what is Satan? Is G-d responsible for the bad things that happen to us? Do evil forces such as Satan exist? If they do, do they work for G-d or against G-d? All about the Jewish belief in Satan and G-d's role in evil.
38:20
April 29, 2019
Dayeinu - It would have been enough
One of the best known poems from the haggdah that is read at the Seder on Passover is Dayeinu - It would have been enough. This is possibly one of the oldest known Jewish poems and one of the most powerful about the many miracles and favors G-d did to us over the Exodus. All about the poem Dayeinu, where it came from and it's deeper hidden meanings. 
19:44
April 29, 2019
Why we wash our hands before eating bread
Before eating bread, Jewish law requires us to wash our hands in a special way using a large cup or container. What is the reason for this rule? Where did it come from? How is it done? A fascinating discussion about the rule of washing our hands before we eat bread.
44:32
April 8, 2019
Do Jews believe in reincarnation?
What happens to our soul when we die? Can a soul come back down to earth an inhabit a new body? Could we be souls that were on earth previously in another body? Does Judaism believe in reincarnation? Learn about the Jewish understanding of where our soul comes from and where it goes when we die. 
49:52
March 31, 2019
Judaism and Drinking
Alcohol consumption is a central part of almost every culture yet excessive alcohol has been the cause for much harm in most. Many religions prohibit alcohol consumption due to the harm it can cause.  Jews traditionally drank alcohol regularly in many Jewish ceremonies such as kiddush, havdallah and the Passover seder yet they tented to be less susceptible to alcoholism. What is the Jewish position on alcohol? Why is it so central to so many Jewish ceremonies and what does Judaism say about excessive drinking? 
45:27
March 29, 2019
Why the Jewish People are indestructible?
The Purim story tells us of an early attempt to destroy our people that failed. Since the original Purim countless others have tried to destroy us, yet we are still here! History has shown our people to be indestructible. But why?
27:08
March 18, 2019