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Chabad at Oxford

Lectures at the Oxford University Chabad Society

Noted scholars and experts in their fields share their knowledge at the Oxford University Chabad Society.

Breaking the Barrier between Tradition and Modernity
R. Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch
Professor Naftali Loewenthal presents an overview of some of the major innovations of the 5th Chabad Rebbe, R. Sholom DovBer, with special focus on his founding of the Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim. Recorded at Chabad of Oxford University.
Interpreting Talmudic Debate
How the Sages Derived Torah Law
An explanation of how the Talmud operates and how halachic decisions are derived from the debates of the Sages. Presented by Dr. Kenneth M. Ehrenberg, Professor of Philosophy, University of Buffalo. Recorded at Chabad of Oxford University.
Exemptions of Women in Jewish Law
Gender Differences in Halacha
An examination of the Jewish legal axiom that exempts women from positive time-bound commandments. Presented by Freida Brackman, Co-Director of Chabad of Oxford. Recorded at Chabad of Oxford University.
A Pastor’s Journey to Judaism
Once an evangelical pastor, Yaakov Parisi shares the fascinating story of his lifelong journey to becoming Jewish. Recorded at Chabad of Oxford University.
The Right to Kill
Audio | 23:13
The Right to Kill
The Ethics of Extrajudicial Execution
In the wake of the news of the killing Osama bin Laden, Rabbi Brackman looks to the Torah to answer the question, "Is it ever ethical and just to execute someone without due process of law?"
The History of Kabbalah
Great Jewish Mystics
An extremely brief overview of the major contributors to the body of Jewish mystical thought throughout the ages from ancient times through the advent of Chassidism.
Key Principles of the Kabbalah
Divine Anthropomorphism in Torah
An examination of the Torah's use of anthropomorphism to describe G-d and how the mystics understand the metaphor of the "image of G-d."
Infinite and Finite
Audio | 24:44
Infinite and Finite
Kabbalistic Cosmology
A kabbalistic answer to the age-old philosophical question, "How can a finite creation come into existence from an infinite Creator?" A basic introduction to the esoteric doctrines of "tzimtzum" and "hishtalshelut."
Judaism and Alcohol
Audio | 26:51
Judaism and Alcohol
Torah does not prohibit the consumption of alcohol. The pros and cons of alcohol as seen through the lens of Jewish law and tradition.
Who Wrote the Torah?
A history of the canonization of the Bible
In contrast to newfangled, secular accounts of how the Torah came to be, Jewish tradition has its own thorough account of how the Torah was recorded and transmitted.
The Structure of Halacha
The Six Categories of Torah Law
An overview of six different categories of Jewish law including oral traditions from Moses, laws extrapolated from Scripture, and laws that were later legislated by the Sages.
Is Chutzpa a Crime?
Audio | 38:25
Is Chutzpa a Crime?
Impudence in Jewish Law
Jewish legal opinions on the issue of one who behaves in a way that is impudent without actually breaking any specific law.
From Neo-Nazi to Observant Jew
The Pawel Bromson Story
Speaking for the very first time outside Poland, former neo-Nazi Pawel Bromson tells the amazing story of how he discovered that he was Jewish and returned to the faith of his ancestors.
Rabka
Audio | 24:53
Rabka
A Survivor’s Personal Story
In 1940, when Mark Goldfinger was 9, the SS set up an academy for training killers near his hometown of Rabka, Poland. This is the amazing account of what he saw and how he survived. (Many viewers may find details described to be extremely disturbing. Viewer discretion advised.)
The Silent Exodus
Audio | 44:26
The Silent Exodus
Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries
The rapid disappearance of ancient Jewish communities throughout the Middle East that has occurred in modern times.
The Role of a King
Audio | 42:32
The Role of a King
Maimonides on the Role of Monarchy
An overview of traditional Jewish sources on the pros and cons of autocratic rule with a special emphasis given to the opinion of Maimonides.
The Epistemology of Repentance
Yom Kippur and Catharsis
Based on traditional sources, an examination of whether or not repentance on Yom Kippur ever provides complete catharsis for the individual.
Is There One Right Answer?
Resolving matters of halachic dispute
Is the Torah’s process for determining halachah an attempt to arrive at the one true answer, or are there multiple truths?
Women and Torah Study
A Meditation System for a Young Woman, Riga 1939
An introduction to the subject of women and Torah study is followed by the study of a letter written by the sixth Chabad Rebbe, R. Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch, to an 18-year old Chassidic woman who belonged to a women's mystical study group in 1930s Riga.
The Cairo Genizah
Audio | 29:19
The Cairo Genizah
Its History and Importance
An expert gives specific examples of amazing discoveries from the Cairo Genizah, a collection of almost 280,000 Jewish manuscript fragments found in the storeroom of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo in 1896.
Healthy Doubt
Audio | 26:16
Healthy Doubt
A Jewish Approach to Paradox
Confronting an irresolvable paradox need not be an obstacle in our relationship with G-d.
The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz
WWII British POW Denis Avey
The amazing, firsthand account of 92-year-old Denis Avey, a non-Jewish, British soldier who smuggled himself into Auschwitz as a POW. (Many viewers may find details described to be extremely disturbing. Viewer discretion advised.)
Dignity in Dying
Audio | 23:23
Dignity in Dying
A Jewish Perspective on Euthanasia
Based on case studies and personal experience, a Jewish clinician takes a practical look at the arguments both for and against euthanasia and how they square with the ethics of Torah.
Moses in Each Generation
A Model for "Spiritual Leadership"
An introduction to the classic kabbalistic concept that there is an "extension of the spirit of Moses" in each generation and how this idea has come to be applied to the Rebbe-Chassid relationship in modern times.
Varieties of Jewish Mystical Experiences
A Text-Based Study
Excerpts from various mystical texts illustrate how different kinds of ecstatic spiritual experiences may be attained including "death of the ego" and "union with G-d."
Torah and the Pleasure Principle
The Philosophy of Judaism and Joy
Professor William Kolbrener tells his personal story of spiritual growth and asks the deep philosophical question, "Can you be Jewish and still follow your bliss?"
Does Law Have to Make Sense?
Halachah and the limits of rationality
Professor Rabbi Ozer Glickman of Yeshiva University posits a “legal theory” of Torah law that compares and contrasts the ideas of morality, legality, rationality and obligation.
Transitivity and the Talmud
The Economics of Inconsistency
The "transitive property" states that whenever A > B and B > C, then A > C. Does Jewish law always uphold "transitivity" or does it allow for a "nontransitive cycles" as well?
Lord Levy and the Importance of Jewish Pride
Address to Chabad on Campus UK by Michael Levy
Lord Levy shares personal anecdotes of his commitment to donning tefillin in such challenging locations as Damascus and Saudi Arabia and of his bringing kosher food to a Shabbat dinner at No. 10 Downing Street.
The Tefillin of Qumran
Archeology and Halacha
Rabbi and archeologist, Yonatan Adler, tackles a medieval rabbinic debate about the proper arrangement of the parchments within tefillin by comparing these opinions to actual 2,000-year-old phylacteries found in Qumran.
Astronomy and Torah
Audio | 50:03
Astronomy and Torah
Calculating the Lunar Cycle
Astrophysicist, Dr. Jeremy Schnittman, discusses how studying astronomy can be a spiritual experience and explains the astoundingly accurate calculations that the Sages used for determining the appearance of the new moon.
Shofars, Trumpets, Cymbals and More
The Musical Instruments of the Bible
A musical historian provides a "show-and-tell" of various types of musical instruments mentioned in the Bible.
The Oxford Manuscript of Mishneh Torah
Director of the Chabad Society at Oxford University, Rabbi Eli Brackman, discusses the Oxford library's treasured manuscript of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah and what makes it unique.
G-d as King
Audio | 28:40
G-d as King
The Kabbalistic Image of Divine Royalty
The Divine attribute of Malchut (Kingship) is described as the bridge between G-d's infinity and His presence within finite creation.
Powers of the Mind
Audio | 11:48
Powers of the Mind
Q&A with Uri Geller
Mentalist, Uri Geller, answers students' questions at the Oxford University Chabad Society.
Living with the Enemy
Audio | 1:07:36
Living with the Enemy
Auschwitz Holocaust survivor Freddie Knoller
Auschwitz survivor Freddie Knoller shares his amazing story of survival, including how the Gestapo in Paris thought he was a German and hired him as a translator. (Many viewers may find details described to be extremely disturbing. Viewer discretion advised.)
Vicarious Trauma
Audio | 14:09
Vicarious Trauma
Jewish Identity Among British Jews
A qualitative study on Jewish identity in contemporary Britain concludes that Jews of all backgrounds relate to the idea of being persecuted. Can this self-concept be positively channeled?
Hippy in the Mikvah
Audio | 36:57
Hippy in the Mikvah
Post-Modern Aspects of Chasidism and Their Significance for Jewish Society
A brief history of modernization within Jewish society and how various groups responded in very different ways to the threats of secularization and assimilation. The approaches of isolationism and outreach are compared and contrasted.
Why Do Jews Argue?
Audio | 36:48
Why Do Jews Argue?
Jewish unity through the study of Jewish texts
When Jews study holy texts together, they do not always agree on their interpretation. A look at how arguing over the Torah can actually bring us closer together.
When to Go to War
Audio | 32:30
When to Go to War
The Philosophy of "Just War" in Judaism
An overview of the Jewish position on when armed conflict is justified. The Jewish view is contrasted with "Just War Theory."
Prayer and Poetry
Audio | 27:38
Prayer and Poetry
Presentation of a Paper on Religion and Literary Theory
Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, Zohar Atkins, presents a paper on the unique roll of prayer and poetry in the Jewish tradition.
The Jews of Holland
Audio | 54:08
The Jews of Holland
History of the Jewish communities of the Netherlands
Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, chief rabbi of the Netherlands, describes the rich history of the Jewish people in his native country from medieval times until the present day.
A Child of the Kindertransport
Kindertransport Refugee Fritz Sternhell
Austrian-Jewish Holocaust survivor, Fritz Sternhell, relates his first-hand experiences as a child during the German annexation of Austria.
A Child of Majdan
Audio | 32:45
A Child of Majdan
Auschwitz Survivor Victor Greenberg
Victor Greenberg tells the story of how he grew up in the small village of Majdan, now in Slovakia. In 1941, when he was 12 years old, he and his family were among the very few to escape when the entire Jewish population of the town was massacred. He was a prisoner in Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Gunskirchen, where he was finally liberated by the Americans. (Many viewers may find details described to be extremely disturbing. Viewer discretion advised.)
Nazi Attacks on the Talmud
Anti-Semitic Readings of Jewish Texts
How Nazi propaganda in the 1920s and 1930s distorted passages from the Talmud to vilify Jews and Judaism.
Necessary Being and Prime Mover
Philosophy in Maimonides' Legal Code
Although Maimonides' Mishneh Torah is a codification of Jewish law (halacha), we find places in this work where Maimonides addresses philosophical or theological ideas as well. Textual analysis of Maimonides' Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah (Laws [which are] the Foundations of the Torah.)
Maimonides: Rationalist or Mystic?
The World View of the Rambam
Can Maimonides' intellectual approach be characterized as rationalistic or mystical? Is there evidence that he studied and even embraced kabbalistic teachings?
Maimonides and Slavery
Rambam’s approach to human dignity
This lecture begins with an overview of Maimonides’ unparalleled contributions to Jewish scholarship, and then focuses on Maimonides’ approach to explaining the biblical institution of slavery.
The Bible in Yiddish
Popular translations of the Torah
Professor of Yiddish studies Shlomo Berger presents three famous historical examples of how the Torah was translated into Yiddish in Eastern Europe throughout the centuries.
The Jews of Germany
Audio | 38:32
The Jews of Germany
A Look at the Past, Present and Future of German Jewry
Former President of the Central Council for Jews in Germany and Holocaust Survivor, Dr. Charlotte Knobloch, describes the current state of the German Jewish community, its past and where it is heading.
Science and Religion
A Jewish Historical Perspective
In the debate about science and religion, there are radical camps on both sides. However, various Jewish approaches, suggest Professor Cantor, have historically transcended both extremes.
The Israeli
Medical Ethics and the End of Life
In 2005 a law was passed in Israel regulating the treatment of dying patients. Its most controversial aspect was the distinction it makes between withholding therapy (which it allows) and withdrawing continuous therapy (which it does not allow). Prof. Charles Sprung, director of the ICU at Hadassah Medical Center, helped write this law. Here he talks about how the law came to be and how it attempted to satisfy Jewish law (halachah).
Is Genetic Engineering in the Bible?
A Jewish view on synthetic biology
Does Torah allow or prohibit genetic engineering? What are the sources in Torah to argue either way?
Unintentional Transgression in Jewish Law
A Talmudic Discussion of the Parameters of Intent
An intellectually stimulating analysis of the Talmudic principal of exemption in cases of unintentional transgression (“davar she’eino mitkavein”). Rabbi Wallberg explores the parameters of this principle vis-à-vis the qualifying rule of inevitability (“p’sik reisha”).
Maimonides on Heretics
Do people with mistaken beliefs merit the world to come?
Clarifying seemingly contradictory statements from Maimonides on his attitude towards heretics. Looking at how others, (particularly the Kabbalists) viewed Maimonides' attitude toward people who have erroneous beliefs. And the importance of correct belief vs correct intention.
Between Self and Society
How Chassidism negotiates the tension of individualism and collectivism
Looking at the structures of societies, Individual and collective, 'loose' and 'tight' hierarchical and egalitarian. Applying these ideas to Chassidic society; examples from Breslov, Kotzk and finally Chabad.
Grief Therapy and the Jewish Tradition of Mourning
How shiva enables true mourning
Religion, Culture and Identity in Jewish America
Demographic Studies Show that Religion is Key to Jewish Identity
While some have debated the primacy of religion, culture, ethnicity and other factors in forging a strong Jewish identity, Professor Chaim Waxman conclusively demonstrates that Jewish identity in America is stronger, more vibrant and more durable amongst those who practice traditional Judaism.
Who is Part of the Jewish People?
Jewish Tradition and Inclusivism
Are tradition and inclusivism mutually exclusive? A look at three models for inclusivism drawn directly from Jewish tradition: "Even though he sinned he is a Jew;" "All Israel has a portion in the World to Come;" and "Love your fellow as yourself."
Deconstructing Sin
Audio | 47:57
Deconstructing Sin
Post-Modern Perspectives on the Chassidic Notion of Repentance
Biblical perspectives on good and evil are usually seen as a conventional polarity of white versus black. But in a strikingly post modernist approach, the Chassidic notion of repentance deconstructs this narrative. Sin is not all evil, but provides unique opportunity for spiritual transformation and the ultimate fulfillment of the divine purpose.
The How and Why of Chassidic Prayer
Aspects of chassidic prayer and their contemporary application
What makes chassidic prayer distinct? Can these elements be broadened and made relevant to the wider Jewish community in the modern age?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe on Evolution
How the Lubavitcher Rebbe approached the perceived conflict between Torah and evolutionary science.
The Incredible Jewish Renaissance in Russia
The untold story of the secret Chabad underground in the former Soviet Union
Precious little is known of the tremendous devotion and self-sacrifice of Chabad activists in upholding Judaism against the oppressive Communists’ ruthless stamping out of religion. Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie shares fascinating insights and anecdotes to illustrate the clandestine and heroic activities of the Chabad underground that ultimately laid the foundation for the phenomenal rebirth of Jewish life in Russia today.
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