Rabbi Asher Memorial Lecture October 18, 2018

Rabbi Asher Memorial Lecture Series

At the Jewish Federation

Thursday, October 18, 7pm

Jewish Federation of St. Louis

(cosponsored by the Center for Jewish Learning, JCRC and Brodsky Library)The God of Judaism Is a God of Love

It is one of the last acceptable prejudices in American culture: the God of the “Old Testament” is a God of vengeance, focused on strict justice rather than mercy, given to anger rather than love.  This perception is as mistaken as it is widespread.  In this lecture, we’ll encounter a series of biblical texts that make the stunning claim that what makes God unique, what makes God God, is God’s unfathomable capacity for love, mercy, and forgiveness.  We’ll explore the common complaint that a God of love is (too) anthropomorphic, and we’ll ask whether belief in a God of love is still plausible in this day and age.


“What is Love?”   October 19-20, 2018

Friday night, October 19

Services at 6pm, followed by dinner at 7:30pm (rsvp to the office; cost tba)Lecture at 8:30pm

“Love Your Neighbor As Yourself”: What Are We Actually Being Asked for?

No lesser a figure than R. Akiva declares that “love your neighbor as yourself” is “the great principle of the Torah” (kelal gadol baTorah).  Yet Jews have always struggled to discern just what this startling verse asks of us.  In this session, through careful engagement with both traditional commentators and modern academic Bible scholars, we’ll ask such questions as: What does this verse mean?  Can love (or any other feeling, for that matter) really be commanded?  Can we really love other people as much as we love ourselves?  And who is the neighbor we’re commanded to love, anyway?

Saturday morning, October 20

Rabbi Held will speak at services at approximately 11am and after kiddush at approximately 12:30pm

Is “Love Your Enemies” A Jewish Idea?

We are commanded to love our neighbor, but what about those who are hostile to us—must we love them too?  How should we feel and act toward them?  What clues can we derive from Tanakh, from Rabbinic tradition, and from modern Musar writers?  Jesus famously instructs his disciples to love their enemies. Is this orientation distinctively Christian, or is loving your enemies a Jewish value too?  More basically: is loving your enemies a good thing?

Rabbi Held BIO

Rabbi Shai Held–theologian, scholar, and educator–is President, Dean, and Chair in Jewish Thought at Hadar, where he also directs the Center for Jewish Leadership and Ideas.  Previously, he served for six years as Scholar-in-Residence at Kehilat Hadar in New York City, and taught both theology and Halakhah at the Jewish Theological Seminary.  He also served as Director of Education at Harvard Hillel.  A 2011 recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education, Rabbi Held has been named multiple times to Newsweek’s list of the 50 most influential rabbis in America.  He holds a doctorate in religion from Harvard; his main academic interests are in modern Jewish and Christian thought, in biblical theology, and in the history of Zionism.  Rabbi Held’s first book, Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence, was published by Indiana University Press in 2013; The Heart of Torah, a collection of essays on the Torah in two volumes, was published by JPS in 2017