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The 18Forty podcast helps users find meaning in life through the exploration of Jewish thought and ideas.
1 day ago
Dr. Ora Wiskind: How do you Read a Mystical Text? [Mysticism 2/3]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Dr. Ora Wiskind, professor and author, to discuss her life journey, both as a Jew and as an academic, and her attitude towards mysticism. Ora grew up in a Reform family in Ohio, receiving a top-notch secular education but a minimal Jewish one. After studying in France and Germany she found herself in Israel, eventually becoming Orthodox despite her rebellious nature. With her background in literature, she has contributed unique, hermeneutic perspectives on some Hasidic masters, like Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and continues to break new ground with her scholarship on mysticism. -What are mysticism and rationalism, and what are the appeals of both mindsets? -How did someone with Ora’s background end up writing about the mystical works of Rebbe Nachman? -How has her background in literature influenced her writings? -How does she approach her work as a religious academic, where she must stay objective about the content she studies despite it giving her religious inspiration? -And how has being an Orthodox woman shaped her career? Tune in to hear Ora Wiskind discuss mysticism in the modern world and its relation to her academic work. For more, visit https://18forty.org/mysticism/#wiskind.
1 hr 5 min
Oct 19, 2020
Joey Rosenfeld: Can Mysticism Heal Us? [Mysticism 1/3]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Joey Rosenfeld, social worker and kabbalist, to talk about the differences between mysticism and rationalism and the roles they should play in our lives. Mysticism is often misunderstood and dismissed by rationalists without much thought, but what is mysticism? One might define it by what it’s not: reductionism, which combined with complexity is science. But what if we saw things as their whole instead of their constituent parts? Maybe we’re limiting ourselves by reducing the big picture to a list of atomic components; maybe seeing the unfiltered unity in all things would be freeing. Joey Rosenfeld began to learn Kabbalah in depth in yeshiva, when he was supposed to be dedicating his time to Talmud, and found its ideas to be profoundly life-changing. He does not fit the stereotype of the secluded, white-bearded mystic, as he is a social worker and addiction counselor. As someone with a unique window into people’s vulnerabilities, Joey sees deep connections between Kabbalah and psychology, particularly in the theory behind Alcoholics Anonymous, which drew from the work of Carl Jung. -What are the differences between rationalism and mysticism? -Are they compatible or incompatible? -What approach should people take when learning Kabbalah? -Are there parallels between mysticism and therapy? -And how is or isn’t mysticism suited for a modern audience? Tune in to hear Joey discuss the role that mysticism plays in his life, and how one can find peace in transcending rationality. For more, visit https://18forty.org/mysticism/#rosenfeld.
1 hr 24 min
Sep 29, 2020
Samuel G. Freedman: Can Jew vs. Jew Ever Become Jew with Jew?
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Professor of Journalism at Columbia and author, Samuel G. Freedman, to talk about dissent not as a cause of ugliness and divide, but of beauty and unity. Some would say that disagreement isn’t a bug of the Jewish community, but a feature. We have a rich history of debate in the Talmud and haven’t been able to shake this dubious quality even in the modern day United States. The internet has only exaggerated this, and while one can argue for the benefits of dissent, the fact that Jews seem embroiled in a perpetual state of debate remains. -Is debate a healthy state of mind for our community? -Should we be looking to avoid debate or embrace it? -Does dissent cause only divide or can it be used as a means of understanding the other members of our community? Tune in to hear Samuel discuss the roles that individual Jews play in the larger debate that is the Jewish community. For more, visit https://18forty.org/peoplehood/#freedman
Sep 22, 2020
Bethany S. Mandel: Jews without Community
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with conservative journalist and cultural commentator, Bethany S. Mandel, to talk about the entrances and exits of her life, reconstructing Jewish identity, and creating a Jewish home outside of the Jewish community. Bethany has written for the New York Times and Washington Post, and now serves as an opinion columnist for the Forward, a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beyond the Beltway blog, and is an editor at Richocet.com. She is a sharp writer and speaker about Jewish communal life, particularly about conversion, and has written about the impact of the Freundel affair on her life. -Can one be a member of the Jewish community while living outside the institutions that constitute the community? -Can you love Judaism, but not Jews? -How does one deal with disappointment in Judaism, particularly at the hands of a Jewish leader? -How can we build reconciliation and create a more empathetic community? Tune in to hear Bethany discuss the relationship between Jews and the Jewish community, and why her Jewish community is her home. For more, visit https://18forty.org/peoplehood/#mandel
Sep 15, 2020
Laura E. Adkins: Is There Room for All Opinions?
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Laura E. Adkins, the JTA’s opinion editor and an adjunct professor of journalism at Stern College for Women, to talk about how she stays grounded while engaging with so many disparate viewpoints. Many people live in a perpetual bubble, never allowing themselves to step too far from the lifestyle they feel is comfortable. They may only ever engage with straw man versions of others’ opinions, and therefore may never be exposed to a diversity of ideas and people. As a seasoned journalist - currently the opinion editor of the internationally-syndicated Jewish Telegraphic Agency - Laura is no stranger to subversive opinions and pluralistic attitudes. She is also a baalas teshuva, having forged her Jewish identity by the force of her own will. -How has she been able to stay grounded and centered in her identity as a person while engaging with so many different people and opinions? -How has her experience as a baalas teshuva contributed to this? -What was her journey as a baalas teshuva like? -How do groundedness and a plurality of opinions and information play a role in modern kiruv (Jewish outreach)? -And how should they play a role? Tune in to hear Laura reflect on her journey as a baalas teshuva, the state of kiruv, and the art of remaining true to one’s identity. For more, visit https://18Forty.org/peoplehood/#adkins
Sep 10, 2020
Rav Aaron Lopiansky: What Tribes do you Contain Inside?
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Rav Aaron Lopiansky, Rosh HaYeshiva of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington, to talk about the challenges facing American Orthodoxy, life-long education, and value education. Rav Lopiansky speaks the language of the particular; much of his insight is situated for those in the Yeshiva-oriented Jewish communities, but his thought is important for all. As he navigates his understanding of the many roles we all occupy, he promotes a loving acceptance of diversity within the community, with the goal of appreciation for the whole Jewish people. -How can one person love a whole nation? -How can the love for a nation be a textured love, an appreciation that runs deeper than ethnocentrism or love of the similar? -Can deep engagement with one’s own cultural experience engender a deeper appreciation for other cultures? -Or do the lines of difference between one’s culture and others demand demarcation? Tune in to hear Rav Lopiansky discuss differentiating education for all ages, the challenges facing the Jewish people in 2020, and his thoughtful commentary on Jewish life today. For more, visit https://18forty.org/peoplehood/#lopiansky.
1 hr 17 min
Aug 25, 2020
Reflections Four Months After Launch
18Forty launched in May 2020 and since then we’ve explored Talmud, OTD: Leaving Religion, Comedy, and Biblical Criticism. As we take a two-week break before exploring our next topic, we want to spend some time reflecting on what we’ve learned. Learn more at https://18forty.org/
1 hr 1 min
Aug 17, 2020
Biblical Criticism Conclusion
As we confront the questions that Biblical criticism has presented, we must ask ourselves how we can keep that transcendent, atemporal view of the Torah. Perhaps considering the seemingly temporal idiosyncrasies of the Torah can actually strengthen our appreciation of its timelessness. For more, visit https://18Forty.org/bible.
Aug 17, 2020
Gil Student: Where are the Lines?
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, David sits down with Gil Student, an infamous blogger who created Torah Musings, to talk about the credibility of modern Biblical scholarship. Gil grew up learning the Bible from the perspective of Biblical criticism, but its conclusions never jived with him. Though many are quick to note places where the Torah uses inconsistent characterizations as evidence that it has been written by multiple authors, he has always noted the implicit assumptions that these lines of thinking entail. Through his years developing and evolving opinions, Gil has experienced firsthand how subjectively we humans think, and he is loath to call any conclusion objectively true. -Are the conclusions put forth by Bible critics indisputable, or at least strongly convincing? -Do traditional commentaries have anything to say that’s of value? -How flexible can we be before crossing the lines denoted by Orthodox Judaism? -And how should we strike a balance between adhering to traditional curriculums and accounting for modern scholarship when teaching the next generations? Tune in to hear Gil discuss the different views on the Bible, from those of traditional commentators to secular Bible scholars. For more, visit https://18Forty.org/bible#student.
Aug 3, 2020
Joshua Berman: What Should We Believe?
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, David sits down with Joshua Berman, a professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University, to talk about the relationship between Orthodox Judaism and Biblical criticism. Many Orthodox educators avoid dealing with Biblical criticism, leaving their students feeling that they’ve been duped. Religious Bible critics are a minority in the field, giving some the impression that the questions raised cannot be adequately addressed. Though Joshua grew up with a strong internally-driven sense of faith, he too has been struck by some of these questions when his colleagues have pointed them out. -Are there strong questions to be asked on the Orthodox view of the Bible? -Are there scholars who feel they have answers that can adequately quell the doubts raised by these questions? -Is this approach falsifiable? -And is it merely apologetics, or is this scholarship just as legitimate, if not more, than the opposing scholarship? Tune in to hear Joshua reflect on his journey as a Jew and an academic, as well as the state of Biblical scholarship. For more, visit https://18Forty.org/bible#berman.
1 hr 2 min
Jul 26, 2020
Biblical Criticism Intro
David explains how, despite his initial apprehensiveness towards the topic, he has come to appreciate the different approaches to Biblical criticism offered by this month’s three guests: Joshua Berman, Gil Student, and Sara Susswein Tesler. For more, visit https://18Forty.org/bible.
Jul 19, 2020
As we live through the ups and downs of life, laughter begins to play an invaluable role in our mental well-being. Perhaps comedy can provide a helpful lens through which to view the sometimes stressful responsibilities of our life.
Jul 19, 2020
Daniel Feldman: Punchlines with Boundaries and Opportunities
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, David sits down with Rabbi Daniel Feldman, a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University and an author to discuss the role of comedy in Jewish thought and practice. We usually think of learning Torah as something serious and of comedy as incompatible with it. It is therefore natural to assume that comedy doesn’t have value, or at least that it doesn’t have inherent value, according to the Torah. The Torah even prohibits something called “leitzanus,” which many translate loosely to mean “humor.” Is there any value in humor beyond helping us cope with life’s hardships? What is the prohibited act of “leitzanus,” and how does that tie into the Torah’s view on humor in general? Are there any examples of humor in the Torah? Can we make jokes about the Torah and other important topics? And if we can, how far is too far? Tune in as Rabbi Daniel Feldmand discusses the sometimes surprising answers to these questions.
Jul 12, 2020
Leah Forster: Of Comedy and Community
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, David sits down with Leah Forster, an ex-Hasidic comedian to talk about how her journey has affected her comedy. Leah found comedy at a young age and pioneered comedy by women for women in the ultra-Orthodox world. She realized that the ultra-Orthodox life she grew up with caused a deep conflict within herself and she left to remain true to her authentic self. She was later at the center of a controversy where two bookings at kosher restaurants were cancelled, with their kashrus organizations threatening to pull their certifications because she was lesbian. How has Leah kept her comedy positive and free of bitterness and cynicism? How has she stayed positive in her personal life when dealing with these hardships? What lessons has she learned from them? And does she see herself as a role model to religious people who are realizing that they don’t fit within their community? Tune in as Leah reflects on her journey in between demonstrations of h…
Jul 5, 2020
Gary Gulman: This Impossible Life
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, David sits down with Gary Gulman, a world-famous comedian with comedy specials on Netflix and HBO, to talk about the relationship between comedy and the art of living. Gary grew up with a close relationship to God and was deeply depressed as a child. He thought he would be happy if he mastered something, so he resolved to become a good basketball player, then a successful accountant. But a change in perspective led him to try comedy, and he has since felt much more fulfilled. How does one construct meaning in their life? Does comedy help construct meaning or have any other value? Can one feel fulfilled if they feel average, or does one have to excel to be happy? And how does Gary’s Jewish identity play into his life philosophy? Tune in to hear Gary reflect on his comedic journey and the role it has played in finding meaning in his life.
Jun 28, 2020
David explains how comedy and humor can uncover a mystical oneness that allows us to construct meaning and community from mundane occurrences.
May 28, 2020
OTD: Leaving Religion Conclusion
May 28, 2020
Kelsey Osgood: A Conversion Narrative of Sorts
May 28, 2020
Philo Judaeus: Is There a Room for Dialogue?
In this episode of the 18Forty podcast, David invites a man who goes by the pseudonym Philo Judaeus – former member of the Orthodox Jewish community and moderator of the ambitious Frum/OTD Dialogue Facebook group – to discuss the intersection of philosophy and religiosity. According to Philo, even most of the greatest atheistic cosmologists would concede that there are compelling arguments for the existence of a divine being, and yet these same scientists remain atheist. Our deep-rooted motivations behind religious commitment may often go unquestioned, and Philo suggests this as a worthy mental exercise. In our commitment to religious observance, or lack thereof, how prevalent are the elements of logic? Pragmatism? Blind faith? How deep into these philosophical rabbit-holes must we venture, as individuals, to achieve fulfilment? Many times, it’s the way we resolve these philosophical questions that direct us one way or another. Tune in to join David and Philo Judaeus as they exp…
1 hr 18 min
May 28, 2020
Shulem Deen: Faith, without Faith
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, David discusses with special guest and former member of the Ultra-Orthodox community, Shulem Deen, the struggle and importance of balancing one’s individual needs with those of the community. Though many of us are aware of the extreme disconnect that exists between the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and the secular world, the result of this unfortunate dynamic offers powerful insight. In particular, the intense and likely under-discussed experience of ex-Ultra-Orthodox community members (a group referred to by many as ‘Off The Derech’ or OTD) raises important questions about the reality of this intercommunity conflict and life as a modern Jew. In what ways do the religious and secular worlds misunderstand each other? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Ultra-Orthodox and secular worlds in facilitating a positive life for their members? How can we as individuals combat the inescapable myopia of living within a social bubble? Tune…
May 27, 2020
OTD: Leaving Religion Intro
David introduces the next series of the 18Forty Podcast: why people join and leave religion and what we can learn from their decisions.
May 5, 2020
In this special episode, David talks about the significance of the year 1840 and how it remains relevant today.
Apr 21, 2020
It’s hard to make sense and order within the Talmud. But maybe that’s the point. Listen to some brief closing thoughts on the value of building meaning specifically when it is not apparent.
Mar 18, 2020
Talmud as an Agent of Chaos: A Conversation with Ari Bergmann
Talmud as an Agent of Chaos: A Conversation with Ari Bergmann by 18Forty
Mar 18, 2020
Is Talmud the Jewish Constitution? A Conversation with Chaim Saiman
In this episode, David discusses the mystifying qualities of the Talmud and how we find meaning in the nuance of Talmudic law with special guest Chaim Saiman, professor at Villanova Law School.
Mar 18, 2020
A Page is Worth A Thousand Worlds: A Conversation with Michelle Chesner
In this episode, David and special guest, Michelle Chesner, Columbia University’s Norman E. Alexander Librarian for Jewish Studies, discuss how the formatting of sacred Jewish texts has developed throughout Jewish history and impacted religious Judaism.
Mar 17, 2020
Why start here? In a brief opening thought, David explains the role of Talmud in finding meaning amid chaos.
Mar 16, 2020
Journey to 18Forty: A Conversation with Mitchell D. Eichen
Journey to 18Forty: A Conversation with Mitchell D. Eichen by 18Forty