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The 18Forty podcast helps users find meaning in life through the exploration of Jewish thought and ideas.
Feb 22, 2021
Rabbanit Rachelle Fraenkel: How Can God be Found After Trauma? [God 3/3]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Rabbanit Rachelle Fraenkel—speaker, educator, and yoetzet halacha— about the effects of tragedy on emunah. In 2014, Rabbanit Rachelle Fraenkel’s son Naftali was kidnapped and murdered in a tragic terror attack. The week before the world learned of his fate was sad but hopeful, leaving many feeling crushed by the outcome. Despite this impossible situation, Rachelle was lauded as displaying emunah, faith, in Hashem, remaining optimistic but devoid of expectation. -How did or didn’t Rachelle’s tragedy impact her emunah in God? -What expectations can people have of God when they pray? -What expectations can people not have of themselves when they pray? -What should our relationship with God be during difficult times? -And how should we console those who are themselves going through difficult times? Tune in to hear Rachelle talk about emunah in the face of tragedy, and how one can blend optimism and realism. References: Yosl Rakover Talks to God by Zvi Kolitz The Blessing of a Broken Heart by Sherri Mandell Scholarly Mentions: Emmanuel Levinas For more, visit https://18forty.org/topics/god. Rabbanit Rachelle Fraenkel is a teacher of Torah at Nishmat and the director of Matan’s Hilchata Institute. After her son Naftali was kidnapped and killed along with Gilad Sha’er and Eyal Yifrah in 2014, Rachelle became an international speaker and teacher. Rachelle speaks from the sharpest edges of human experience and her words are marked by a deep wisdom. Listen to Rachelle to hear from a profoundly learned and experienced teacher of Torah and life.
1 hr 23 min
Feb 15, 2021
Dr. Aaron Segal: Can God Be Proven? [God 2/3]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Dr. Aaron Segal, philosophy professor and student of both Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and Alvin Plantinga, to discuss God from the perspective of analytic philosophy. Analytic philosophy is mathematical, breaking claims into small pieces to rigorously analyze the language and concepts. The cost of this approach is its unwieldiness and high standards, which Aaron believes has precluded it from providing a capital-P proof of God’s existence. But one can still reason about God, and though some would claim belief in God is irrational, Aaron thinks its rationality is justified. -What are the approaches one can take to belief in God? -What are the limits of analytic philosophy in talking about God? -What are the limits of a philosophy like Plantinga’s reformed epistemology? -Can one’s knowledge of God be purely experiential? Tune in to hear Aaron talk about both the power and limits of reasoning applied to God. References: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein Kuzari by Yehuda HaLevi Metaphysics by Peter van Inwagen Advice to Christian Philosophers by Alvin Plantinga The Source of Faith is Faith Itself by Rav Aharon Lichtenstein "The Source of Faith..." Examined by Aaron Segal Kurt Godel's ontological argument - https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/#GodOntArg Scholarly Mentions: Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, Alvin Plantinga, Kurt Godel, Bertrand Russel, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Yehuda HaLevi, David Hilbert, Immanuel Kant, David Chalmers, Georg Cantor, John Locke, David Hume, David Johnson (YU) For more, visit https://18forty.org/topics/god. Dr. Aaron Segal is a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and formerly taught philosophy in Yeshiva University. Aaron received his doctorate from the University of Notre Dame, where Alvin Plantinga was one of his thesis directors. He has co-authored and co-edited books on Jewish philosophy, such as Jewish Philosophy in an Analytic Age. Aaron is masterful in his knowledge and comfort in the profound questions of analytic philosophy, and also received Semicha from the Chief Rabbinate in Israel.
1 hr 28 min
Feb 8, 2021
Rabbi David Aaron: How Should We Talk About God? [God 1/3]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Rabbi David Aaron, author, thinker, and educator, to discuss what God is and isn’t. People often think of God as a powerful, heavenly figure giving commandments, but to Rabbi Aaron, God is more of an experience of awe or good that morally inspires. This experience is impacted by our past experiences, often most prominently by those involving our parents. Rabbi Aaron thinks that many atheists are truly believers and would connect to their faith through therapy, not philosophy. - What is and isn’t God? - What does it mean to believe in God, and what does it mean to be an atheist? - Why do people believe in God? - How does one find and experience God? Tune in to hear Rabbi David Aaron discuss his views on God and how the subject should be taught in our education. References: Tzidkas HaTzadik by Rav Tzadok The Secret Life of God by Rabbi David Aaron Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix Seeing God by Rabbi David Aaron Ahavas Tzedek For more, visit https://18forty.org/topics/god. Rabbi David Aaron is an educator, thinker, and writer, who has put the dynamic God at the center of his life’s work. Uncompromisingly lucid, David puts the deepest and most pressing questions of Jewish theology in human terms. He received his rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat ITRI and is the Dean & Founder of Isralight (an international organization and center for Jewish learning in Jerusalem’s Old City) and Yeshivat Orayta (which offers a 1 to 2 year program for high school graduates). David is the author of eight books, including Endless Light, Seeing G-d, Love is My Religion, The Secret Life of G-d, Inviting G-d In, Living a Joyous Life and The God Powered Life. Listen to David to hear how Jewish theology can be a personal endeavor.
1 hr 16 min
Jan 25, 2021
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down for a special session with our host, David Bashevkin, to discuss one of the podcast’s first topics: going off the derech. There are many preconceptions that come with leaving one’s religious life. People often claim to know the precise psychological reasons that caused someone to leave and what kind of life they’re currently living. There are always reasons, but these reasons can be varied and unexpected, and can lead people to very different places. Some don’t even think of themselves as having left, as they have found a different derech that works for them. -Why do people leave religion? -Where do people go instead? -What struggles do people experience in leaving their old communities? -How does the desire for community manifest in trying to build a new life? Tune in to hear David reflect on his conversations with past podcast guests about this phenomenon of leaving one’s religious community, or going OTD. References: Shulem Deen interview - http://18forty.org/otd/#deen Philo Judaeus interview - http://18forty.org/otd/#judaeus Kelsey Osgood interview - http://18forty.org/otd/#osgood Judaism and the Twice-Born by Kelsey Osgood All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen For more, visit https://18forty.org/otd.
Jan 18, 2021
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down for a special podcast with our host, David Bashevkin, to review the first topic that 18Forty covered: Talmud. Though Judaism has many facets to its practice, Talmud study has long been one of its hallmarks. It is a sprawling text with many commentaries, and so can be analyzed from any number of perspectives. This episode highlight three: those of Ari Bergmann, Chaim Saiman, and Michelle Chesner. From its historical formation to its ideas to its format, the Talmud was analyzed at length for its 18Forty topic, and this episode highlights some of the key questions raised. -How was the Talmud written? -What should one make of the often confusing mix of ideas it presents? -Does the text format itself hold any significance? -Is Talmud study useful for anything besides Talmud study? -What similarities does it have to other fields of knowledge? Tune in to hear David review and reflect on his past conversations with podcast guests about the Talmud. References: Ari Bergmann interview - http://18forty.org/talmud/#bergmann Chaim Saiman interview - http://18forty.org/talmud/#saiman Michelle Chesner interview - http://18forty.org/talmud/#chesner Take One podcast - https://www.tabletmag.com/podcasts/take-one Legal Theology: The Turn to Conceptualism in Nineteenth-Century Jewish Law by Chaim Saiman Nomos and Narrative by Robert Cover Jewish Thought: A Process, Not a Text by David Bashevkin Arba-ah Turim by Jacob Ben Asher Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law by Chaim Saiman For more, visit https://18forty.org/talmud/.
Jan 12, 2021
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down for a special podcast with our host, David Bashevkin, to discuss the podcast’s namesake, the year 1840. Though humanity’s history is long and rich, it’s only recently that the world has begun to look like we’re used to. From the renaissance to the scientific and industrial revolutions, technology and information seem to be progressing at an exponential rate. Judaism, along with all tradition, had to contend with modernity as we now know it for the first time. Most of modern Jewry has been affected in some way or another by this modernization of its members. -What historical significance does the year 1840 have? -What challenges did it bring for Judaism and other traditions? -How did Judaism respond to those challenges? -And in the end, how does modern Judaism differ from its other historical iterations? Tune in to hear David share why the year 1840 holds such significance for him, and how he feels its effects in his life. References: The Europeans Review - https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/28/books/review/the-europeans-orlando-figes.html Israel Bartal article - https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10835-005-5978-7 Zohar The Europeans by Orlando Figes Jewish Continuity in America - Abraham J. Karp Zichron Yaakov by Rabbi Yaakov Lipschutz Sapiens by Yuval Harari For more, visit https://18forty.org/why-1840.
Jan 4, 2021
Eli Rubin: How do Mysticism and Social Action Interact? [Social Justice 3/3]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Eli Rubin – writer and researcher at chabad.org – to think about the stereotypes associated with social justice and vision, and how those seeming boundaries have been transcended. Social reform requires that one embrace at least some change, leading some to think that it is antithetical to conservative worldviews. While the compatibility of Judaism and social justice movements is not guaranteed, it is often the case, even in some of what are seen as the more right-wing parts of modern Judaism. The modern history of social justice involves figures ranging from Rabbi AJ Heschel to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and challenges some common assumptions. -Has social justice been associated with mysticism and/or rationalism? -What might social justice, or tikkun olam, mean within Judaism? -What have various historical figures interpreted it to mean? -What association does the Lubavitcher Rebbe have with social justice? Tune in to hear Eli Rubin share his views on the historical relationship between social justice and the Torah. References: Social Vision: The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Transformative Paradigm for the World by Philip Wexler, Michael Wexler, and Eli Rubin To Heal the World? - Jonathan Neumann Hasidism Beyond Modernity - Naftali Loewenthal For more, visit https://18forty.org/socialjustice/#rubin.
1 hr 10 min
Dec 28, 2020
Dr. Rivka Press Schwartz: How Should We Educate About Social Justice? [Social Justice 2/3]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Dr. Rivka Press Schwartz – Shalom Hartman Institute Fellow, SAR Associate Principal, and Princeton PhD – to think about ways in which social justice can be incorporated into Orthodox education systems. History has seen many hierarchical class systems that benefit some to the detriment of others. The Jewish people have not often been the beneficiaries, yet we enjoy much economic and social success in much of the world today. Dr. Press Schwartz thinks that while this success is in part due to our own willpower, certain fluke historical factors have played in our favor, giving us a leg up. She believes that the Torah is compatible with a social view that involves recognizing social privileges and attempting to mitigate them. -What is privilege? -How privileged have the Jewish people been throughout history? -What, if anything, should be done when privileges are identified? -What does the Torah have to say about this? Tune in to hear Dr. Rivka Press Schwartz share her views on the Torah, the Jewish people, privilege, and broader social justice. References: Dr. Press Schwartz article "Privilege, Perspective, and Modern Orthodox Youth" - https://18forty.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/privilege-perspective-press-schwartz.pdf Dr. Press Schwartz and David Bashevkin Twitter Exchange - https://twitter.com/DBashIdeas/status/1283400224191504389 Yuval Levin election day NYT op ed - https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/03/opinion/2020-election.html A Time to Build by Yuval Levin The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein For more, visit https://18forty.org/socialjustice/#pressschwartz.
1 hr 18 min
Dec 21, 2020
Rabbi Jeremy Wieder: Is There a Torah Approach to our Social Responsibility? [Social Justice 1/3]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Rabbi Jeremy Wieder – rosh yeshiva, PhD, Bible professor, and passionate Orthodox moral voice – to discuss what the Torah has to say about social justice. The Torah serves as a moral guidebook for many, with some citing the avos as exemplifying generosity, even towards those they didn’t know. One might therefore expect that those most engrossed in Torah learning would fight on the front lines for social justice issues, but many make the opposite association. It seems that there may be more to morality than studying Halakhah alone. -What kind of morality does Halakhah espouse? -Why is the Beit Midrash not typically associated with social justice if the Torah is our moral guidebook? -Is Halakhah the only element to the picture the Torah paints of morality, or is there more? -And as Halakhah is mostly immutable, to what degree, and in what fashion, can the Torah evolve in response to the times? Tune in to hear Rabbi Jeremy Wieder share his ideas about the Torah’s view on social justice. References: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks interview with Tim Ferriss - https://tim.blog/2020/08/26/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks-2/ Rabbi Sacks interviews with David Bashevkin - https://ncsy.org/remembering-rabbi-sacks/ To Heal a Fractured World by Rabbi Sacks Social Vision by Philip Wexler There Shall Be No Needy by Rabbi Jill Jacobs For more, visit https://18forty.org/socialjustice/#wieder.
1 hr 18 min
Dec 7, 2020
Rabbi Meir Triebitz: How Should We Approach the Science of the Torah? [Science 4/4]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Rabbi Meir Triebitz – Rosh Yeshiva, PhD, and expert on matters of science and the Torah – to discuss what kind of science we can learn from the Torah. The Torah, and especially the Talmud, addresses a wide subject matter including theology, morality, metaphysics, and science. It is sometimes said to contain all knowledge – meaning that we could learn anything from the Torah, which seems to imply that all of the Torah’s scientific claims are true. Some welcome this perspective, while others object to it. -What is the Torah’s subject matter? -Does it contain irreconcilable scientific claims? -Should a statement’s subject matter change how we interpret it? -What if we aren’t supposed to interpret a statement as scientifically true, but our Halakhah today is in some way predicated on the statement being true? -And does our not interpreting a statement literally mean it isn’t true, or just that we can’t understand it? Tune in to hear Rabbi Meir Triebitz discuss his perspective on these age-old science and Torah questions. For more, visit https://18forty.org/science/#triebitz.
Nov 30, 2020
Rabbi David Fohrman: Does the Torah Teach Science? [Science 3/4]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Rabbi David Fohrman - author, lecturer, and founder of the Aleph Beta Academy - to discuss in what genre the Torah is meant to be, and how that should influence the way we think about it. There are many approaches one could take when confronted with science that seem to contradict parts of the Torah. Some, including Nathan Aviezer, orchestrate elaborate readings of the beginning of Bereishis in accordance with Biblical concordism. Some, like Natan Slifkin, feel comfortable reading the pesukim metaphorically, feeling less need to provide literal reconciliations. Rabbi David Fohrman feels that many people could benefit from thinking more about how the Torah and science coexist, particularly the words of the first few chapters in Bereishis. - In what genre is the Torah? - How should we treat its content? - Does it ever try to teach us empirical facts about the world, or is it trying to give perspective on life? - What other kinds…
1 hr 16 min
Nov 23, 2020
Professor Allison Coudert: How did Religion Influence Science? [Science 2/4]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Professor Allison Coudert, of the Department of Religious Studies at UC Davis, to discuss the historical interplay of science with religion, and specifically with Kabbalah. During a 1917 lecture talking about the rational mindset underlying science, Max Weber famously declared that “This means that the world is disenchanted.” Though this sentiment has permeated the public consciousness, Allison thinks the real story is more complicated. She thinks that science and enlightenment philosophy only heightened the magic we humans could experience, and that enlightenment movements have done so historically. In her mind, religion and science aren’t opponents, as they’re so often framed, but engage in a mutually-beneficial relationship, each inspiring and strengthening the other. - What has the historical interplay of science and religion been? - What influence has Kabbalah specifically had on scientists’ thought? - What conno…
Nov 17, 2020
Dr. Jeremy England: What Does a Scientist See in the Torah? [Science 1/4]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Dr. Jeremy England, physicist and biologist, to discuss his lives as a Jew and an academic, and how, if at all, those lives interact. Jeremy grew up a barely-affiliated Jew and obtained a degree in biochemistry from Harvard, but discovered his love for Judaism and began reading authors like Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Ruth Weiss. He is an accomplished scientist, having posited the theory of dissipative adaptation to explain abiogenesis, but still sees a depth and meaning to the words of the Torah. Though science plays an important role in his life, he feels that has managed to find a role for Torah despite this fact without compromising on the ideals of either. - What are the abilities and limitations of science? - What are the abilities and limitations of Torah? - As a scientist, how did Jeremy reconcile the two as he became more religious? - How does the study of each compare to the other? - And what role should they ultimately…
1 hr 49 min
Nov 2, 2020
Rav Moshe Weinberger: Can Mysticism Become a Community? [Mysticism 3/3]
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Rav Moshe Weinberger, rabbi and educator, to discuss the role of mysticism in modern-day Judaism. Rav Weinberger grew up Modern Orthodox and became attracted to Chassidus at a young age. Though he is a fan of the yeshiva system and believes that Halakha cannot be compromised, he has long watched with anguish as countless products of the system have been turned off by the dry, inhumane version of Yiddishkeit taught to them. Rav Weinberger believes that Jewish education must evolve over time, and that Chassidus is as good an approach as any for the current generation. -How can one go about strengthening their connection to Hashem? -What are the educational challenges of today’s generation? -Where does the modern-day yeshiva system succeed, and where does it fail its students? -And how can we attempt to tweak the system to suit everyone’s needs? Tune in to hear Rav Moshe Weinberger discuss the challenges that he sees facing t…
1 hr 12 min
Oct 27, 2020
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…
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 vulnerab…
1 hr 24 min
Sep 29, 2020
Samuel G. Freedman: Can Jew vs. Jew Ever Become Jew with Jew? [Peoplehood 4/4]
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/#freed…
Sep 22, 2020
Bethany S. Mandel: Jews without Community [Peoplehood 3/4]
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…
Sep 15, 2020
Laura E. Adkins: Is There Room for All Opinions? [Peoplehood 2/4]
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 contr…
Sep 10, 2020
Rav Aaron Lopiansky: What Tribes do you Contain Inside? [Peoplehood 1/4]
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 discu…
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…
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 j…
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 episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down for a special podcast with our host, David Bashevkin, to discuss the podcast’s namesake, the year 1840. Though humanity’s history is long and rich, it’s only recently that the world has begun to look like we’re used to. From the renaissance to the scientific and industrial revolutions, technology and information seem to be progressing at an exponential rate. Judaism, along with all tradition, had to contend with modernity as we now know it for the first time. Most of modern Jewry has been affected in some way or another by this modernization of its members. What historical significance does the year 1840 have? What challenges did it bring for Judaism and other traditions? How did Judaism respond to those challenges? And in the end, how does modern Judaism differ from its other historical iterations? Tune in to hear David share why the year 1840 holds such significance for him, and how he feels its effects in his life. For m…
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