Traditional, Egalitarian & Participatory Conservative Synagogue
127 East 82nd St, New York, NY 10028  |  Tel: 212.452.2310
Scott N. Bolton, Rabbi  |  Diane Okrent, President
a Conservative synagogue on the upper east side of nyc

Oral Law Seminar

Annual Adult Education Course 5777:
Elisha's Apostasy: Reward and Punishment in Jewish Thought
Or Zarua congregants generally are avid learners, eager to grapple with traditional and modern texts, from the Torah to the Talmud and beyond, that form the religious and intellectual bedrock of Judaism. Some congregants are also eager to share their learning with fellow members.
For more than a decade now at Or Zarua, congregant Marc Ashley has taught an annual adult education course on several Sunday mornings between Pesach and Shavuot. During this spring period leading up to the yearly commemoration of the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the perfect time for contemplation and introspection regarding our religious beliefs and practices, Ashley's course has covered a variety of core theological, legal and historical issues. With a recurring focus on the origins and authority of the Torah she'be'al peh (the Oral Law in Judaism), we have examined wide-ranging issues including the ideological foundations of denominational differences, parameters of Jewish pluralism, reasons for the commandments, sources of authentic Jewish knowledge, subjective dynamics of halakhic decision-making, and seminal historiography of Yosef Yerushalmi.
Does it make any sense to believe that God rewards virtue and penalizes misconduct?
In classical Jewish thought, God rewards the righteous and punishes sinners based on our performance of the commandments, But that notion of strict accountability flies in the face of reality. Good people sometimes suffer and bad people often thrive. God's allotment of reward and punishment can seem arbitrary. It is challenging to believe with confidence that divine justice actually flourishes in our world. If we possess free will to do good or evil, isn't God paying attention to our choices?
The clash between concept and reality can be jarring. The Talmud relates that Elisha ben Abuya, a respected rabbinic scholar, was led to apostasy when he witnessed a young boy fall to his death when climbing a ladder at his father's instruction to send away a mother bird before capturing the nestlings. While fulifilling two comandments the Torah expressly states will prolong our lives, this dutiful boy was deprived of life. In the face of this inexplicable tragedy, Elisha's religious faith was irrevocably shattered, leading to his notorious heresy.
This theological challenge still resonates today, particularly in the shadow of the Holocaust during which God's indifference to redical injustice seemed to reign. The unsettling disconnect between goodness and success can lead to religious doubt.
Please join us on four Sundays in April and May as congregant Marc Ashley leads his annual adult education course through a survey of Jewish thought on the important topic of reward and punishment. We'll survey classical Jewish texts and modern commentaries as we explore the continuing relevance of this provocative doctrine.
This year's course - which will meet at 10:00 am in the Library on the four Sundays April 23 & 30, and May 7 & 21 - will examine Jewish thought on the important topic of reward and punishment.
No prior knowledge of any kind is required for these annual adult education courses. Please join us for stimulating discussions of crucial issues in Jewish life, as together we help sustain and nourish a community of learners and learning at Or Zarua.
2017 Sessions - Audio Recordings:
April   23, 2017
April   30, 2017
May   7, 2017
     Session 3 Document Package
May   21, 2017
     Session 4 Document Package
• Weekly Talmud Class with Rabbi Bolton - Fasting, Praying, Planting, and Walking Through the Rain
     Masekhet Ta'anit: Wednesdays at 7:30 - 9:00 pm
• Weekly Siddur Class with Rabbi Bolton: Thursdays from 8:40 - 9:40 am, in the Library following minyan
Details and complete list of events
This week at O"Z
Service Times
March 10 - 16, 2019
Morning Minyan:
Weekdays at 7:15 am
Musaf days at 7:00 am
Shabbat at 9:00 am
Sundays at 8:45 am
Check Calendar for changes
   to starting time, if any
Our Morning Minyan is
open to the Community
365 days per year!
FRIDAY, March 15, 2019
Candlelighting 6:44 pm
Minhah, Kabbalat Shabbat
& Ma'ariv
   6:00 pm
SATURDAY, February 16, 2019
Shaharit at 9:00 am
This week's Torah reading:
Parashat VaYikra
Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26
This week's Haftarah:
I Kings 7:51 - 8:21
Shabbat Ends
7:39 pm
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127 East 82nd Street
New York, NY 10028
Telephone 212.452.2310
Fax 212.452.2103
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