What happens when you survey 30,000 people, asking them to submit the questions they are most curious about, and address those enigmas with insights from some of the greatest minds in Jewish history?

That is what we did. The result:  The Jewish Course of Why. 

Presenter: Rabbi Levi Teldon (Spring 2016) 

Lesson 1

  1. Why ask “Why?”? Isn’t Judaism a belief system?
  2. Why are there no miracles today of biblical proportion?
  3. Why do we pray? Doesn’t God know what He is doing? Can we really affect His will?
  4. Why is there so much fragmentation in Jewish practice?
  5. Why have the Jews survived millennia while so many other civilizations have vanished?
  6. Why don’t Jews accept the Christian messiah?
  7. Why do we kindle yartzeit candles to commemorate the dead?

 Lesson 2

  1. Why is the Star of David a Jewish symbol?
  2. Why does a mikveh “purify”?
  3. Why do people require such “purification”?
  4. Why are there so many dos and don’ts in Judaism?
  5. Why do many Jews sway when they pray?
  6. Why do traditional synagogues have separate seating for men and women?
  7. Why is Israel important to the Jews?
  8. Why does the Bible call for animal sacrifices?

Lesson 3

  1. Why are there so many Jews in Hollywood?
  2. Why do we believe that Jews cannot convert out of Judaism?
  3. Why did our ancestors continue to identify as Jews despite being victims of so much suffering through the ages?
  4. Why does a mourner recite Kaddish?
  5. Why do Jews place pebbles on headstones?
  6. Why not leave flowers at the grave?
  7. Why does Jewish law exempt women from certain ritual obligations that are obligatory for men?
  8. Why are ten men required for a minyan?
  9. Why doesn’t God respond to my requests?
  10. Why does God give us negative, even harmful inclinations?

 Lesson 4

  1. Why doesn’t Judaism seek converts?
  2. Why does the Torah say that the Jews are the “chosen people”? Isn’t that racist?
  3. Why do we believe that we have free choice if God always knew how we would choose?
  4. Why does the Torah permit slavery?
  5. Why does Jewish law obsess over details?
  6. Why is it permitted to have sexual relations on Shabbat?
  7. Why does the Bible refer to sexual relations as “knowing”?
  8. Why aren’t vegan foods and restaurants Kosher by default?
  9. Why do we say lechayim as a drinking salutation?

Lesson 5

  1. Why are the Jewish holidays always “late” or “early”?
  2. Why do we say Mazal Tov?
  3. Why do Jews eat gefilte fish on Shabbat?
  4. Why do Jews eat cholent on Shabbat?
  5. Why is a God-fearing person praiseworthy? Isn’t fear a negative emotion? Why isn’t love enough?
  6. Why does Jewish law recognize matrilineal descent as the deciding factor for Jewish identity?
  7. Why do some Jews wear old-fashioned clothes?
  8. Why would the Torah state, “Do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk” if the intention—according to the Talmud—is a broader prohibition?
  9. Why are eggs pareve, though the birds that lay the eggs are fleishig-meat?

Lesson 6

  1. Why have the Jews been singled out for persecution and hate throughout history?
  2. Why does Jewish adulthood begin at age twelve for girls and thirteen for boys?
  3. Why do we pour a cup of wine for Elijah at the Passover seder?
  4. Why is it not forbidden to submit petitions of prayer to a righteous person? Isn’t it true that Judaism forbids using intermediaries to access God?
  5. Why do Chasidim think it is necessary to have a rebbe? Isn’t it true that Jews do not require intermediaries to access God?
  6. Why is Moses’ name absent from the Haggadah?
  7. Why does Judaism associate so many of its celebrations with food?