Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun
Location 125 East 85th Street , New York, NY 10028 USA
Current Course: The Dilemma

Accredited for Continuing Legal Education (in most states)

Apply mind-bending, brain-twisting, hair-splitting Talmudic reasoning to solve real-life modern dilemmas—situations that actually happened yet seem impossible to solve. What do you do when your gut tells you one thing, and your brain tells you another? Prepare for a mental expedition to mind-wrestle with situations that force us to choose between two reasonable truths.

Analyze, discuss, and debate Talmudic texts with live interactive polling for an authentic taste of original, dynamic Talmud study.


Course Details
Lesson 1 No Good Deed Unpunished

On a hot day in July 2016, a group of young men on Chicago’s West Side broke into a pickup truck and stole a laptop. Unbeknownst to the thieves, there was a dog in the car that might have died in the heat had they not broken the window. The car was parked for about an hour before the owner’s return, long enough to cause heatstroke in pets according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
All would agree that the laptop must be returned, but should the thieves be prosecuted for breaking the window? Should they compensate the owner for the broken window? Should they be rewarded for saving the dog? Should criminals be rewarded or at least not punished for malicious actions that produce unintended positive results for the victim?

Lesson 2 Taking the Law into Your Own Hands

A shopkeeper in Rechovot, Israel, noticed a burglar breaking into his shop. He recognized the burglar as the man who had burglarized his shop twice in the recent past. An altercation ensued in which the owner struck the burglar with a plank of wood, and stabbed him five times in the legs with a sharp object.
Should we be permitted to take the law into our own hands? Is the use of force ever justified if law enforcement is not on the scene? If you find a thief with your stolen bicycle, should you be allowed to seize the object by force, or must you turn to the courts despite the delays and expenses it will entail?

Lesson 3 The Found Object

A woman from Issaquah, Washington, was dining at an Italian restaurant, when she bit down on a pearl. Although most claims of finding valuable pearls turn out to be false, gemologist Ted Irwin determined that this was a beautiful Quahog pearl, valued at $600. He added that the chances of finding a natural, gem- quality pearl like this one was probably "one in a couple million."
Suppose this occurred to a guest in your home. The pearl was found in your fish, in your home, but on your guest’s plate. Can you make a claim to the pearl or would you agree that it belongs to your guest? Did you give away the pearl with the fish? Can you give away what you don’t even know exists? Was the pearl ever yours in the first place?

Lesson 4 Liability for Proximate Cause

Pokémon Go is an app that allows users to interact with virtual Pokémon characters positioned all over the world. It is a global phenomenon with more than five hundred million downloads, but it is not without some ethical problems. The app has a "Lure Module" that players can use to attract Pokémon users to their location. Four teenage suspects were arrested in O’Fallon, Montana for armed robbery against Pokémon Go players that they lured to their location with this app. And Pokémon Go users have on occasion caused damage in neighborhoods rich with Pokémon characters that had been placed on private properties by the game’s owners.
Should Pokémon Go be required to remove their virtual figures from private property? Does responsibility lie with the users who play the game or should the owners of Pokémon Go be held responsible for the crimes and damages caused by their platform? Is there a difference in legal responsibility between crimes enabled by this platform, and injury or property damage similarly facilitated?

Lesson 5 More Equal than Others

Tesla Motors, a US-based electric car company, introduced autopilot driving to its electric cars. These cars are driving millions of miles every day on highways across the world, collecting information, and sending it back to a huge central database. This, in turn, will make autonomous driving for all a thing of the not-too-distant future.
When designing such technology, engineers face moral questions that rarely arise in real life. Suppose the car is fast approaching a tunnel entrance when its braking mechanism fails. Suppose a child has tripped and is lying across the entrance, blocking the tunnel. Should the car be designed to move forward and kill the innocent child or swerve into the tunnel wall and kill the innocent driver? Should the engineers program the car to choose based on age or number of victims? Suppose the car could plow forward into multiple victims or swerve to the side to kill one previously unendangered victim: Should one person die to save many?

Lesson 6 Accomplice to the Inevitable

A 14-year-old boy and his friends often played on a public bridge in Berlin, New Hampshire, where nearby, there were electrical wires that were owned and maintained by Twin State Gas & Electric Co. One afternoon, while sitting on a horizontal girder, the boy lost his balance and took hold of one of the wires to save himself from falling. He was electrocuted and died instantly. Henry Dillon, the boy’s father, brought suit against Twin State for wrongful death on the boy’s behalf. Had the wires been insulated properly, his son’s life would have been spared. Twin State argued that without the wire present the boy would have fallen into the river, and he would have without doubt been killed.
What should the law be in cases where there are two sufficient causes of harm with one preceding the other ("preemptive causes")? And what if both causes arrive simultaneously ("merged causes")? Should there be differences in this regard between monetary cases and cases of life-and-death?

Dates & Times
    • 6 Mondays, Nov 7th - Dec 12th 2022 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM
    • $75.00
      Couples Discount: $7.5 off
    • No one will be turned away due to a lack of funds.
    • This course is an in-person course only
    • register
Upcoming Course: Book Smart

A panoramic overview of 3000 years of Jewish learning, this course introduces you to the works that earned us the title “The People of The Book.” You will experience the different genres that shape Jewish life, including Tanach, Midrash, Talmud, Halachah, Philosophy, Kabbalah, Musar, Chasidism, and meet the influential personalities who drove thirty centuries of Jewish scholarship. Whether you’re meeting these texts for the first time or as a seasoned scholar, this course will inform and enrich all your Jewish learning.

Course Details
Lesson 1 The Torah

We begin by addressing the question, “What is the Torah?” We discover how the whole of Jewish teaching (“the Torah” in its broader meaning) derives from the Chumash (“the Torah” in its narrower meaning). We also discuss the relationship between the “Written Torah” and the “Oral Torah,” and how these two components of Torah constitute a “partnership” of Divine revelation and human toil of the mind.

We then introduce the twenty-four books of the Tanach. We explain the differences between Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim, and review the contents of each. We also see how the roots of the different “genres” of Torah—Midrash, Halachah, Kabbalah, Musar, etc.—are all in the “Written Torah,” as will be further demonstrated in each of the next five lessons.

Lesson 2 The Midrash

“Midrash” is both a methodology and a body of literature. In this lesson, we explore both aspects of Midrash. We study the various methods by which additional layers of meaning contained within the words—or between the lines—of the Torah are expounded. We also acquaint ourselves with some of the major Midrashic works that record the expositional teachings by the sages of the Talmudic era (approximately 100 BCE to 500 CE).

Midrash includes Halachic (legal) expositions, which extrapolate the details of the Torah’s laws from the text, as well as Agadic Midrashim—moral, philosophical, and mystical teachings, as well as historical narratives and parables. We study examples from both of these varieties of Midrash, including a number of intricate legal expositions, and an esoteric parable relating to a celestial battle over the creation of the human being and the paradox of goodness and truth.

Lesson 3 The Talmud

More than any other work, the Talmud defines “Jewish learning.” In this lesson, we review the history of the Talmud, explore the structure of this intricate and fascinating work, with its 63 volumes of teachings and deliberations by hundreds of sages over a period of six centuries on virtually every subject under the sun. We also engage in the in-depth study of a Talmudic sugya (“subject discussion”) and experience the unique twists and turns of the Talmudic dialectic.

In the process, we discover how Talmudic learning leverages the “flaws” of the human mind—its circuitous reasoning, its contentiousness, and its inconsistencies—to reveal the multifaceted nature of the Divine wisdom and apply it to the complexities of human life.

Lesson 4 Halachah

Halachah is the “bottom line” of Torah, where the biblical commandments, rabbinical ordinances, and Talmudic deliberations translate into the dos and don’ts of daily life. Halachah addresses every part of a Jew’s life, from waking to bedtime, from birth to burial, from everyday activities to the most extraordinary situations.

In this lesson, we explore the history of Halachah, from its sources in the Written Torah, through the Halachic Midrashim, the Talmud and its commentaries, the various “codes” compiled through the centuries, and the many thousands of Halachic responsa authored through the centuries. We survey the great variety of issues and dilemmas that Halachah addresses. We then bring it all to life via a case study that traces a Halachic issue from its biblical origins through more than a dozen citations across the entire spectrum of Halachic literature.

Lesson 5 Musar and Jewish Philosophy

Musar is the body of Torah teachings that deals with ethics, character development, and spiritual self-improvement. The field of Jewish philosophy, also known as “Chakirah,” includes works devoted to discussing the philosophy and ideology of Judaism. While these constitute two distinct areas of Torah literature, there is also a certain degree of overlap between them; indeed, some of the fundamental works of Jewish philosophy are also works of Musar, and vice versa.

In this lesson, we review the history and the primary authors and works in these two fields. We then study a number of texts covering three related topics in both these fields: the doctrine of creation ex nihilo (“something from nothing”), bitachon (trust in G-d), and the emotion of anger.

Lesson 6 Kabbalah and Chasidism

Kabbalah is the Torah’s mystical dimension, containing its most powerful and empowering ideas. But for many centuries, the teachings of Kabbalah were carefully guarded secrets, transcribed only in the guise of esoteric terminology and metaphors, and taught only to a small, exclusive circle of mystics in each generation. Chasidism is both an extension of Kabbalah as well as a field of Torah in its own right, revealing the inner “soul” that unites the Torah’s various components and applying its most abstract spiritual teachings in personally meaningful ways.

In this lesson, we survey the history of Kabbalah and Chasidism. We address the question of why these teachings were kept secret, and why and how they were eventually revealed. We then explore one of the core subjects of Kabbalah—the doctrine of the “Ten Sefirot”—beginning with a mysterious passage in the Zohar, followed by a series of Kabbalistic and Chasidic texts that examine the great paradox of G-d’s relationship with us, and the body-soul dichotomy that defines our own lives.

Dates & Times
The course date hasn't yet been announced for this location. Please email or call 212-774-5600 for more info.
Upcoming Course: Jewpernatural

As we understand the natural world better, we have only grown more fascinated by mysterious topics like the meaning of dreams; the existence of angels, demons, and extraterrestrials; and the power of the evil eye. With record interest inspiring curiosity, dread, and mockery, this course probes the Talmud, Jewish philosophy, and kabbalah to provide Jewish
perspectives and guidance for those curious about these perennial questions.

Course Details
Lesson 1 Dreams & Direction

We all dream as we slumber, but do the scenes of our dreams impart messages with lasting significance? And can we control our own dreams, perhaps to reduce nightmares and the like?

In this lesson, students will learn that traditional Jewish sources assert that the degree of meaning our dreams contain correlates with the degree of focus and meaning of our daytime thoughts. The occurrence of nightmares can be reduced through improving the quality of our daytime thoughts, strengthening our faith, and developing a positive Jewish bedtime ritual.

The lesson underlines the basic Jewish belief that there is no destiny that cannot be changed. Even if we are convinced that a particular dream forebodes negative events, we should know that prayer and good deeds can change any destiny.

Lesson 2 Stars & Signs

Since the dawn of time, the endless sea of twinkling planetary configurations has been read to shed the secrets of individual Homo sapiens, or to eavesdrop on the celestial pulling of puppet strings attached to our lives. Do the stars in fact influence our natures or provide information regarding our unknown futures?

This lesson shows that there is strong—although not unanimous—support in Jewish sources for the basic validity of astrology. However, any Jewish belief in astrology is tempered by the fundamental Jewish beliefs that human beings always retain free choice regarding their moral conduct, and no destiny is absolute. As a result, even the Jewish authorities that give astrology some validity caution us not to turn to it for information, and to focus instead on faith in G-d, Who shapes our destinies based on our actions.

Lesson 3 Jinx & The Evil Eye

Cultures across the map and down the eras have maintained a belief in the negative powers of an “evil eye” and curses, and produced diverse methods of protection from it. What does Judaism have to say? Is there an evil eye, and what might be its effect? Can people harm others by cursing them?

In this lesson, students will learn that there is strong—although not unanimous—support in Jewish sources for the notion that the evil eye and curses can have damaging effects.

The most prominent Jewish theory for explaining the effects of evil eyes and curses is that they attract added Heavenly scrutiny to an individual—and therefore an audit of their behavior in relationship to the blessings they have in their lives.

The lesson then demonstrates a corresponding and effective approach to providing protection through being more private and refraining from unnecessarily flaunting our blessings.

Lesson 4 Para & Normal

Is there other intelligent life out there in the universe? Does Judaism believe in angels and demons? Can we communicate with the souls of our deceased loved ones?

This lesson teaches that the question of the existence of extraterrestrial life does not have serious theological ramifications in Judaism, and there are traditional sources either way. The important Jewish principle is that we human beings are the purpose of creation.

Regarding angels, traditional sources describe them as spiritual entities that play a role in processing prayers to G-d and His flow of blessings to us. Demons are depicted as impure spiritual forces that cause harm. But both angels and demons lack any independent authority, and thus they should not be subjects of our focus. It is we humans, created in the image of G-d with the gift of free choice, that have the most meaningful relationship with G-d.

Finally, students will learn that Judaism believes that the human soul is eternal and continues to exist after death. We can “communicate” with the deceased by performing good deeds in their honor, thereby giving them pleasure and advancing them in their new world, but any form of direct communication with the spirits of the dead is forbidden by Torah law.

Dates & Times
The course date hasn't yet been announced for this location. Please email or call 212-774-5600 for more info.
Endorsements Endorsements, Reviews and Comments of JLI's Courses and Programs.
Past Courses

Meditation from Sinai

February 2022
Meditation from Sinai

The Torah was given at Sinai. So were the meditative tools to help us open up, see more, and live more deeply.

This course teaches the what, how, why, where, and when of Divine Meditation, Mindful Awareness, and Soulful Transcendence. 


Learn more about available continuing education credit for medical and mental health professionals at


Outsmarting Antisemitism

October 2021
Outsmarting Antisemitism

Rise above the Hate

We cannot let antisemitism define our Judaism, but we cannot ignore it either. As direct memory of the Holocaust fades, Jews around the world are wondering whether the patterns of past centuries are returning, in both the Old and New Worlds, where Jews experience more hate crimes than any other group.

Are Jewish people doomed to be stuck in this cycle forever? Is there a way to escape this history of hate?

Outsmarting Antisemitism takes this dark subject on squarely, with a sense of unabashed optimism, profound faith, and a distinctly Jewish approach.

Through illuminating source texts and captivating case studies, this course considers the sources of this ancient scourge, along with the appropriate strategies for overcoming it. It’s time to find the confidence to fight hate with hope and to stand tall against antisemitism with positivity, purpose, and plenty of Jewish pride!