You Be the Judge: Talmudic study course starts Feb. 10

Posted Thursday, Feb 5th, 2009
The Stonington Times

When Jose and Kitty Menendez were shot to death in 1989 in their Beverly Hills home while watching television, police never suspected their sons Lyle and Erik were the killers. The brothers had told police that they had come home from a movie and had found their parents dead in the house they all shared.

For a year, Lyle and Erik lived an extravagant lifestyle, traveling in limousines, staying at four-star hotels, and buying expensive cars, Rolex watches, designer clothes, and stereo equipment. They were eventually arrested and convicted of their parents’ murder and in 1996 each sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.

While the crime itself is heinous enough, the big question for scholars of Jewish law is, should children who kill their parents inherit their parents’ money?

That question, and others, are at the heart of a six-week class on Talmudic study being offered at Congregation Ahavath Chesed in New London.

“Normally children inherit their parents’ estate,’’ said Rabbi Avrohom Sternberg of Shabad of Eastern Connecticut, who will be teaching the class beginning Feb. 10. “In the case when the children turn out to be murderers, do they have any right to the estate?’’

Students will look at six cases brought before U.S. courts and analyze them through the teachings of the Talmud.

“We start with a case,” explained Sternberg. “We bring certain passages from the Talmud and study them and then we ask, would you now change your minds?”

For more than a thousand years, studying the Talmud has been the most important cultural activity for the Jewish people. It is an art form that showcases intellectual achievement.

But Sternberg says studying Jewish law is not only the pastime of scholars. Participants need no prior knowledge of the Talmud and no formal legal training to take the class other than “an open mind,’’ Sternberg said.

“You Be the Judge II’’ is the second in a series of classes by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, that allows student to explore the Talmud’s thinking about civil law. Topics will include business ethics, property rights and employment practices. Each lesson provides an opportunity to question, discuss, and argue based on principle and precedent.

There are no right and wrong conclusions, Sternberg said.

“It’s about the process,’’ he said.

The six-week course will begin Feb. 10 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. every Tuesday, and Feb. 11 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. every Wednesday, at Congregation Ahavath Chesed in New London. It is open to the public and costs $79. The first lesson is free with no obligation, Sternberg said.

Participants will have a chance to discover why the Talmud has been so cherished by the Jewish people, he added.

Staff Writer

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