Jewish course addresses common challenges to relationship with God

Posted Friday, Sep 28th, 2018

 Rabbi Levi Vogel of the Chabad Jewish Center in St. Augustine will offer a six-week course, “Wrestling with Faith,” beginning at 7 p.m. Oct. 22.

A Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) course, the curriculum addresses common challenges people have in their relationship with God.

Participants will grapple with issues that many struggle with, including beliefs in Judaism that seem primitive or outdated, reconciling scientific findings with ideas that cannot be proven in a lab, and the role of religion regarding gender roles, relationship choices and other controversial issues.

The course will also be offered by Rabbi Nochum Kurinsky of the Ponte Vedra Chabad beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24.

“We recognize that almost everyone has some degree of skepticism when it comes to religion,” said Vogel, who is the JLI instructor in St Augustine. “We’ve created this course for participants to think critically about these challenges — to approach them with an array of insightful perspectives — so we can articulate our beliefs to ourselves and to the next generation with clarity and conviction.”

Wrestling with Faith explores questions such as Why do I need God if I can live perfectly well without him? Does God really care about the nuances of Jewish practice? Doesn’t the concept of “Jewish chosenness” seem racist? How can we relate to a loving and caring God amid the experience of tragedy and suffering? How do we reconcile compelling evidence for evolution and the age of the universe with a Bible that tells a different story, and is it even possible to develop a relationship with a God I cannot perceive with my five senses?

“People often deal with such issues by going on the defense,” said Rabbi Zalman Abraham of JLI’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. “In this course, we stay away from that. Instead, we embrace the challenges wholeheartedly and seek a broader context through which to understand the issues.”

All JLI programs are designed to appeal to people at all levels of knowledge, including those without any prior experience or background in Jewish learning. The first lesson is offered free to give people a chance to try it out and see if it’s for them.

JLI courses are open to the public, and attendees need not be affiliated with a particular synagogue, temple or other house of worship.

For information about the JLI course offering in St. Augustine, call 521-8664. For the Ponte Vedra Beach course, call 543-9301.

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