Alyssa Gray, Ph.D. - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Alyssa Gray, Ph.D.

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Dr. Alyssa Gray, Associate Professor of Codes and Responsa Literature, explores Jewish legal texts on the issues of poverty, women in solidarity, and Abraham's heir.


Lecture 1: Poverty, Avoiding the Judgment of Hell, and the Responsibility of the Non-Poor

The Talmud (B. Bava Batra 10a) presents a fictional and fascinating dialogue between a Roman named Tineius Rufus and the famous Rabbi Akiva. In the course of this dialogue, interesting ideas emerge about why there is poverty, what the community’s responsibility is to the poor, and whether or not charity can save the giver from the “judgment of Gehinnom (hell).”

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Lecture 2: Women in Solidarity with Women in Talmudic Literature

Examples abound in the recent past of Jewish women working together with other women (both Jewish and not) to achieve goals of interest to them as women—from nineteenth- and twentieth-century social justice efforts to Women of the Wall. While we don’t quite see the same sort of activism in Talmudic literature, we do see there allusions to, and examples of, women acting in solidarity with their women neighbors to offer help and support as needed.

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Lecture 3: Abraham’s Heir: Maimonides’ Letter to a Man Named Ovadyah

Maimonides (1138-1204) famously responded to three queries by a convert to Judaism known as Ovadyah. In this video/podcast we will examine the first of these queries: Ovadyah’s uncertainty as to whether or not he should recite liturgical language such as “our God and God of our fathers” on account of his not being part of the ethnic Jewish people. Maimonides’ lengthy response uses both philosophy and law to argue strongly and warmly that Ovadyah is indeed fully part of the Jewish people; a worthy heir of Abraham who is more than entitled to call upon “our God and God of our fathers.”

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