Friday Noon Study Group

An informal discussion group considering various major Jewish texts and writers. Past subjects have included the Books of Judges, Kings, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Daniel, Pirkei Avot: The Ethics of the Sages, the religious philosophy of Mordecai Kaplan, Elliot Cosgrove's Jewish Theology In Our Time, Abraham Joshua Heschel's The Sabbath, Rebecca Goldstein's Betraying Spinoza, Sylvia Boorstein's That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist, Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, Ari Shavit's My Promised Land:  The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,  Ruth Calderon's A Bride for One Night:  Talmud Tales, Song of Songs, Julie Galambush’s The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament's Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book, Lawrence Wright's Thirteen Days in September:  The Dramatic Story of the Struggle for Peace, the Book of Joshua, Amy-Jill Levine's The Short Stories of Jesus, Martin Buber's I and Thou, the Book of Hosea, Robert Wright's The Evolution of God, and Joseph Telushkin's Words That Hurt, Words That Heal.  We meet every Friday from 12-1 in the CBI Social Hall.

Friday, April 21, 12-1

Last Friday, we focused on Chapter 6 of Bernard-Henri Levy's The Genius of Judaism, exploring what he means by "What Does It Mean to Be a Chosen People?"  Levy points out that the Jews' status as a "chosen people" has been a source of conflict with non-Jews.  We began by looking at some biblical and midrashic sources relating to chosenness, the notion that, according to some, the Jewish people chose God at Sinai when they accepted the Torah ("we will do and then we will understand").  We talked about the obligations that chosenness entails:  learn the Torah, study it, and pass it on.  And we spent a considerable amount of time talking about the ways in which Jews engaged with the text of the Torah, turning it over and over, examining its 70 faces, assaulting and deconstructing it.  In particular, we discussed whether this method of dealing with scripture was exclusively Jewish.  We also considered that the meaning of Torah was elusive (that Judaism is a "vaporous outline"), we could only obtain flashes of insight, and that no pride should be attached to being chosen to interpret Torah, that chosenness does not imply sanctification of land, politics, society or nation.  As a supplement to our discussion, a handout on chosenness from "My Jewish Learning" was distributed.

This Friday, we'll look at Chapters 7-9 (pp. 138-204:  Levy's take on the Book of Jonah and the lessons of the Ninevites.  This is a sizeable chunk of Levy's text, which, as many readers have pointed out, is not all that easy to navigate.  Skimming these chapters may be the way to go here.   Our informal discussion group meets every Friday from noon to one in the CBI Social Hall.  All are welcome to join us, regardless of their level of expertise, and regardless of whether they've attended any previous sessions.   If you have questions, please contact Jay Jacoby at


Starting on May 12, CBI’s Friday Noon Study Group will be exploring the Book of Micah.  One of the twelve minor prophets of the Hebrew Bible, Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, Amos and Hosea.  He addresses the future of Israel after the Babylonian exile.  Like other prophets, Micah rebuked the people of Judah for dishonesty, idolatry, and corruption in government.   While the book is relatively short, it includes lamentations, a lawsuit in which God sues Israel for breach of contract, prayers of petition and confidence, and a prophecy of restoration that envisions a world at peace.

Our informal discussion group meets every Friday from noon to one in the CBI Social Hall.  All are welcome to join us, regardless of their level of expertise.  Please bring whatever copy of the Bible you might have (the more different translations the livelier the discussion).  If you have questions, please contact Jay Jacoby at