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Fascinating Facts: Exploring Myths and Mysteries of Judaism

 Fascinating Facts is a four-lesson series in which four major components that sustain and shape Jewish life are explored: our book, our food, our bodies, and the cycle of life. Rather than thoroughly exploring one component of each of these themes, each class surveys various elements within the given topic. This will provide students an opportunity to learn many new concepts while simultaneously developing an appreciation for a single larger idea.

Lesson One: The Story of Your Life: How to Read the Torah
The primary objective of this lesson is to gain an appreciation of the importance of questioning common perceptions of various biblical narratives and concepts, which are often dubious or wrong. A second objective of this lesson is to recognize the relevance of Torah—“The Story of Your Life”— and why certain crucial details are omitted while seemingly superfluous ones are included.

Topics addressed in this lesson:

  • Myths associated with Torah that have come from other religions, often through the medium of art
  • A fundamental questions; can everything in the Torah be taken literally - “an eye for and eye”, the written vs. the oral law.
  • Why did Moses break the tablets, and how did G-d react?
  • Concepts in selflessness.

Lesson Two: Taking a Bite Out of Life: Kosher Food Facts
Lesson Two will highlight interesting facts and ideas about kosher food. The objective of this lesson is to gain a better understanding of some of the basic laws of kashrut, the meaning and purpose of these laws, and how keeping them can benefit a person even beyond a religious context.

Topics addressed in this lesson:

  • Is imitation bacon kosher and why?
  • Why is the pig is the quintessential non-kosher animal
  • Will pig ever be kosher?
  • Does kosher = health?
  • The importance of mindful and controlled eating

Lesson Three: Beyond the Nose Job: Judaism, the Body, and the Bedroom
Lesson Three addresses Judaism’s teachings that pertain to the body, sexuality, and physical life. The central ideas demonstrated in this lesson are, how Judaism seeks to find holiness within the physical, as opposed to eschewing it. To underscore that there need not be a conflict between the physical and the spiritual, between Torah and human life, and to highlight that Judaism is not synonymous with other religions and that important philosophical differences are often overlooked.

Topics addressed in this lesson:

  • Myths associated with Judaism and sexuality.
  • If it is permissible to violate a Torah law to preserve your life.
  • Self-incrimination, plastic surgery, and tattoos

Lesson Four: Sunrise, Sunset: Exploring the Jewish Life Cycle
Lesson Four addresses the Jewish life cycle. It shares significant Jewish teachings that pertain to pregnancy, birth, naming a baby, bar/bat mitzvah, wedding, and death. The central objective of this lesson is to highlight that, unlike the common perception, Jewish celebrations of life-cycle events and the customs and traditions that surround them, are infused with tremendous meaning and depth.

Topics addressed in this lesson:

  • Birthdays from a religious point of view.
  • What happens to the fetus in utero from a kabbalistic understanding
  • Can parents give the wrong name to a child? The esoteric significance of baby naming.
  • Bar and Bat-Mitzva - redefined
  • Love and Marriage; the Jewish perspective
  • Laws pertaining to death and sanctity of the body post mortem

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