Torah Jazz

Why Torah Jazz?

The nature of these classes is meant to reflect Torah’s nature as a song. For me, that song is Jazz. These are ideas that sparked my interest over the course of the week, got me thinking about themes and motifs, and riffing on them to see where it ends up. By not shying away from the tough questions, a Torah Jazz can hit some pretty unexpected notes and yet harmonize into a bigger concept. Dissonance and Harmony. Sturm und Drang. Contemporary and Classic. And that’s a thing of beauty.

Weekly Parsha Jazz

BereishisLife, The Universe, and Everything
Making sense of the first three Rashis of the Chumash, and by extension, life, the universe, and everything.

Noach/Lech LechaTwo worlds of Kiruv
The Noach/Avraham dichotomy. Comparing and contrasting these two paradigms. A little machshava, a little mussar, a lot of questions.

NoachHow to Save the World
We’ll explore the types of things that make the world go round, Noach’s big grill, and what gives plants the chutzpah to do whatever they feel like doing. It’s an exploration of the tension between prophecy and knowledge and where we fit into it all.

Lech LechaGive and Take (and Give)
We raise 5 questions on the very first verse of the parsha. In looking for one approach to answer them, we encounter deep insights into love, faith, and kindness.

VaYeraThe Avraham – Hammurabi Debates
Getting current by getting ancient. Exploring the role of Hammurabi in Avraham’s world and Avraham as a political figure.

Chayei Sarah

  • Yitzchak and Godot – hidden protagonists
    The role of the hidden Yitzchak, the significance of the 3 different “Bris”es, 99, 13, and 8 days, and why it’s all so dang funny.
  • The Death Sentence
    Can words kill? We explore the one-liner that may have caused Sarah’s death and explore its connection to the binding of Yitzchak. Warning: playing this track forwards will reveal satanic messages.

Toldos – Yaakov vs. Esav, Adam vs. Nachash, Chumash vs. Shakespeare
The Yaakov/Esav dichotomy as seen in their actions and their names. The greatest play within a play ever staged (move over Hamlet) and understanding its significance. The themes in this session extend all the way back to Gan Eden!

Shmos

  • The Eyes of Redemption
    Compacting the theme of Shmos and the most breathtaking Gur Aryeh into the small audio space of one hour.
  • The Birth of a Nation
    Exploring our feminine side – why women always start the redemption. We’ll also explore why midwives are such a big deal and what exactly a Puah is.

BeShalach – The Matrona vs. R’ Yosse: A debate for the Sages
The unique nature of the splitting of the sea – beyond the special effects. 2 awesome mamare chazal and one of the most misunderstood concepts in Judaism – emmunah.

Tazria/Metzorah

  • The joys of affliction                                                                                                                                                                 “How does the ba’al Tzaraas get to be the bearer of good tidings for the Jewish people?” An awesome Rambam, a troubling Rashi, and a lip-smacking Chiddushei HaRim.
  • The Metzorah and the Pascal Lamb                                                                                                                                          We discuss a cryptic Ibn Ezra that parallels the events of purifying the Metzorah with the Pesach in Mitzrayim. You can also watch it here. And here are the sources.

Achrei Mos/Kedoshim – Whose kind of holy
Delving deep into the Ramban and Rashi’s definition of Kedoshim. Why are they arguing? And the bomb dropped by, you betcha’, the Ksav V’HaKaballah himself. the holy R’ Yaakov Zvi Meklemberg, and the question to which I have no answer. It’s a doozy.

BeHar/BeChukosai – What DOES Shmitta have to do with Har Sinai?
Reopening the case on Shmitta and Har Sinai. Does Rashi really answer the question? What do these two concepts have to do with one another? How is this meant to impact us with Shavuos fast approaching?

BeHaaloscha – Light it UP!
A truly awesome Rashi, buttressed by the Ramban’s retort, and embellished by an Alshich! All along trying to answer the age old question, “What’s so great about lighting a Menorah?” Enlightening.

KorachWorld’s greatest political mastermind
The greatest political campaign of all time, the Kulanu Kedoshim campaign. A campaign so powerful it takes 2 miracles and a plague to end it. How our sages understood division in a breathtaking Mishna in Pirkei Avos.

ChukasRock On
Different approaches as to what went wrong at the rock. The role of water, clouds, and heavenly bread reflected in our three greatest teachers and how they ultimately affect our destiny.

Pinchas

  • My father is a Kohen, and his father was a Kohen
    This is the session where it all started. An exploration on broad themes of zealotry, kahuna, and peace and where the three intersect in the person of Pinchas.
  • Wholly Broken
    In this session we toy with the riddle, How can you make a vessel whole by breaking it? It’s a rollercoaster that takes us into the world of amputees, Kohanim, and Mashiach. There are also some awesome insights into the concept of Bris Milah.
  • Roots of the zeal-o-tree
    In this session we ask, “Where do we have a precedent for an act of zealotry merriting the Kahuna?”. Deep insights into the roots of zealotry and a beautiful pshat on a hard Mishna in Pirkei Avos.

Matos/MaaseiMovin’ on up to the East Side (of the Jordan)
Aliyah, moving to Chutz Laaretz for parnassah, and leaving Eretz Yisrael to teach Torah.

Dvarim Double your Torah
The Ramban’s and the Netziv’s introduction to Mishna Torah as well the distinction between double stuffed oreos and doublemint gum.

EikevDon’t break my eikevy-breakevy heart
Finding the through line of the Parsha while talking about heels, heads, and hearts.

ShoftimCivil disobedience
The anti-Machivellian society. How the Torah envisions the ideal state.

Ki SeitzeiCaptivating women and YOUR Yetzer Harah
The difficult case of the captured beauty, a big chiddush in Rashi, and battle plans vs the Evil Inclination.

Ki Savo –

NitzavimThe Pillarizing force of curses
Focusing on Rashi’s second take on why we’re all just standing around. We’ll explore why Jewish stuff is so hard and gain some great insights from two of the greatest commentaries EVER.

VayelechDo it for the children
Exploring who the mitzvah of hakhel is really for. We’ll go deep into Rash”i and the Ramba”n before settling on a glorious Ksav V’Hakabalah.

Other Jazz Riffs

L’DovidDon’t just say it…
An approach to understanding L’Dovid which will hopefully get us connecting to the spirit of Elul. My best Barry White voice and a weird story.

Rosh Hashanah

  •  Getting A”head” – Exploring why Chaza”l chose to to call this day by a name that does not appear in the Torah. We’ll talk about the concepts of “Rosh” and “Shana” and some thoughts about the nature of the mitzvah of shofar.
  •  Blowing Up Our Decrees – We make a lot of noise about the power of the shofar. In this session we discuss several famous ideas behind the Shofar and then see the mechanics behind what they actually mean. We end with a discussion about how the nature of an animal’s horn embodies all of those deep ideas.

Yom Kippur

  • The Musical – The difficulties of teshuva and Torah learning and my take on how to up our game in both departments while dealing with some difficult questions I’ve heard from people I love. An in-depth look at the life of the Tanna “Acher” and how to sing our way to greatness.
  • Dying to do Teshuva – This session was recorded live on the Kronenberg porch here in Karmiel. In it, we explore the deeper notions of Teshuva and its connection to Korbanos and to Shabbos. We build off of the Rambam’s guidelines before exploring the Mahara”l and a life changing approach to Teshuva by the Alter from Slabodka.

SuccosInsights from the Intriguing Case of the Antwerp Schach
This session was recorded live on the Smolarsky porch here in Karmiel. In it, we see what interesting insights we can learn about our Suckah from the perplexing case of the Antwerp Schach. We develop the Vilna Gaon’s approach to the significance of the Sukkah balanced with exactly three pieces of Chassidic thought (I hit my quota!).

Purim

  • A Tale of Two Heads                                                                                                                                                                     We discuss why the essence of Purim revolves around getting smashed and confused (some pretty unJewish things).
  • Women Drinking and Praying                                                                                                                                                       A special discussion for women (held here in Karmiel) as to how women should connect to certain aspects of Purim, particularly drinking and praying.
  • Losing your mind
    Hidden beauty and being forced to receive the Torah.
  • The Great Claim Against the Torah
    Some ideas on one of the major themes of Purim. Is there a claim against the Torah? Was it f’real?​ What changed?

PesachBig Brains and Time Travelers
Some seriously big thoughts on Pesach. Like, what Rashi means when he tells us to jump and skip during Pesach, and why Matzah gets to be the mascot of the seder. (In the merit of Sarah bas Gittel)

ShavuosCelebrating the Day We Did NOT Receive Torah
Really big questions on just what in the world we ARE celebrating on Shavuos. An earth-shattering Be’er Heitev and an eye-popping Ramba”n bookend this revolutionary journey.

9 Days – 

  • Are we TOO happy?
    With Tisha B’av approaching I shared my thoughts about music and mourning in our generation. We delved into the concept of mourning and discussed the range of halachic opinions for mourning the Temple in order to set some guidelines for what a healthy approach to mourning looks like. The structure is based on the Maharal’s Netzach Yisrael chap. 23.
  • How we hate
    A short 15 minute introduction I gave to one of the kinnos (Kinnah 24) in shul.

EatingOneg and Judaism
The role of Oneg in Judaism and what it teaches us about life.

Women, Chodesh, and PrayerNissan
We focus on the special nature of Nissan, the month of Geulah, and how that can uplift our Shmona Esrei prayer. You can also watch it here. And here are the sources.