Sample Lecture Topics

Judy speaks on these and other topics:

Did Noah and Jonah Share the Same Boat?  How Similar Stories Say Opposite Things About the Human Soul
Is it possible for human beings to change? Although we make such resolutions yearly on the soul-searching day of Yom Kippur, do we believe that self-transformation is really possible? To reveal the Bible’s complex treatment of this question, we will explore the narratives of Noah and Jonah: two stories that share a remarkable number of themes, words and details.  We will see how, despite their similarities, these two ancient stories actually present opposing views on the question of the human ability to change. Discover the surprising ways in which both views remain relevant to the modern reader in search of authentic and lasting inner transformation.


The Tower of Babel and the Midwives of Egypt Comparing an Unlikely Pair
What does the story of building the world’s largest structure in Babel have in common with a tale of subjugation and heroism in Egypt? Upon close inspection, we will expose the many surprising similarities between these stories as well as some significant differences. Of particular interest will be the actions and motivations of a number of outstanding female characters in the Exodus narrative, whose acts of individual heroism help to repair the fractured connection with the divine.


Inside-Outside: Biblical Leaders and Their Non-Jewish Mentors
What happens when the Bible’s greatest leaders face personal and spiritual crisis?  In a lively and interactive text-based exploration, we will examine the encounters of troubled “Jewish” leaders with mysterious “non-Jewish” priests, who provide counsel and guidance.  Our exploration will consider larger questions about leadership, about chosenness, and about relations between Jews and non-Jews.


The Tent, the Field, and the Battlefield: Upheavals in the Roles and Fortunes of Biblical Women
What do the infertile, tent-dwelling mothers of Genesis have in common with the military and spiritual leaders of the book of Judges? By reading several women-centered stories in light of one another, we will uncover the Bible’s complex—and often surprising–portrayal of unfolding feminine potential.


“Would You Murder and Also Inherit?” A Biblical Story of Crimes, Misdemeanors, and Other Addictions
In a shocking biblical narrative, a king of Israel embarks on a spiral of crimes culminating in murder. We will examine the appetites and processes that lead from misdemeanor to crime; we will then address the larger issue of how the trajectory of sin resembles that of addiction.


Does the Hebrew Bible have an “Original Sin”?
Through an interactive, text-based exploration of several biblical stories– including the Garden of Eden, the story of Cain and Abel and the narrative of Joseph and his brothers—we will uncover the Bible’s unexpected notion of “original sin”. Discover a host of surprising parallels between stories, as well as numerous insights into the complex and fraught relations among siblings in the Bible.


When Bad Things Happen to Good Biblical Characters: The Opposing Cases of Abraham and Job
How could God command Abraham– even temporarily– to sacrifice his son, and expect him to silently accept the horrific decree? See how the book of Job questions the philosophical assumptions– and dramatically overturns the conclusions– of the story of the Akeda. Discover the relevance of both of these biblical stories to deep, ongoing questions of unjust suffering in the world.


Matan Torah: Three Paradoxes in the Encounter
The biblical record of revelation is fraught with contradictions: about our relationship with God, about the Jewish people’s place among the nations, and about the placement of revelation in history. In exploring the difficulties in the text’s account, we will consider the surprising  gains of its paradoxical presentation.


Blurring the Lines Between Holy and Profane
Abusive Leadership From the Pages of the Bible to the Pages of Today’s Newspaper
How does a religious leader become a predator? How does an abusive leader avoid resistance from the community and from victims? We will compare two biblical stories of leadership gone awry: the stories of Judah and Tamar and of David and Batsheva.  We will then shift our focus to current times, demonstrating a disturbing commonality between the problems and patterns outlined in these texts and those that persist to this day.


The “Seeing” and “Taking” of Sarah: The Matriarch as Forbidden Fruit
Why would the narrative of Abraham and Sarah draw on the language of the Garden of Eden narrative—particularly in casting Sarah in the role of Eden’s forbidden fruit? See how reading one story in light of the other offers insight into the complex relationship between biblical men and women. In addition, experience the Bible’s artfully subversive style, in which one story about a biblical woman boldly challenges and undermines another.