Science, Philosophy and Religion Courses
Improve Your Knowledge In Science, Philosophy, and Religion
With a 3 course selections, taught by Rabbi Dr. Michael Gold, aimed at helping you improve your knowledge of science, philosophy, and religion.
This five-hour, 3 densely-packed courses features a combination of theory and theology, covering the breadth of books written by Rabbi Dr. Gold.
Discuss in Members-Only Community
An exclusive community for members to discuss the courses and the topics of science, religion, philosophy.
These courses will be accompanied by complimentary information, as well as references, additional reading material and closed-capition are provided.
Who Should Take This Course?
Anyone who is interested in improving their understanding of science, religion, and philosophy will find the information presented in these courses incredibly valuable and practical.
Jewish Sexual Ethics
The human body is God’s creation and therefore is not tainted with evil.
In this class we will be looking at Jewish sexual ethics, when is sex unethical, when is it ethical, and when does it rise above the ethical to become holy. Much of this material is based on my 1992 book Does God Belong in the Bedroom? However, my ideas have developed and evolved since I wrote that book.
Sexual activity between two human beings, each created in the image of God. We are not talking about masturbation nor group sex. Two human beings have the ability to give each other great pleasure. But two human beings also have the ability to seriously hurt one another. Few activities have the potential of giving pleasure or giving pain like sex. That is why sexual ethics is so important.
Let us begin our exploration of Jewish sexual ethics with a story from the Talmud (Menachot 44a). There was a young rabbi who was scrupulous about the Jewish law of ritual fringes worn on the corner of one’s garment (tzitzit). He heard about a beautiful harlot by the sea who charged a large price. He sent the money and arrived at her home.
The harlot had seven mattresses – one on top of the next – six of silver and one of gold. She took off her clothes and climbed up to the top mattress. The young man tried to follow, but the fringes jumped up and slapped him in the face. He could not go through with it.
Sex that Destroys
Jewish tradition teaches that there are three sins so serious that one should die rather than transgress them. They are murder, idolatry, and gilui arayot – uncovering the nakedness of someone who should remain covered. Forbidden sexual relations are one of the three cardinal sins in Judaism. Gilui Arayot traditionally means adultery or incest. We will expand the meaning of the term.
A nice young man meets a nice young woman in a bar. There is a mutual attraction and they go home together. They treat each other with kindness as they meet each other’s sexual needs. They even practice safe sex. They then go their separate ways with no further commitment to one another. It is what young people call a hook-up. The question is: have they done anything unethical?
The Marital Bed
Warning – This lecture does contain some sexually explicit material. Let us begin with a rather strange Talmudic story. (Berachot 62a) Rav Kahana hid under his teacher Rav’s bed. He listened as Rav chatted and laughed with his wife and fulfilled his marital duty. Finally Kahana said, You act like one who has never tasted a cooked dish. Rav replied, Is that you Kahana? Leave! This is improper behavior. Kahana replied, This too is Torah and I have come to learn.
Birth Control and Abortion
In an earlier lecture, we introduced Thomas Aquinas’s principle of natural law. Aquinas tried to combine Christian tradition with Aristotle. He believed like Aristotle, that everything in nature has a teleology or purpose. The purpose of sex is procreation. Therefore, anything that prevents procreation during the sexual act is forbidden by natural law. This is the basis of the Catholic Church’s prohibition of birth control.
Homosexual or Transsexual
With the exception of abortion, no issue is as controversial among religious Jews as homosexuality. Many believe that one cannot be a gay observant Jew. This is totally false. Men can be attracted to men and women can be attracted to women, while remaining 100% Orthodox in their Jewish observance. The reason is because Judaism is concerned with outer actions, not inner feelings.
Behind the contentious discussion of homosexuality are two verses in Leviticus, both found in the middle of long sections on forbidden sexual behavior. Let us read the two verses.
Jewish Mysticism and Sex
Kabbalah or Jewish Mysticism teaches that the sexual act between a husband and wife, performed with the correct attitude, has implications beyond the couple. It can affect the higher spheres of reality. The key word to understand this idea is “theurgy” or the ability of human action to influence the divine.
Kabbalah is a complex subject with a long history. Let us begin with a brief summary. According to Kabbalah, God did not create a world outside God’s self. Rather, God flowed into the world through emanation. Ein Sof (the unknowable) revealed Itself in a series of ten interrelated manifestations called the sefirot.
Four Interpretations of the Genesis Creation Story
A Jewish Journey through Religion, Philosophy, Science, and Mysticism to Explain the First Verse of the Bible
Look at the introductory lecture which describes my new project, A Rabbi Encounters the Universe. The project will contain an ongoing series of lectures that combine religion, philosophy, and science. These particular lectures begin to explore one of the most important topics I plan to cover, the creation of the universe. What can the beginning of Genesis teach us? Jewish tradition has never read scripture in a literal manner. On the contrary, Jewish tradition has always allowed multiple interpretations of every verse in the Bible. In this course we will look at the four classical methods of interpretation found in Jewish tradition – the simple, the rabbinical, the philosophical, and the mystical. The simple concerns what the words of Scripture meant to the author who wrote them. The rabbinical looks at other verses of Scripture with hopes of learning insights from one verse to another. The philosophical approaches the text from within the medieval philosophical tradition. Finally, the mystical is built on kabbalah or Jewish mysticism, offering a radical new insight. How does each of these interpretations fit in with how modern science understands the beginning of the universe? Finally, as we study these four approaches to interpretation, we will learn about the powerful idea from kabbalah that we live in four worlds, each encased in another, like Russian nested dolls.
A Rabbi Encounters the Universe – Introductory Lectures
These lectures form the introduction to a series that will soon appear on this website.
Four Interpretations of the Genesis Creation Story
We will introduce the topic, explaining the four different methods Jewish tradition uses to interpret scripture. They are p’shat – the simple meaning, d’rash, – the rabbinical meaning, remez – the philosophical meaning, and sod, – the mystical meaning. As we go through the course, we will look at these in greater detail.
The Four Interpretations
The First Verse in Genesis
The students will look at the Hebrew of the first verse of Genesis and an English translation of each word. It will be explained in a simple way so that even those who do not read Hebrew can understand.
P’shat, The Simple Meaning of the Text
How did the rabbis of the classical rabbinic period, from the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans to the completion of the Talmud, understand the text. We will look at the rabbinic method of the interpretation. Finally, we will introduce the second of the kabbalistic four worlds, olam hayitzira or he world of formation.
Sod, The Mystical Meaning of the Text
The Jewish mystical tradition (kabbalah) adds a radically different view of the creation story. We introduce the idea of pan-psychism, that mind permeates the universe. Finally, we will introduce the fourth of the kabbalistic four worlds, olam haatzilut or the world of emanation.
Review and Final Exam
This will review all the material in this course. We will look at which of the four interpretations comes closest to our modern scientific view of the universe. (Hint – they all do.)
This is a chance to test your knowledge of what you have learned.
The Problem of Evil: Religion’s Greatest Challenge
How could a good God allow human suffering
We will study the problem of evil in the eyes of Western theistic religions, particularly Judaism. If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, how could God allow a world filled with suffering. We will seek answers both in Jewish tradition and more generally, in Western tradition. After looking a the book of Job, we will explore rabbinic approaches to the problem of evil. Finally in a series of lectures, we will explore whether God is truly all-powerful, whether God is truly all good, why human evil, and why natural evil.
Why does evil create a problem for the theistic religions of the West such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? And why is it less a problem for the non-theistic of the East such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism? Finally, what does the term theodicy mean?
We will look at the idea of fate which was a fundamental Greek idea. Christianity developed two alternative views of theodicy based on the writings of Augustine and Irenaeus. We will also explore an Islamic approach to theodicy from the Muslim theologian Nursi. Finally, we will delve into Western philosophy by exploring Leibniz’s belief that we live in “the best of all possible worlds.”
Perhaps God is Not Omnipotent
Perhaps God is not all powerful. We will begin with Harold Kushner’s classical book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Then we will explore the Jewish idea of hester panim (God hiding God’s face), often called the eclipse of God. This will lead to a study of Lurianic Kabbalah, and the idea of tzimtzum or God’s self-contraction.
Perhaps God is Not Beneficent
The prophet 2nd Isaiah taught that God created both good and evil. Perhaps this is a reaction to the ancient idea that there are two different creative forces at work in the universe, a good force and an evil force. We will look at Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, and Manichaeism, before turning to the Western idea of Satan
We will explore why humans are often the source of evil. It is based on the ancient Jewish idea that humans have two inclination, one evil and one good.
Natural evil such as hurricanes and cancer cells are the greatest challenge to traditional theism. Perhaps they can be explained by seeing a universe that grows organically, and which is constantly in process. Perhaps even God is in process.
Healing After Evil
We turn now from theology to pastoral advice. What are five insights that can help people cope with the evil in their lives?
Test your knowledge of what you have learned.
Your Soul, Its Origin and Its Destiny
How could a good God allow human suffering?
Judaism and its sister Western religions such as Christianity and Islam all teach that we have a soul. There is an immortal part of us that existed before we were born and will continue to exist after we die. But where did this idea come from? We will explore religion, philosophy, science, and mysticism to better understand the Jewish idea of a soul.
What is a Soul?
In this lecture, we will introduce the idea of a soul. How does it differ from other terms like mind or consciousness, and what is its relationship to the body?
Biblical Roots of the Soul
What does the Hebrew Bible say about the soul? It is different from the vision of the soul developed in later Judaism?
Philosophical Roots of the Soul
How did the idea of the soul develop among the early Greek thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle?
What is the philosophical dualism as articulated by Descartes and other philosophers? And what problems does dualism raise?
Jewish View of the Soul
How did the Rabbis, who transformed Judaism after the destruction of the second temple, understand the idea of the soul?
From Aristotle to Maimonides
Aristotle differed from his teacher Plato by denying the spiritual realities. How was the Jewish medieval philosopher Maimonides, who combined Judaism and Aristotle, able to understand the soul?
To materialists, the universe is simply matter in motion. How do they account for the mind? We will present three possible answers.
Philosophical Idealism and Panpsychism
Idealism teaches that mind the ultimate reality. Panpsychism says that mind permeates everything. How can these ideas help us understand the nature of the soul?
The Soul in Jewish Mysticism
Jewish mysticism or kabbalah sees God as literally flowing into the universe. The emanation creates multiple levels of the soul, nested within one another.
Final Exam | 8 questions
What People Say About the Courses
With an overall rating of 4.7/5. These course address the multifariousness of life with a similar approach. Students have taken courses geared towards, science philosophy, and religion and learned how to apply it to their life.
I moved to Florida 12 years ago, and Rabbi Dr. Michael Gold is still my rabbi … he will always be. I have always loved his sermons and learned so much from them.
Rabbi Dr. Gold – intelligence, knowledge, passion, compassion
Rabbi Gold, you never cease to amaze me with your intelligence and knowledge, your passion and compassion. How lucky we all are to have you as our Rabbi.
Rabbi Gold Wise
So, wise, so well stated, creative, down to Earth – all the reasons that Rabbi Dr. Michael Gold not only delivers wonderful sermons and stories, but a good summary of he is. L’Shana Tova. from Pittsburgh.