Teshuva and Time Travel Episode 3: Sacrifice and the Agent Substitution Theory of Atonement

Posted by Sam Lebens on September 25, 2017
Topics: Teshuva and Time Travel, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Teshuvah

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Why kill a goat, or swing a chicken round your head, or throw crumbs into a river to expiate your sins? Is this mere symbolism, or is there something more fundamental going on? In this episode, we attempt to shed new light upon some very ancient rituals of atonement, and respond to four questions that were left hanging at the end of episode 2.


When we repent, there is a sense in which we’re seeking to undo damage done. It’s almost as if we’re trying to undo the past. How seriously should we take this metaphor? Is the past something that can be undone? In Teshuva and Time Travel, Samuel Lebens – a philosopher at the University of Haifa, and adjunct faculty member at Pardes – will lead a tour through classical Jewish texts on the nature of repentance, and explore them though the lens of contemporary philosophical reflection on the nature of time.

Click here for more episodes in the series.

About Sam Lebens

Sam is adjunct faculty at Pardes and currently a research fellow in the philosophy department at the University of Haifa*. He holds a PhD in philosophy from the University of London, and an Orthodox Rabbinical Ordination from Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. He works in the philosophy of language, metaphysics, the philosophy of fiction, and the philosophy of religion. His first book is about Bertrand Russell and the nature of meaning. His second book is forthcoming with Oxford University Press, and will be called The Principles of Judaism. It brings together contemporary analytic philosophy, and streams of Jewish thought, from the Midrash to the Hassidim. He is chairperson of the Association for the Philosophy of Judaism. Outside of his academic pursuits, he is a free-lance journalist, and a Jewish community educator. He loves to teach Torah at Pardes, and does so whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Haifa with his wife and three children. *Sam’s research at the University of Haifa is generously supported by a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation Inc..

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