Rabbinic Responses to Past Pandemics

How did Jewish communities grapple with plagues in the past? In this 4-part miniseries, Rabbi Dr. Levi Cooper will explore fascinating chapters from the annals of modern Jewish history that highlight how our predecessors faced pandemics. What were their strategies for the challenges they faced?

For every source, there is a season, and COVID-19 reveals the significance of these vignettes. Each class will allow us to reflect on our current plight, and hopefully, allow us to draw strength from our past.


August 10, 17, 24, 31 

10:00 am Pacific USA / 1:00 pm Eastern USA / 8:00 pm Israel

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August 10th – A time to write
What did rabbis do when they were in quarantine? Isolated from their communities and troubled by what they were facing, how did our sages use their time?

August 17th – Incense to combat plagues
A respected strand of the Jewish esoteric tradition places great mystical import on ketoret – the Temple rite of offering incense. What are the roots of this perspective and what expressions of ketoret are possible in a post-Temple reality?

August 24th – Plague in the Promised Land
In 1786 the fledgling Hasidic community in Tiberias endured a raging plague. A letter penned soon after the experience reveals how the community faced the challenges and the financial aftershocks of the disease.

August 31st – Charity Principal
In 1827, a community turned to Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneersohn (1789-1866) – who would later be a Hasidic master of high repute – and asked for his advice in combating a local disease. The suggestions provided included an innovative idea for how to give charity.