Meaningful Judaism | Aleph Beta Podcast

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Exploring why we do what we do in Jewish life

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Meaningful Judaism is a podcast dedicated to exploring why we do what we do in Jewish life, by diving deep into the Torah text. So many of our practices can feel like they’re just there; we go through the motions but they don’t feel especially meaningful. In this podcast, we search for that meaning.

Hosts

Immanuel Shalev

CEO

Latest Episodes

JULY 2, 2023

Season 1 | Episode 10

What Else Is Meaningful About Tzitzit and Kashrut? (Season Finale)

Season 1 of Meaningful Judaism is ending, but before we go, we just have to share some extra Torah that didn’t make it into earlier episodes. There’s the beautiful idea about angels that got cut from our episode on tzitzit – but we’ve found some amazing new evidence, so we’re bringing it back!

JUNE 28, 2023

Season 1 | Episode 9

What’s Meaningful About Not Eating Bacon?

It’s one of the most famous of the Torah's laws: no eating bacon! But is there any particular reason for this restriction? Why does God permit us to eat cow but forbid pig?

JUNE 18, 2023

Season 1 | Episode 8

Questioning Whether This Podcast Should Exist

Yep, you read the episode title right. Should this podcast even exist?? We here at Meaningful Judaism put our hearts into creating quality podcasts that probe the meanings behind the mitzvot… but what if this whole premise is misguided? What if there’s a fundamental flaw? Does God really want us to be demanding reasons for the mitzvot? If we were really pious, maybe we would be satisfied keeping the mitzvot simply “because the Torah says so”?? And if we’re trying to figure out the “real” reasons for the mitzvot… well, what if we get it wrong? How can we be so conceited as to think we can know God’s mind? 

JUNE 4, 2023

Season 1 | Episode 7

What’s Meaningful About Tzitzit? (Part 2)

(Part 2 of 2) Are tzitzit supposed to “mean” something? Most people who wear tzitzit probably don't find it especially objectionable or burdensome, but how many people can honestly say that wearing tzitzit is a deeply meaningful spiritual practice? That it helps them to be a better Jew, a better person, to feel closer to God? Probably not so many. For everyone else, tzitzit is, at best, a testament to one's commitment to following the Torah but without any unique meaning or character, and at worst, a ritual, performed by rote, simply because everyone else seems to be doing it, devoid of any meaning at all.

JUNE 4, 2023

Season 1 | Episode 6

What’s Meaningful About Tzitzit? (Part 1)

(Part 1 of 2) Are tzitzit supposed to “mean” something? Most people who wear tzitzit probably don't find it especially objectionable or burdensome, but how many people can honestly say that wearing tzitzit is a deeply meaningful spiritual practice? That it helps them to be a better Jew, a better person, to feel closer to God? Probably not so many. For everyone else, tzitzit is, at best, a testament to one's commitment to following the Torah but without any unique meaning or character, and at worst, a ritual, performed by rote, simply because everyone else seems to be doing it, devoid of any meaning at all.

MAY 28, 2023

Season 1 | Episode 5

What’s Meaningful About Keeping Shabbat?

What’s meaningful about keeping Shabbat? Lots of things, right? It’s a day of rest, a chance to put down our phones, learn and pray, focus on our family and friends. But Shabbat has its challenging aspects too. Sometimes the restrictions of Shabbat weigh on us and make it hard for us to appreciate how meaningful it is. So how do we hold on to a sense of the beauty of this day? 

MAY 14, 2023

Season 1 | Episode 4

What's Meaningful About Niddah? (Part 2)

What is the meaning of the ‘niddah’ law? Why does the Torah require husbands and wives to separate when the wife has her period? The laws in Vayikra describe the “whats” of niddah but not the “why.” Why would God want to keep husbands and wives apart from one another? And what does menstruation have to do with it?

MAY 14, 2023

Season 1 | Episode 3

What's Meaningful About Niddah? (Part 1)

What is the meaning of the ‘niddah’ law? Why does the Torah require husbands and wives to separate when the wife has her period? The laws in Vayikra describe the “whats” of niddah but not the “why.” Why would God want to keep husbands and wives apart from one another? And what does menstruation have to do with it?

MAY 7, 2023

Season 1 | Episode 2

What’s Meaningful About Not Mixing Milk and Meat? (Kashrut Part 2)

What’s meaningful about not mixing milk and meat? Observant Jews who follow the Torah know that cheeseburgers are forbidden… but do you ever stop to ask why? What’s the problem with adding a slice of cheese to your hamburger? Why is it so important to God that we abstain? Is it some kind of test, that God wants us to not eating certain yummy things to prove that we’re committed to the Torah? Is it that God wants to make it extra complicated to keep kosher, so Jews will be more likely to socialize only with others who also keep the Torah? Is it a law that has no reason at all? Is it none of the above?

APRIL 30, 2023

Season 1 | Episode 1

What’s Meaningful About Keeping Kosher?

What’s meaningful about keeping kosher? In this premiere episode of Meaningful Judaism, a brand-new podcast from Aleph Beta Labs, Imu Shalev and Beth Lesch tackle the topic of kashrut, or keeping kosher, beginning by raising a fundamental question that you might not have thought to ask: Does the Torah want us to eat meat?

APRIL 20, 2023

Season 1 | Episode 0

What is 'Meaningful Judaism'?

Meaningful Judaism is a podcast dedicated to exploring why we do what we do in Jewish life, by diving deep into the Torah text. So many of our practices can feel like they’re just there; we go through the motions, but they don’t feel especially meaningful. In this podcast, we search for that meaning. Each episode will take you on a journey, tackling questions such as “Why can’t we mix milk and meat?” and “What’s the meaning behind the laws of niddah?” Join our host, Imu Shalev, along with Rabbi David Fohrman and Aleph Beta’s other wonderful scholars, for this special journey.