Torah in a Time of Plague: His­tor­i­cal and Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Responses

Erin Leib Smok­ler (Edi­tor)

January 12, 2021

The Jew­ish tra­di­tion has held and healed the Jew­ish peo­ple for cen­turies. As we live through unprece­dent­ed” times, there is wis­dom in locat­ing our­selves in prece­dent, in sto­ries of plague-bib­li­cal, con­tem­po­rary, and in between-in an effort to mean­ing­ful­ly find our way through. Torah in a Time of Plague is meant to pro­vide guid­ance and offer provo­ca­tions for the con­ver­sa­tions we need to ori­ent our­selves anew.

This col­lec­tion brings togeth­er aca­d­e­m­ic and rab­binic voic­es from with­in the Covid-19 epi­dem­ic to wres­tle in real time with its res­o­nances and impli­ca­tions. Draw­ing on the­ol­o­gy, phi­los­o­phy, lit­er­a­ture, his­to­ry, litur­gy, and legal the­o­ry, essays both rig­or­ous and raw explore the many lay­ers of this tumul­tuous peri­od. Torah in a Time of Plague thus reflects on and con­tributes to Torah in our time.

Discussion Questions

Torah in a Time of Plague is a thought­ful col­lec­tion that offers his­tor­i­cal, the­o­log­i­cal, and philo­soph­i­cal insights, often inte­grat­ed pow­er­ful­ly with first-per­son nar­ra­tives, on the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. The book includes nuanced and thor­ough­ly-researched essays about pre­vi­ous Jew­ish respons­es to pan­demics, how encoun­ters with death can change per­son­al rela­tion­ships to God, dis­cus­sions of the expe­ri­ence of birth amidst cri­sis, and many oth­er per­spec­tives. It man­ages to address the cur­rent moment and gen­er­ate schol­ar­ship that is both strength­en­ing for those liv­ing through it and that will con­tin­ue to be mean­ing­ful for study in the future. The essays by aca­d­e­m­ic schol­ars, rab­bis, and laypeo­ple offer a rich tapes­try of approach­es to the time in which we find our­selves. This is a book that cap­tures sharp think­ing about Torah and human expe­ri­ence in a way that both informs and nourishes.