One of my favourite parts of my second semester at NYU this last year was a weekly learning group of students on the topic of Aveilut – the laws and practices surrounding death and bereavement in Jewish life. All recordings and source sheets are here.
In my experience there is no comparable area, where the connection is so clear and deep between the legal exposition of the topics in the Talmud and Halachic codes and the profound philosophical questions of mortality, suffering and the meaning of life. Thus in many of the classes we studied not only the relevant gemarot and responsa but works such as Gesher HaChayim of Rav Tikochinsky and Out of the Whirlwind by Rav Soloveitchik which make explicit the connection between the legal and the philosophical/emotional.
The first classes deal with the practices that surround regular cases of death and bereavement in Halacha such as aninut, shiva, and burial, whilst the latter classes deal with more exceptional or contemporary cases such as the development of the view of suicide in Halacha and the use of dead bodies for medical research.
Uploading these shiurim on the eve of Rosh Hodesh Av, the final shiur on the topic of historical aveilut and mourning for national catastrophes might be of particular interest.
- Introduction To Aveilut – recording here and source sheet here.
- Aninut: After Death, Before Burial – recording here and source sheet here.
- Aveilut Shiva: Nature and Obligations – recording here and source sheet here.
- Lo Talin: Burial in Halacha and Jewish Thought – recording here and source sheet here.
- Of Kaddish and Keriya: Mourning for Parents– recording here and source sheethere.
- Medical Research vs. The Dignity of the Dead – recording here and source sheethere.
- Purim and Aveilut– recording here and source sheet here.
- Suicide: A Halachic History – recording here and source sheet here.
- Historical Aveilut: The 3 Weeks, Omer, and Yom HaShoah – recording here and source sheet here.