Bet Shalom scholar to explore Jewish history and ethics

Rabbi Elijah Schochet (left) and Rabbi Avraham Alpert at Alpert’s ordination, May 29, 2017.

Rabbi Elijah Schochet will return to Congregation Bet Shalom as scholar-in-residence March 16-17, with a trio of topics exploring thorny issues in Jewish history and ethics.

He will start the weekend with “The Jewish Civil War” at the 5:30 p.m. Shabbat service on March 16, exploring the schism between Hasidism, which was considered revolutionary when it arose in 18th century Eastern Europe, and the Mitnagtim (opponents),  who were mostly from the Lithuanian rabbinate.

“I’m going to be talking about what exactly was Hasidism like, why did the objections ensue the way they did, and how does this reflect on the nature of religion as a whole,” says Schochet.

On Saturday at 9:30 a.m., he will present a sermon on “The Animal Rights Movement,” including Jewish attitudes on vegetarianism and animal experimentation, and how non-human life fits into the traditional Jewish perspective.

Saturday afternoon from 12:45 to 2 p.m. will be devoted to studying a Talmudic tractate on the theme of telling the truth. It raises questions, he says, such as “What if telling the truth turns out to be harmful or hurtful? Is it preferable not to tell the truth or not to tell the whole truth, in order to preserve a relationship or the dignity of a relationship?

“And we’ll be considering the imperative to tell the truth to a terminally ill patient,” he adds.

Schochet, who was Bet Shalom’s scholar-in-residence in 2015, is the author of seven books on Jewish thought and the lives of great Jewish figures, including “Amalek: The Enemy Within,” and “The Hasidic Movement and the Gaon of Vilna.” He served as the rabbi of Congregation Beth Kodesh, later renamed Shomrei Torah, in Los Angeles from 1960-1999. He has been an adjunct professor of rabbinical literature at American Jewish University for more than 40 years and professor of rabbinic studies at the Academy for Jewish Religion-California since its founding in 2000. He is also a licensed marriage and child counselor in California.

Schochet is the son of Rabbi Jacob Schochet, who taught at the Los Angeles Yeshiva, and the grandson of Rabbi Chaim Zvi Rubenstein, founder of the Hebrew Theological College of Chicago. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1955 and was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1960. In 1967, he received his doctorate in rabbinic literature from JTS.