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Twice Blest

A Podcast Exploring Shakespeare and the Hebrew Bible

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Twice Blest

Welcome to Twice Blest, a podcast from the Yeshiva University Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought. Hosted by Dr. Shaina Trapedo, Twice Blest brings you conversations with faith leaders, scholars, and writers that bridge the wisdom of Judaic and classical texts so we can live more informed and fulfilling intellectual and spiritual lives on an individual and communal level.

YU Blue

Twice Blest

Welcome to Twice Blest, a podcast from the Yeshiva University Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought. Hosted by Dr. Shaina Trapedo, Twice Blest brings you conversations with faith leaders, scholars, and writers that bridge the wisdom of Judaic and classical texts so we can live more informed and fulfilling intellectual and spiritual lives on an individual and communal level.

Richard II
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“His deputy anointed in His sight”: Kingship in Shakespeare and the Hebrew Bible

How has the Hebrew Bible impacted the intellectual development of the West? How might a deeper understanding of Saul and David’s biblical narrative help us read Shakespeare’s meditations on the nature of kingship? In this episode, Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, director of the YU’s Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, examines the legitimacy, majesty, and humility of monarchy (or lack thereof) in Shakespeare’s Richard II and Macbeth.

King Lear
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“Speak what we feel”: Biblical Blessings and Beyond in Shakespeare’s King Lear

What are blessings? Prayers? Protections? A performative act? In this episode, Professor Julia Reinhard Lupton, Shakespeare scholar and co-director of the UCI Shakespeare Center, rethinks the love gambit that opens as a battle of biblical prooftexts and tracks the presence and purpose of benediction in King Lear and beyond to reveal a cascade of blessings throughout Shakespeare's works.

Hamlet
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“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends”: Hamlet and Torah Tradition

What is the relationship between values and action? How does one move forward when "time is out of joint"? In this episode, Yeshiva University President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman draws from his experiences as an educator, father, and academic leader to discuss the themes and human experiences central to Shakespeare's Hamlet that complement and contrast similar stories from Torah tradition.

Merchant of Venice
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"The prop that doth sustain my house": Jewish Women, Widowers, and Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice

Few literary characters have loomed as large and felt as "real" as Shakespeare’s Shylock. Though, as early 20th-century British Jewish historian Cecil Roth reminds us, he is a "sheer figment of Shakespeare’s imagination." Or was he? In this episode, Dr. Chaya Sima Koenigsberg illuminates Shakespeare’s (in)famous portrait of Shylock with her research on medieval Ashkenaz Jewry and the lives of the Rokeach and his wife, Dulce. She also sheds new light on the presence of Hebrew bible figures Jacob and Leah and the underexamined presence of prayer in the play.

Henry V
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“The sin upon my head”: The Hebrew Bible in Shakespeare’s Henry V

Does religion dictate politics or does politics dictate religion? Is success achieved through strategy or spirituality? Should the king bear moral responsibility for his soldiers’ behavior in battle? Shakespeare shot to fame in the 1590s by tackling the critical questions of his day in dramas depicting the inner lives of medieval English monarchs. But he couldn’t have done it without drawing on the Hebrew Bible. In this episode, Professor Paul Cantor takes us on a deep dive into Henry V, unpacking the influence of early Israelite leaders, including Moses, Joshua, and David, on Shakespeare’s compelling and complex representation of the Tudor dynasty.

Richard III
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"That foul defacer of God’s handiwork": Bodies in the Hebrew Bible and Richard III

If, as we're told in the Hebrew Bible, "God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good" (Genesis 1:31), how are we to understand physical imperfection? As "mistakes" by the divine? Manifestations of malfeasance? Or misinterpretations of creation? 

In this episode, Dr. Jeffrey R. Wilson explains the discourses of theology, physiognomy, and monstrosity that influenced Shakespeare’s representation of Richard III's misshapen body and behavior, as well as the ongoing implications of relating internal essence and external appearance.

Shylock
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"I will better the instruction": Sufferance and Vengeance in The Merchant of Venice and Jewish Thought

Shakespeare’s portrayal of Shylock as a cruel and vengeful Jew in the early 16th century gave rise to some of the most enduring racial stereotypes. He also gave Shylock depth and sympathetic qualities. In one of the most stirring speeches in all of Shakespeare, Shylock underscores his humanity, famously asking, “hath not a Jew eyes?” Yet the conclusion of that monologue requires further examination as it ends with the Jew’s assertion that he learned revenge from his Christian neighbors. Is there a basis for this claim? What is the Jewish understanding of revenge and retributive punishment? How do we reconcile the divine prohibition against revenge in the Hebrew Bible with its description of God as vengeful? And of what relevance is the long-suffering biblical Jacob, whose life is discussed by the characters in this play? 

In this episode, Rabbi Dr. Dov Lerner offers a master class on biblical exegesis, the relationship between interpretation, law, and justice, and what we can learn from Jewish tradition about how to end the cycle of vengeance.

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