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The Stoic Jew

Philosophy Podcasts

My name is Rabbi Matt Schneeweiss. I am, first and foremost, an Orthodox Jew. My primary area of focus is the teachings of Shlomo ha'Melech (King Solomon) in Mishlei (Proverbs) and Koheles (Ecclesiastes). I also consider myself to be a student of the Stoic masters: Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius. Over the past two decades I have been exploring the relationship between Judaism and Stoicism - where they overlap, where they differ, and how they complement each other. This year I started a daily reading of Marcus Aurelius with an aim to explore these questions. I'll read a passage from Aurelius's Meditations and then muse (or meditate aloud) on my thoughts about what he said and what the Torah would have to say. As Seneca taught: "Each day acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes as well; and after you have run over many thoughts, select one to be thoroughly digested that day" (Letter #2). If this podcast serves that purpose, then it will have been of value.

My name is Rabbi Matt Schneeweiss. I am, first and foremost, an Orthodox Jew. My primary area of focus is the teachings of Shlomo ha'Melech (King Solomon) in Mishlei (Proverbs) and Koheles (Ecclesiastes). I also consider myself to be a student of the Stoic masters: Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius. Over the past two decades I have been exploring the relationship between Judaism and Stoicism - where they overlap, where they differ, and how they complement each other. This year I started a daily reading of Marcus Aurelius with an aim to explore these questions. I'll read a passage from Aurelius's Meditations and then muse (or meditate aloud) on my thoughts about what he said and what the Torah would have to say. As Seneca taught: "Each day acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes as well; and after you have run over many thoughts, select one to be thoroughly digested that day" (Letter #2). If this podcast serves that purpose, then it will have been of value.

Location:

United States

Description:

My name is Rabbi Matt Schneeweiss. I am, first and foremost, an Orthodox Jew. My primary area of focus is the teachings of Shlomo ha'Melech (King Solomon) in Mishlei (Proverbs) and Koheles (Ecclesiastes). I also consider myself to be a student of the Stoic masters: Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius. Over the past two decades I have been exploring the relationship between Judaism and Stoicism - where they overlap, where they differ, and how they complement each other. This year I started a daily reading of Marcus Aurelius with an aim to explore these questions. I'll read a passage from Aurelius's Meditations and then muse (or meditate aloud) on my thoughts about what he said and what the Torah would have to say. As Seneca taught: "Each day acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes as well; and after you have run over many thoughts, select one to be thoroughly digested that day" (Letter #2). If this podcast serves that purpose, then it will have been of value.

Language:

English


Episodes

How to Win the Lead Role in E.T. and Achieve Human Perfection (Epictetus – Discourses 2:18)

7/13/2022
Synopsis: Have you ever seen the audition tape for Henry Thomas, the kid who played Elliot in Stephen Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? Well, if you haven’t, drop everything you’re doing and watch it now, because it’s one of the best performances of a child actor I’ve seen – and it was all improvised! Not only that, but it led to an insight about Stoicism which, in turn, led to an insight about human perfection, and that’s what this episode is about. That, and a story about how...

Duration:00:13:54

365 Days of Gratitude (Aurelius - Meditations 5:16)

7/11/2022
Synopsis: I am pleased (and grateful) to say that my Gratitude Journal practice has reached its one-year milestone! In today’s episode I reflect on how these last 365 days of gratitude journaling have changed me, and how this whole process has exemplified the habit cultivation principles stated by Aurelius, Epictetus, and the Rambam. Related Rabbi Schneeweiss Content: - The Gratitude Accountability Experiment - 100 Days of Gratitude - 225 Days of Gratitude - TSJ Interlude: 300 Days of...

Duration:00:14:18

The Intellectual Humility of Rabbi Moskowitz and Marcus Aurelius (Aurelius – Meditations 6:21)

6/21/2022
Synopsis: We’re back! Since the last episode I posted was my eulogy of Rabbi Moskowitz, and since today (the day of the recording) is Rabbi Moskowitz’s shloshim, I decided to devote this episode to one of Rabbi Moskowitz’s many virtues – one which is discussed by Marcus Aurelius, and is shared by Judaism and Stoicism. Sources: - Aurelius, Meditations 6:21 - Saadia Gaon, unsourced quotation (according to Rabbi Moskowitz’s unreliable memory) - Emerson, Self-Reliance, Essays: First...

Duration:00:09:37

My Eulogy for Rabbi Moskowitz zt"l

5/30/2022
I'm sharing this recording on all five of my podcasts, regardless of their subject matter, because Rabbi Moskowitz is responsible for all the Torah I learn and teach. This is the audio of the eulogy I gave for my beloved rebbi, Rabbi Morton Moskowitz zt"l on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5782 (May 30th, 2022). For the video, click here. I plan on typing up the transcript of the abridged version of the eulogy (which is the one I gave), as well as the full version of the eulogy (which I haven't...

Duration:00:08:49

Applying Epictetus to My Insomnia (Epictetus - Discourses 2:18)

5/27/2022
Synopsis: My insomnia has been particularly bad lately ... OR HAS IT? This episode begins with a recap of Epictetus's approach to "impressions," the Jewish counterpart of which is what Shlomo ha'Melech refers to as ormah ("cunning"). I then walk you through an application of this perspective to my own problem of chronic insomnia, which was the involuntary co-sponsor of today's episode. Note: I recorded this on Wednesday. My sleep improved the next night, but - due to recent events and...

Duration:00:16:20

"Are you sure it was a rat?" (Seneca - Letter #71: On the Supreme Good)

5/25/2022
Synopsis: Today’s episode was inspired by a conversation I overheard between my neighbor (who is an exterminator) and an overconfident customer. This conversation led to yet another insight into how moral philosophy should and shouldn’t be approached, according to both Judaism and Stoicism. Sources: - Seneca, Letter #71: On the Supreme Good - Rambam: Mishneh Torah, Sefer ha’Mada, Hilchos Deios 2:1-2 ---------- This week's Torah content has been sponsored by Alex K. "in honor of Rabbi...

Duration:00:16:45

What Won't Last (Aurelius - Meditations 5:23)

5/23/2022
Synopsis: Today’s episode is an example of how a familiar idea can be imbued with a new level of insight if one finds a new way of engaging it. In this case, the old idea was the opening thesis of Koheles and the Rambam’s explanation of mezuzah, and the new way of engaging it was a writing exercise suggested by Natalie Goldberg. Related Rabbi Schneeweiss Content: - The Sacred Pause as Applied to Mezuzah Sources: - Aurelius, Meditations 5:23 - Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones...

Duration:00:12:56

Habit Tracking and Sefiras ha'Omer (Epictetus - Discourses 2:18)

5/18/2022
Synopsis: In today’s episode we go over a practical habit cultivation (or habit removal) tip from Epictetus, which is expanded upon by James Clear in Atomic Habits. The mitzvah of Sefiras ha’Omer serves as the ideal scaffolding for this method, and there are enough days left in this year’s count to initiate a habit cultivation experiment of your own! Related Rabbi Schneeweiss Content: - Why Do We Count the Omer? Three Explanations You (Probably) Haven't Heard - Stoicism, Habit...

Duration:00:13:43

How to Learn Ethics Without Vomiting (Epictetus - Discourses 3:21; 2:9)

5/16/2022
Synopsis: Today’s episode explores one of the fundamental differences between the Jewish and Stoic approach to ethics (based on my experience) and the approach to ethics via Moral Philosophy, as exemplified in the book I just read, How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question, by Michael Schur. Related Rabbi Schneeweiss Content: - Stoic Anxiety vs. Torah Anxiety - Book Review WhatsApp Chat Sources: - Epictetus, Discourses 3:21; 2:9 - Michael Schur, How to Be Perfect:...

Duration:00:16:15

A Stoic Jew Mother's Day Episode, Dedicated to Mommy and Popo (Seneca - Consolation of Helvia)

5/8/2022
Synopsis: Happy Mother's Day! Today's episode is dedicated to my mom, and to her mom - my grandma, a.k.a. Popo - in gratitude for who they are, and how they have helped me to become who I am. Related Rabbi Schneeweiss Content: - Happy Being Happy - How to Convince Mom That You’re Invulnerable - Seneca’s Ruthless Consolation of His Mother - A Stoic Perspective on Shavuos, True Wealth, and Constant Partying Source: - Seneca, Consolation for Helvia - Rambam: Mishneh Torah, Sefer...

Duration:00:11:41

How I Met Epictetus (Epictetus - Enchiridion 1)

5/6/2022
Synopsis: I recently took a stroll down memory lane and reflected on my very first encounter with the teachings of Epictetus, which happened at a critical time in my development. In this episode I share the exact transcript of that encounter. Related Rabbi Schneeweiss Content: - How to Convince Mom That You’re Invulnerable (Seneca – Consolation of Helvia) - Aurelius - Meditations 4:8: The Stoic Definition of Harm - Aurelius - Meditations 4:7: The Secret to Not Getting Hurt - Aurelius -...

Duration:00:13:58

TSJ Interlude: 300 Days of Gratitude

5/4/2022
Synopsis: Today marks the 300th day of my Gratitude Journal. In today's episode I reflect on one of the many benefits I've noticed from this daily practice, which I illustrate through a recent example of something that happened in my apartment. I conclude the episode by connecting this daily practice with Epictetus's Stoicism. Related Rabbi Schneeweiss Content: --225 Days of Gratitude (Aurelius - Meditations 9:6) -- 100 Days of Gratitude (Seneca - Letter #81: On Benefits) -- The...

Duration:00:12:14

Stoic Anxiety vs. Torah Anxiety (Epictetus – Enchiridion 50)

5/2/2022
Synopsis: In today’s episode I attempt to express my thoughts about the type of daagah (anxiety/stress/worry) that can be generated by the attempt to live by Stoic principles as if they were laws, and how the Torah is structured in a manner which aims to sidestep this problem. Sources: - Epictetus, Enchiridion (The Handbook) Chapter 50 - Michael Schur, How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question, Ch8 pp.146-150 - Ralbag, Introduction to Torah - Rabbeinu Yonah on Avos...

Duration:00:18:33

Stoic Musings Upon Visiting Bruce Lee's Grave on R' Soloveitchik's Yahrtzeit (Aurelius - Meditations 12:1)

4/20/2022
Synopsis: I hadn’t planned on recording any episodes of TSJ during Pesach, but after visiting Bruce Lee’s grave on R' Soloveitchik’s yahrtzeit yesterday morning, I had to express my thoughts while they were still fresh in mind. And if the title of this episode isn’t the perfect embodiment of my own eclectic approach to learning, teaching, and life, then I don’t know what is. Related Rabbi Schneeweiss Content: - A Glimpse Into Bruce Lee's Impact on My Methodology of Teaching and Learning:...

Duration:00:21:58

Pesach, Epictetus, and Man's Search for Meaning

4/14/2022
Synopsis: In this cutting-it-too-close-to-the-holiday Pesach episode I attempt to round up and articulate my thoughts on the difference between Judaism’s concept of freedom and that of Epictetus, in light of my recent reading of Viktor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning. My primary goal in recording this podcast was to get out as many of my thoughts in one take as I could. Afterwards I realized that there were points I had intended to make but forgot to mention. Oh well – at least I got...

Duration:00:18:26

Some Thoughts on Will Smith's Angry Reaction (Epictetus - Enchiridion 20; Seneca - On Anger 2:1)

3/30/2022
Synopsis: Although I am loath to engage in celebrity gossip, I felt I HAD to make an episode about the incident that has dominated the U.S. news cycle these past couple of days: Will Smith publicly slapping Chris Rock in the face on stage at the 94th Academy Awards. I had to actively suppress my irrationally ambitious urge to produce a comprehensive treatment of Judaism’s and Stoicism’s stance on anger. Instead, I contented myself with sharing the three thoughts I had when I saw the video of...

Duration:00:17:26

Why We Choose Evil (Epictetus - Discourses 2:18)

3/28/2022
Synopsis: Today’s episode emerged from a confluence of sources: (1) a basic facet of Epictetus’s Stoicism, (2) an anecdote from the childhood of lion tracker Boyd Varty, and (3) a scene in a TV show I’ve been obsessed with for the past three weeks. All three of these sources are rooted in the Rambam’s theory of evil. Related Rabbi Schneeweiss Content: - That's a Jacket, Not a Bad Cat! - TSJ Interlude - I Got Got By An Impression! Sources: - Epictetus, Discourses 2:18 - Boyd Varty, The...

Duration:00:13:40

Decorating Our Prison Cells (Epictetus - Enchiridion 3)

3/21/2022
Synopsis: This episode was inspired by a Rumi poem I've been thinking about lately. After reading and analyzing the poem, we compare and contrast it with two similar examples: a decision made by Claire Wineland, as a child, to decorate her hospital room, and a halachic institution which I won't spoil by naming it in the synopsis. Sources: - Epictetus, Enchiridion (The Handbook) Chapter 3 - Rumi, A Given (translated by Coleman Barks) - Claire Wineland at Zappos All Hands Meeting - Sukkah...

Duration:00:12:47

Purim vs. Stoicism (Epictetus – Discourses 4:4; 2:6; Enchiridion 14)

3/16/2022
Synopsis: In this episode I share some thoughts I had about how the ideas of Purim embody some fundamental differences between Judaism and Stoicism with regards to factors outside of our control. These thoughts were prompted by the writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (a.k.a. the Rav). I’m sure my ideas can be developed, but I figured it would be better to get them out there before Purim starts. Happy Purim! Related Rabbi Schneeweiss Content: - Seneca on Purim Drinking (Seneca: Letter...

Duration:00:19:09

Letting Go of Your Rice, Tafasta Merubeh, and Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai's Wisdom (Epictetus - Discourses 3:9)

3/10/2022
Synopsis: In today's episode we unpack a popular saying - "tafasta merubeh lo tafasta" - as explained by Epictetus and Mark Nepo, and as exemplified by the wisdom of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai. Sources: - Epictetus, Discourses 3:9:22 - Wikipedia, Tafasta merube lo tafasta - Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening, March 7th - Talmud Bavli, Gittin 56b - Avos d'Rebbi Nosson 4:5 - Rabbi Dr. Binyamin Lau, The Sages: Character, Context, & Creativity, Volume 1: The Second Temple...

Duration:00:14:39