Podcast Focuses on the Science Behind Jewish Rituals


Schechter Boston has launched the Maduah Madah podcast, which explores the science of many of the Jewish rituals and customs that are central to our tradition and yet we take for granted. The show is co-hosted by Rabbi Ravid Tilles, director of Jewish life and learning, and Dr. Tim Morris, a middle school science teacher who has degrees in physics and mathematics. Other guests with specific expertise appear as well.

“I know, for myself, that podcast listening has become an important way that I digest new information. I can do it when I am walking, driving, doing dishes, etcetera,” Rabbi Tilles said. “I think that people appreciate thinking about ideas that they hardly ever have a chance to explore on their own.”

Rabbi Ravid Tilles

Rabbi Ravid Tilles (Courtesy photo)

The podcast was designed to highlight the natural intersection of Jewish life and science, especially since asking questions is a central tenet of both disciplines. There are times when the topic is about something as “simple” as the lunar cycles of the year and other times that it is as complex as the angular momentum needed to spin a dreidel. The podcast is for learners of all ages!

“I really see my role as creating a chance for Tim to share his expertise, which seems to be about everything,” Rabbi Tilles said. “My background, as a learner of Jewish texts, has helped me learn how to ask questions that can uncover information or ideas that may feel obvious but are helpful to articulate.”

Here are the episodes that have been published so far:

  • Episode 1: The sound waves that travel through the shofar that make the distinct sound that rings in the Jewish New Year.
  • Episode 2: The science behind dew and its connection to the etrog (citron) in honor of Sukkot.
  • Episode 3: Rosh Chodesh Kislev (the first day of the month of Kislev); we can know that because of the new moon, whose lunar cycles and phases have dictated our calendar for millennia.
  • Episode 4: Hanukkah has the best foods because they are made with oil and oil tastes so good! This is a discussion of the molecular properties and practical uses of oil in honor of Hanukkah, featuring culinary expert Galit Konstantine.
  • Episode 5: The science behind everybody’s favorite Hanukkah game, dreidel!
  • Episode 6: The science of fire and how it relates to Hanukkah.

Future episodes will focus on upcoming holidays like Tu BiShvat (about trees) and Purim (optical illusions), as well as sections from the weekly Torah readings about plagues and miracles.

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