“Sinning for God”: When do the Ends Justify the Means?

Course Title: “Sinning for God”: When do the Ends Justify the Means?
Hebrew College Open Circle Jewish Learning: Texts and Traditions
Aron Wander (Read bio)
Session: Summer 2023
Day and Time: Sundays, 10-11:30 a.m. Eastern
Dates: July 9, 16, 23, 30; August 6, 2023 (5 sessions)
Location: Online via Zoom
Synagogue Partner: Temple Israel Boston
Fee: $180 Generous financial scholarships available

How do we build a better world when we know our actions may have unintended or unavoidable economic, political, or ecological consequences? What is justified in the pursuit of justice?

In “Sinning for God,” we’ll explore two related rabbinic concepts: mitzvah ha’ba be’aveirah (a would-be mitzvah that is forbidden because it comes about by way of a sin) and aveirah lishmah (a would-be sin that is permitted because it serves a higher purpose).

We’ll begin by studying their Talmudic origins, and then we’ll consider how they’ve played out in different historical periods and across varying political, economic, and moral issues. Throughout, we’ll use our learning to shed light on the moral dilemmas and paradoxes we face today. At stake will be an underlying question: when do moral ends justify questionable means, and when do immoral means corrupt us, no matter how noble our goals are?

Hebrew College Open Circle Jewish Learning is for learners of all backgrounds.

Judaism as A Spiritual Discipline: The History, Ideas, and Practice of Musar

Judaism as A Spiritual Discipline: The History, Ideas, and Practice of Mussar

Program: Hebrew College Me’ah Select
Instructor: Dr. Jacob Meskin  (Read Bio)
Dates: 5 Thursdays, 6/22, 6/29, 7/6, 7/13 & 7/20
Time: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Cost: $190, generous financial aid is available
Location: Hybrid – In Person at Hebrew College with Online option
Hosted by: Hebrew College

When modern Jews hear the term “Mussar” they think of ethical ideals, and analyses of character traits. While not wrong, this misses the most intriguing aspect of Mussar. Mussar is an encompassing spiritual quest, and it offers a unique approach to living a Jewish life.

In this five-week course we will begin with an overview of the long history of Mussar (from Biblical and rabbinic texts, all the way through the medieval and modern periods). We will then consider the great Mussar leaders of the last two centuries, and the fascinating religious ideas and practices they created.

We will then analyze the central Mussar idea: what may seem simply to be ethical work on oneself, when lived out in Jewish community, in fact opens up pathways for religious insight and spiritual growth. Judaism itself can become a spiritual discipline.

Here are some of the questions we will be asking along the way:
–What are modern Jews supposed to think about these large-scale Mussar insights today? Can we still accept (and/or adapt) them?
–Several otherwise excellent recent attempts to revive interest in Mussar among progressive Jews have minimized the larger spiritual questions that drive Mussar. Is this wise, or perhaps ultimately unsatisfying?
–How do the insights and teachings of modern women Mussar teachers differ from those of male Mussar teachers? Might women tend to approach Mussar thought and practice in a different way?
–How do the Mussar spiritual quest and Mussar practice compare with what one finds in other religions? Together we will be exploring a comparison between Mussar and the tradition of Hindu yoga.

Hebrew College Me’ah Select courses offer in-depth academically oriented adult learning experiences led by outstanding faculty.

Embodied Kabbalah: Jewish Mysticism for All People

Program: Hebrew College Open Circle Jewish Learning: Mindfulness
: Rabbi Matthew Ponak (Read bio)
Day and Time: Wednesdays 5:15- 6:45 p.m. Pacific Time or 8:15-9:45 p.m. Eastern Time
Dates: 4/19, 4/26, 5/3, 5/10, 5/17, 5/24, 5/31, 6/7, 2023 (8 sessions)
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $288 Generous financial scholarships available

One of Jewish mysticism’s greatest gifts to the world is its emphasis on balancing spiritual depth and everyday living. Rabbi Matthew Ponak’s new book: Embodied Kabbalah (with a foreword from Rabbi Arthur Green) draws from nearly 1000 years of Jewish sources to articulate a path that is both transformational and grounded. Judaism places great importance on daily responsibilities, healthy relationships, and the ancient obligation to be a good person; Jewish mysticism is no different. In this course, students will engage with teachings and practices from Kabbalah and Hasidic mysticism which relate to: (1) body/mind/spirit connection, (2) integrating powerful spiritual experiences, (3) working with difficult emotions and challenging life circumstances, (4) the ethics of spiritual leadership and (5) the balance between personal choices and traditional practices in the lives of mystics. Embodied Kabbalah is open to people of all backgrounds who want to access this powerful, living tradition. Visit Rabbi Ponak’s website for more information about Embodied Kabbalah.

Hebrew College Open Circle Jewish Learning is for learners of all backgrounds.

Canadian and other registrants from outside of the US: please email Cindy Bernstein to complete your registration. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Advanced Mussar Study/Practice Group

Program: Hebrew College Open Circle Jewish Learning: Mindfulness
 Rabbi Marcia Plumb (Read bio)
Dates: 3/8, 3/22, 3/29, 4/12, 5/3, 5/10, 5/17, 5/31, 6/14 (makeup date), 2023 (8 sessions)
Day and Time: Wednesdays, 4:30-6 p.m. Eastern Time
Cohort: Temple Shir Tikvah Winchester
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $288 Generous financial scholarships available

The instructor, and students at times, present texts from Jewish tradition and contemporary sources. The class engages with these texts in full group session, and in small breakout rooms. Between class sessions, students explore the middot through ongoing textual study, reflection, journaling, and kabbalot, or small mindfulness exercises. Essential questions are how do we understand the selected middot? How do we engage with the middot, the instructor, and each other to enhance our personal spiritual growth, our daily behavior, and the alignment between the two? How can each of us contribute to the growth of others in the group, and bring our learning to repair the world?

Hebrew College Open Circle Jewish Learning is for learners of all backgrounds.