Course Listings for Virtual Visitors
We will hone our text reading skills in Biblical Hebrew as well as medieval commentary. Students will be introduced to rabbinic exegesis (Parashanut), with a special focus on Rashi and his midrashic sources.
Beit Midrash 9:00-11:00am
Standing at the very center of the Pentateuch, Vayikra reveals the priestly view of the relationship between God and Israel, and the interconnected dimensions of sacred time, space, and person. We will study major themes of Vayikra including the sacrificial system, the numinous power of the divine Presence, purity and impurity, the relationship between personal and social embodiment, the meaning of sacred time, and the interplay of the ritual and the ethical. We shall attempt to understand Vayikra’s theory of priesthood, including the paradox of self-referentiality and the paradox of initiation. Attention will be given to the role of Vayikra in the context of the Pentateuch as a whole, with special focus on narrative elements such as the death of Aaron’s sons on the Tabernacle’s inaugural day. We will apply insights from anthropology, comparative theology, and the contributions of modern scholars, but our main emphasis will be a close and careful reading of the text, assisted by classical commentators including Rashi, Ramban and Seforno
Modern Jewish Thought
This course will explore the writings of major Jewish thinkers living in the modern era and place them in the context of their historical setting. The class will focus on the various ways these thinkers – from Mendelssohn to Buber – understood the dynamic relationship between inherited tradition and modern conceptions of religious life.
Inner Life and Social Justice Activism
This course explores inner, personal development and social change activism as an integrated spiritual path. Drawing on Mussar and Chassidic literature and the concept of tikkun hamiddot (personal ethical and spiritual development), this course examines the connections between spirituality and strategies for social justice organizing and advocacy for transformative social change. Some of the specific areas of exploration will include motivation and self-interest, choice, humility and trust.
Theology of the Jewish Year
The calendar, with its cycle of sacred observances, is the great teacher of Judaism’s practices, values and theology. We will study the explicit and implicit theology of the year, focusing on key texts from the Bible to Hasidism. We will examine theocentric, historical, agricultural and ethical framings of the holidays, and will consider the interplay between solar and lunar rhythms. We will focus on Hasidic texts, especially for Hanukkah and Purim. In every case we will attempt to uncover the ideas that motivate the rituals and that transform ceremonies into spiritual practices. Hasidic texts will be read with an eye to interiority and the personal and collective quest for meaning.
Monday: Beit Midrash: 9-11am; Class: 11:30am-1pm (class is split into 2 sections; visitors will join from 12:10-1:00pm)
Wednesday: Beit Midrash: 9:30-11:30am; Class: 11:45am-1:15pm (class is split into 2 sections; visitors will join from 11:30am-12:20pm)
This course will focus on several aggadic selections in masekhet Ta’anit. We will begin by orienting ourselves to the tractate by studying the Mishnah. We will go on to look at several tales, examining them individually, comparing them, and analyzing what they have in common. Our focus will be primarily on the sugya itself, secondarily on Rashi. The goals will be to introduce the study of narrative in the Talmud and to improve skills: navigating text without pointing or punctuation, fluency in reading Rashi, beginning to see the sugya as a whole and how one sugya relates to another. Ta’anit is a treasure trove of narratives that illuminate the worldview of the sages in a way that far surpasses the legal material.
Monday: Beit Midrash: 9-11am; Class: 11:30am-1pm
Wednesday: Beit Midrash: 9:30-11:30am; Class: 11:45am-1:15pm
This semester we will focus on the study of aggadic sections of the Bavli. We will learn selected stories as well as sustained aggadic passages, attending to literary features, context, and intertextuality as well as to the core ideas and questions that these texts address.
In this course, we will study the laws of eruvin, with particular attention to: a) defining the various Sabbath domains, b) requirements for construction of boundaries for an eruv, and c) requirements for the shared communal food that serves as the core of the “eruv.” We will study each of these in diachronic fashion, beginning with relevant verses and rabbinic passages, moving through rishonim (primarily as summarized in the Beis Yosef), Shulhan Arukh, aharonim, and contemporary eruv guides.
Theories of Halakhah
This course will provide an introduction to theories of halakhah and halakhic literature. We will contextualize halakhah within a wider world of legal theory as well as examine this particularly Jewish expression of law. As we gain a more expansive understanding of the development of halakhah and halakhic literature, we will also have the opportunity to consider how the languages of halakhah can be a resource for our individual and communal Jewish practices.
Students analyze the punctuation system underlying the chanting of the Hebrew Bible. Students are instructed in the syntactic parsing and correct contemporary pronunciation of biblical Hebrew, and learn a traditional Ashkenazic mode for the public cantillation of the Pentateuch. While this course is primarily for cantorial and rabbinical students, others are welcome provided they have an adequate sense of musical pitch and the ability to read and translate biblical Hebrew
Introduction to Basic Cantillation
This class is an introduction to basic concepts of Torah cantillation. It is not just about learning the melodies. Students will acquire and/or improve skills to chant Torah on weekdays, Sabbaths and Festivals using a common Ashkenazi trope. Topics will also include the rituals surrounding the Torah service, the history of cantillation/trope, correct contemporary pronunciation of biblical Hebrew, and the underlying syntactic structure of the whole system of cantillation. While this course is primarily for rabbinical students, others are welcome (depending on size of the class), provided they have adequate sense of musical pitch and the ability to read and translate biblical Hebrew (with the help of a dictionary).
Introduction to Basic Nusach
An introduction to the modes and motifs of traditional synagogue prayer. Emphasis will be on not only acquiring the musical skills to lead services, but also exploring the spiritual and textual underpinnings of nusach. We will be discussing issues of prayer leading, including improvisation and congregational participation, as well as the historical context of traditional davening. We will be studying Weekday and Shabbat nusach and melodies with a concentration on how to learn the modes.