Course Descriptions

Weaving the Fabric that Holds Shabbat and the Holy Days : Hands on Halacha

In this class we learn the laws of the “dos and donts of Shabbat.  Using the resources found in the dormitory’s cooking/dining area, we actually see how these laws are practiced. Emphasis is put on understanding differing customs dealing with these laws so that the students can feel comfortable as guests in any Sabbath observant home.

Women in Halacha
From birth through marriage, throughout a woman’s lifecycle there are many Jewish laws and customs.  In this class we examine and discuss these laws and ideas.  Some of the topics we learn about are: women’s obligation in various Jewish laws and rituals, meeting a marriage partner, intimacy throughout marriage,and much more…

Rav Kook

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook was the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Palestine.  He had a great love for the land and people of Israel.  Rav Kook greatly appreciated the role that all Jews, regardless of religious affiliation, play in our national development. His writings speak of life’s purpose in general and the Jewish people’s purpose in leading the world towards perfection.  Through his teachings, students can experience his love of the land, state, and people of Israel and are inspired to find their unique role in building up our nation.

The Big Story: Jewish History

A seed was planted at Sinai.  A holy message given to the Jewish People for the whole world.  Just as the people received the message, so too the message received the people – shaping them and taking shape through them.  Bearing this message and striving to bring it to fruition are the primary task of the Jewish People in history.  The message brought forth the Prophets, the Sages, the Kabbalists.  It was cherished and preserved through faithful messengers, such as Ezra, Rabbi Akiva, the Ramban.  As the Jewish People spread out through time and space during 2000 years of exile, the message found fertile soil, nourishing the people on their journey toward the future.  Its faithful messengers shape the lives of the Jewish People and guide their path through the world around them.  Jewish History can be learned through the voices, teachings, and lives of these messengers.  During this course, students will pick up the Biblical thread with Ezra the Scribe (at the beginning of the Second Temple period) and follow the history of the message and its bearers through to our day.  A study of key individuals imbedded in their historic and religious context will provide a framework for seeing Jewish History.  This history revolves around world events, but it passes through the hands of the faithful messengers, as they carry the message of Sinai toward its fruition.

The Early Prophets

This course covers the 850 year period from Joshua’s conquest of the land immediately following Moshe’s death to the destruction of the First Temple and the ensuing exile.  Students learn about the battles and loves of King David, the zealousness of Elijah the Prophet, and the poetic song of Devorah the Prophetess.  Students delve into the Hebrew texts in chevruta pairs, writing down their questions and challenges with the text for discussion.  Rabbinic commentary, Midrash, and Gemara are brought into the discussion to further enlighten the text, discovering the profound eternal themes and insights these texts offer for us today.

Classical Hebrew

This course is designed to give beginners a sound yet not exhaustive knowledge of Hebrew, with an emphasis on grammar, so as to enable them to engage the texts of our tradition.  Reading and translation passages taken from the Tanach, amongst other sources.  Homework is given and reviewed, and students can readily check their progress by the usefulness of what they’ve learning in their other Torah classes.  Three hour-long meetings per week.  Prerequisites:  The ability to read a vocalized Hebrew text even without comprehension.

Advanced Biblical Hebrew

This course is designed for those who have completed Classical Hebrew for Beginners, or its equivalent.  The weekly parashah serves as our text, as we apply the lessons of Hebrew grammar to better understand the critical subtleties of the Hebrew text of the Torah as well as the many, grammatically-based insights of the classical commentators, especially Rashi.  Three hour-long meetings per week.

Torah: The Story of Our Lives – in Depth Chumash with Rashi

The stories in the Torah are not just stories of our history, but stories that take place inside of us every day.  These stories are the bedrock of our lives, the foundation of who we are as a people, and the place from which we draw sustenance and nourishment, both communal and personal.  This class is both a strong skills building class, and an opportunity to find out where and who we have been so we can know where we are going and who we can become.

Oral Torah

A first exposure to the Oral Tradition (Torah Sheb’Al Peh) via its signiture text, the Mishnah.  During the year, we sample a number of masechtot (tractates) touching on a variety of areas of Jewish law (halachah).  Along way, the student will gain a thorough understanding of the art and science of rendering the Oral tradition in written form while keeping it alive, and how the MIshnah maintains that living balance.  One hourl-long meeting per week, plus small assignments to be carried out daily.  Prerequisites:  Ability to read a vocalized Hebrew text;  concurrent participation in Classical Basic Hebrew or completion of its equivalent.

Midrashic Literature

Midrash is a special way to interpret text. It poses that the text, like poetry opens up to the reader more than one understanding. It reflects the many sided aspects of truth. The class covers particular topics studying first the Biblical text and then the midrash connected to it. Midrash, as a style, can be found in the Tanach itself as well as in the siddur and Hagaddat Pesach

Tefilla

In Judaism, personal tefilla (prayer) is an experience of introspection, self analysis, and goal setting.  It is an opportunity to quiet our minds and talk to G-d as a parent or a friend.  Formal tefilla also involves connecting to the entire Jewish people and channeling down the blessings we need as a nation.  It gives us an experience of being part of a great nation with aspirations to bring light and ultimate goodness into the world.  During this class we will explore both personal communication with G-d as well as delve into the depth and meaning found in traditional Jewish prayer books.

A Survey of the Spiritual Paths of the Great Chassidic Masters

Textual Study of the Chassidic insights of the Baal Shem Tov, Chabad, Breslov, Slonim, Rizhin, Ropshitz, Pshischa, Kotzk, Lublin, and more.

Moving Torah from the Head to the Heart: Art and Integration

With Miriam Leibowitz and Chaya Kaplan-Lester::

Hands-on learning allows us to integrate both the intellectual left side of our brain and our creative, spiritual right side. Each week students process what they have learned and create an art project reflecting their learning.  Students learn from the insights of their peers and are better able to remember and integrate the week’s study.

Transformative Torah & Expressive Arts

This unique class takes rich Jewish teachings and makes them experiential and personally applicable through the use of exercises and expressive arts. Students gain tools to apply their Torah learning directly to life, experiencing how Torah can explicitly impact the tenor of their actions and interpersonal relationships. The classes offer a therapeutic environment where students have a supportive group space within which to process their Torah learning, art work and personal growth.  The central theme of these classes will be Miriam’s Circle Dance and the rich array of Midrashim and teachings which encircle this powerful story.

 

Tehillim

Walk into any bus anywhere in Israel and you will find women in all sorts of dress quietly reading a book of Psalms. These poems written by King David and others have been a key point of connection for the Jewish people.  They express our deepest struggles, joys, and hopes. Tehillim are the words of those who sought closeness with G-d in the most challenging of circumstances.  They are the lyrics of pop songs on Israeli radio.  Their words are sung at Friday night services, cried out during funerals, and quietly spoken by those praying for the health of loved ones.  During this course we will work to understand and deeply connect to Psalms.

Foundations and Frameworks
Learning Jewish law and the “how to” of Jewish life can be very daunting and sometimes seem dry without a spiritual framework to hold it all.  These classes are desgined to give students that spiritual framework to support them as they make their way in other classes through the laws of keeping Shabbos, keeping kosher, Jewish intimacy, etc.  Some Frameworks topics may include a succint “how to” guide.  Together, these modular classes on foundation topics in Judaism weave a holistic and integrative outlook on being a modern Jewish women in the 21st century yet rooted in ancient tradition.  Modules will vary in length.

Topics to be covered include:
Swimming in the Holiness of Shabbat
Conscious Eating, Holy Eating: Keeping Kosher
Communicating with the Master of the Universe: Prayer (including Brachot and Bentching)
The Holiness of Sexuality: Mikvah, Niddah, Taharat HaMishpacha
Chagim: In Our Hands
Death: The taking off of One Garment and the Putting on of Another

Additional topics may be added as needed and in response to student request.