2017 Smicha Week Classes

AM CLASSES

SEFER IYOV: THE BOOK OF JOB: THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE INTEGRITY OF GOD AND THE INTEGRITY OF HUMAN, ESTRANGEMENT AND RETURN — AND THE MEANING OF IT ALL
THIS CLASS IS FULL!
Rabbi Leila Gal Berner
One unit in Tanakh or Kli Kodesh (elective)

SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP FROM THE INSIDE OUT
Rabbi Shefa Gold
One unit in Kli Kodesh

THE CAPSTONE PROJECT FOR SENIOR RABBINIC STUDENTS
Rabbis Shaya Isenberg and Victor Gross
One unit in Jewish Thought or Kli Kodesh

JOY AND PLAY IN JEWISH TRADITION: SACRED TEXT AND SPIRITUAL PRACTICE Rabbi Shohama Harris Wiener
& Rabbi David Evan Markus
One unit in Jewish Thought or Tanakh or Kli Kodesh, based on the final project selected and with advance consent of the instructors, the Head of Department and the Director of Studies. Extra credit in the World to Come is possible for spiritually skillful use of (in)appropriate puns and funny hats.

HASHPA’AH 5 – GUIDANCE FROM SPIRIT: PERSONAL/INTERCESSORY PRAYER
Rabbi Nadya Gross & Rabbi Shawn Zevit 

HAZZANUT - MASTER CLASS
Hazzan Jack Kessler


PM CLASSES

HEBREW IMMERSION

Beginning Hebrew
Biblical Hebrew Intensive
Rabbi Steven Silvern & Rabbi Bob Freedman

Intermediate Hebrew
Synagogue Customs and Practices:
The Theology and Sociology of
Sacred
Space
Rabbi Vivie Mayer and Rabbi Marcia Prager
One Unit in Rabbinic Texts or Kli Kodesh

Advanced Hebrew
HASIDISM AS SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Rabbi Elliot Ginsburg
One unit in Hasidism and Kabbalah 

STORIES FOR USE IN SPIRITUAL DIRECTION, PASTORAL CARE, CHAPLAINCY AND OTHER IMPORTANT TIMES
Rabbinic Pastor Shulamit Fagan

THE REAL ASHKENAZ IN MUSIC
AND SONG

Hankus Netsky
SEFER IYOV: THE BOOK OF JOB: THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE INTEGRITY OF GOD AND THE INTEGRITY OF HUMAN, ESTRANGEMENT AND RETURN — AND THE MEANING OF IT ALL
THIS CLASS IS FULL!

Together we will explore the bewildering, heart-wrenching and profound book of Job. We will read the book together in Hebrew and in English, focusing on the deep questions — 
  • Why do good people suffer?
  • Where is God in our suffering?
  • In the face of suffering, what is the meaning of life?
  • What can we expect of God?
  • Do we have the right to indict God?
  • What must we expect of ourselves?
  • What is the nature of friendship?
  • What is the nature of faith?
We may emerge from our class with more questions than answers to these (and other) questions — v’gam zu l’tova (and this, too, is for the good).

Pre-Smicha Week assignment:

1.  Read the Book of Job – reflect especially on:
  • The nature of suffering and theodicy
  • The nature of friendship
  • The nature of faith – what expectations, if any, come along with faith? the Jewish concept of chutzpah klapei shamayim
If you find the Hebrew challenging, please make a point of reading as much of the text in Hebrew at least once before Smicha Week and looking up words that are unknown to you. This will facilitate your understanding when others are reading out loud. Though this is not primarily a language class, you should take every opportunity to improve your Hebrew by trying to widen your vocabulary and challenge yourself to read the biblical text in Hebrew.

Please bring a bilingual TaNaKH with you to class. Any edition will be fine. Actually, having different translations will help us see the nuances (and pitfalls) of translation.

2.  Research and find one article (midrashic or academic) that deals with some aspect of the Book of Job and be prepared to present its major ideas to the class in a brief (15 minutes or less) commentary during the week.  Please send the name of the article or chapter and all citation information to Reb Leila at least two weeks before Smicha Week.

3.  Purchase and read the play “JB” by Archibald MacLeish and reflect on its meaning and how the playwright uses the biblical Book of Job. Please bring the play with you to class.

If you have any questions, please write directly to Reb Leila at lgberner@aleph-ordination.org

SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP FROM THE INSIDE OUT

As we cultivate connection between us in spiritual community, we must also do the work of creating holy connection inside our hearts. It is that inner work which will form the foundation for our work in community and in the world. The freedom to step into mutual beneficial relationship with those that we serve depends on the quality of our awareness, attention and intention that we bring to our leadership.

We will study the paradigm of the Mishkan in the Book of Exodus as the key to our liberation and mission, as we build a place for God to dwell within us, between us and among us.

This is how The Harvard Business School defines Leadership: “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” Our course will focus on cultivating a quality of presence that is self-aware, and responsive to the unique challenge of each moment.

Pre-class assignment:

Read the first third of The Magic of Hebrew Chant: Healing the Spirit, Transforming the Mind, Deepening Love, published by Jewish Lights.

… and Exodus, chapters 25 through 40.


THE CAPSTONE PROJECT FOR SENIOR RABBINIC STUDENTS

Note: this is a pilot program for this summer, offered as an elective.

Years ago Reb Zalman z”l expressed a desire that there be a capstone project for advanced students, those that have been advanced to senior status or are near to it. When applying for admission, AOP students are asked to think deeply about and write their spiritual autobiographies. What mentors, what studies, what life experiences led to the desire to become a rabbi, a rabbinic pastor, a hazzan?

Now, as graduation approaches, it is time to ask what these years of study and practice have contributed to your spiritual evolution? It is time to reconsider and rewrite your spiritual autobiographies.

The goal is an integration of the ideas and insights about the big questions that you have wrestled with and the questions and issues that you believe those you serve will challenge you with.

We will share insights from your spiritual autobiographies as well as your readings of authors such as Reb Zalman, Judith Plaskow, Arthur Green, Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman, as our mentors in this process. 

Topics for Discussion:
  • Gender
  • Zionism
  • Halachah
  • Religion and Society
  • Tradition e.g. Kashrut and Shabbat etc.?
Other Questions:
  • Who are your spiritual teachers?
  • Who moved you into spiritual transformation?
  • What torah have you acquired?
  • What have been your “wows” during this time in the program
  • What are you working on now?
  • What obstacles are you finding?
  • What are your struggles?
  • What about transparency of your struggles?
  • What are your strategies in serving a community or working in a hospital where many of your encounters will include a statement like: “There is no God where I am at”?
The final project of this course will be an updated spiritual autobiography. This is the y’rushah of your life in the program, the torah that you have acquired and have brought down to offer to others. Students will make a presentation at Se’udah Shlishit during Smicha Week.

Pre-retreat assignments:

Please submit your existing spiritual autobiography, which may include updates beyond the original submission. It will be put into Dropbox so that the other participating students may read it.

Please read all the other spiritual autobiographies before class. Please read Reb Zalman’s book: My Life in Jewish Renewal. It is available at Amazon either in print or Kindle formats.

Also read Sara Davidson’s The December Project. Limited additional readings will be made available before and during Smicha Week.


JOY AND PLAY IN JEWISH TRADITION: SACRED TEXT AND SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Spiritual life, and especially spiritual service as clergy, can be serious business. Even so (maybe precisely so), the Jewish sacred canon and spiritual toolkit centrally feature joy, laughter and play. Talmud even recounts that God reserves a quarter of each day for play, and that jesters who lift others from sadness have a special share in the world to come. So, nu, why isn’t Jewish spiritual life more joyful?

Using canonical and modern literature, this course will explore the flow of joy, laughter and play in Jewish spiritual life. Topics will include comparative theologies and liturgies of joy; cognitive and developmental psychology of play in spiritual formation; rabbinic pilpul (wordplay), humor and satire as spiritual expression; the psycho-spirituality of joyful calendar days (Sukkot, Chanukkah and Purim); and the role of play in ritual craft. This course also will probe the shadow side of joy, including related issues of self-worth, clergy role, piety, avoidance and spiritual bypassing. Students will be invited to (re)claim an authentic and personally functional approach to joy and play in personal and communal spirituality. Students can expect a Four Worlds experiential approach as well as substantial reading, writing and reflection.

Course requirements:

  1. Completion of course readings, including a substantial pre-intensive reading packet necessary for the pre-intensive writing assignment.
  2. Pre-intensive paper: Based on the pre-intensive reading assignments, write a 5-7 page paper exploring five disparate Tanakh theologies of joy. What assumptions or claims about God, human life and God-human relations do these theologies imply? As an appendix, add 2-3 pages about how these theologies of joy do (or don’t) resonate with your own psycho-spiritual life and spiritual formation as clergy and servant of the holy. What do you glean about yourself and your spiritual service from this resonance (or lack of resonance)? Due June 16, 2017
  3. Active engagement in class discussions and activities during the intensive.
  4. Successful completion of a post-intensive paper or project (topics will be discussed during the intensive). Due August 18, 2017

HASHPA’AH 5 – GUIDANCE FROM SPIRIT: PERSONAL/INTERCESSORY PRAYER

This course is the 2nd intensive for students in the Hashpa’ah training program. Please note that it is a core requirement for the training, and open only to students in the 5th cohort.

The objectives for this intensive are:
  • to enlarge the scope of how guidance is felt, understanding that whether one has experiences of angels, ancestors or spirit guides, intuition, reasoned clarity or a deep sense of Truth, these are all access points for Spirit with which we must gain comfort in engaging; and
  • to increase a sense of comfort with modes of personal and intercessory prayer, and openness to a wide range of spiritual possibilities.
Pre-retreat readings and reflection paper topic will be sent to the cohort by mid-May. A post-retreat reflection paper will also be assigned.

HAZZANUT - MASTER CLASS

For cantorial students. The class will include improv, coaching, and work with chant. Group and customized assignments will be sent out late spring.
HEBREW IMMERSION



Beginning Hebrew
Biblical Hebrew Intensive

Our texts will be from Tanakh, particularly Samuel and Kings, chosen to give you vocabulary, practice in translating sophisticated literature, and in reading medieval and Hassidic commentary. We invite students who have studied at least one semester of Biblical Hebrew, that is, who understand pronoun suffixes, have learned binyan kal (pa-al), know about reversing vav, participles and infinitives, and who are acquainted with other binyanim. Learning to read Rashi script will be an added attraction. Instruction will be interactive, in one-on-one tutoring, hevruta, and small classroom venues. Bring your own Hebrew/English dictionary.



Intermediate Hebrew
Synagogue Customs and Practices: The Theology and Sociology of Sacred Space
One Unit in Rabbinic Texts or Kli Kodesh

Have you ever wondered why there are two gabbais during the Torah reading
and what each one of them does?

What mistakes made by the Torah reader should be corrected and which one
allowed to pass?

Why do good ushers in large synagogues ask people to wait at the door before going to their seats?

What does ma’alim bikdushah v’lo moridim mean?

What can you do with an old and tattered Torah cover or synagogue building?

Course Description:
This course examines synagogue customs and practices, in original language, from both a practical and text-based perspective. We will encounter Mishnah, Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Shulhan Aruch, and Hayei Adam in original Hebrew language. Instruction will be interactive, in one-on-one tutoring, hevruta, and small classroom venues.

Advanced Hebrew
HASIDISM AS SPIRITUAL PRACTICE 

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that the purpose of religious life is to experience commonplace occurrences as spiritual adventures. To see the holy in the everyday, or as Reb Zalman used to say, invoking the Qedushah, והקדושים בכל יום יהללוך סלה - and those seeking to be holy praise God everyday, through the everyday! In this course, we will focus on daily spiritual practices, drawn from Hasidism and on occasion, Sefardi Kabbalah, to help us build a mystical vocabulary that is rooted in experience. We will draw on select themes from the following topics: (1) Waking and early morning practices, including waking the body, dressing, donning Tallit and Tefillin — the poetics of daily and sacred garments; (2) Cultivating awareness, amazement, joy and ardor [simcha ve-hitlahavut] throughout the day through brachot and attentiveness; (3) Recalibrating: Hishtavvut/equanimity, quieting [hashqatah], and finding points of balance; (4) Encountering obstacles and removing/transforming spiritual plaque: including lifting up distractions and the practice of Tsubrokhnkeit, breaking the heart open; (5) Enacting skin-covered holiness or Avodah be-gashmiyyut (service through embodiment), including sacred eating, toileting, and—safeq le-havdil safeq lo—walking, sacred dance and lovemaking. We will explore (6) elements of prayer practice that stress the cultivation of inwardness and devequt; and with it, the attendant choreography of movement, gesture, and stillness; and the modulation of sound: crying out, chanting and silence. We may consider (7) social elements of prayer and spiritual life — the surfing between inwardness and extroversion, including dibbuq haverim, welcoming the Other and ways of becoming a tzibbur pnimi (a community bound by love). Finally, on our last day, (8) we will explore a few Bedtime practices, including holding and letting go, granting forgiveness, and in the last hour of class, as we draw near the Holy Ground of Shabbat, embodied practices (from tzedaqah to mikveh) for transforming consciousness, for entering the Seventh Day.

Sources: The texts chosen tend to be brief, and are drawn from the likes of the Sefer Baal Shem Tov, the Yosher Divrei Emet, Keter Shem Tov, the Piasetzner and the Slonimer, with a spicing of Tsfat Kabbalah, the Ben Ish Hai and Hayyim ben Attar.

Goal: Our aim is to increase textual facility, reinforce spoken Hebrew, while providing spiritual sustenance for your life—tzeidah la-derekh — and a sense of fun!

Pedagogical Approach: Our learning will be multi-modal and multi-sensory: combining (a) whole group learning, in which we will decode and discuss Hebrew texts in Hebrew (whenever possible), although English and pantomime is acceptable in a pinch; (b) havruta work; and (c) individual tutoring. As a rave-like bonus, (d) half an hour each day will be devoted to learning (and singing and free-dancing) a contemporary Hebrew-Israeli song, from pop to piyyut. I call it Rap, Rhythm, and Jews. קולמגניב, ,על הכיפק!

Preparatory Reading will include selections from Yitzhak Buxbaum’s wonderful compendium, Jewish Spiritual Practices, and Your Word is Fire (ed. Arthur Green and Barry Holtz)

STORIES FOR USE IN SPIRITUAL DIRECTION, PASTORAL CARE,
CHAPLAINCY AND OTHER IMPORTANT TIMES

This class will explore the question of when and how to use stories. When is it appropriate to use a personal story? Is it OK to tell a Hassidic story, and is it necessary to explain the point of the story?

When is it appropriate to change a story? Can you make up one yourself? We will look at the margins of our groups, and discuss working with people who are gay or lesbian, those who have mental illnesses, have experienced racism, bigotry and abuse, and those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious.

Each student is required to bring with them 6 stories to share.  One of them should be a personal story, and several should address the subjects above.  If you would consider singing in a spiritual direction session, please bring a song or two as well, and poems can be stories also. You will be asked to share these stories with all of us, including when and how you would use the story.

Reading is to be done before we meet at Smicha Week, as listed below.

This class will fulfill the Hashpa’ah Training program  storytelling requirement, and will be equally helpful in the areas of chaplaincy and rabbinic support.

Reading requirements:

Inviting the Wolf In; Thinking About Difficult Stories
Loren Niemi and Elizabeth Ellis
August House Publishers Inc
This book is extremely valuable in helping us to see why we tell (or don’t tell) the stories in our lives that appear hard to tell.  It also helps us to see why others don’t tell those stories in our roles as spiritual director or chaplain.
I have been able to find this book new and used on line.

The Healing Heart – Families

The Healing Heart – Communities
Both by Allison M Cox and David H Alpert
New Society Publishers
These books, written from the perspective of public story telling, have much to tell us about one on one story telling as well.  They contain a wealth of excellent stories and ideas for adaptation.  I recommend that you read both books, but you must read at least one.
I have been able to find these books new and used on line.

Additional Readings:
Just a few suggestions for story sources. There are many more.

Souls on Fire; Portraits and Ledgends of Hasidic Masters
Elie Wiesel

Gates to the New City; A Treasury of Modern Jewish Tales
Howard Schwartz
Or any others from his large collection of wonderful stories

Chosen Tales; Stories Told by Jewish Storytellers
Edited by Peninnah Schram
Another great Jewish story teller with multiple books and multiple stories 

A Consoling Thought; Stories for Times of Mourning
Rabbi Zeev Greenwald

There are many more volumes of books compiling stories.
Please start a bibliography of your favorite ones to bring with you.

THE REAL ASHKENAZ IN MUSIC AND SONG

More and more, Jewish musicians and Jewish music fans are turning to our Eastern European Heritage for inspiration. In this course we will explore Hassidic nigunim (as sung by Hassidim), khazones (Eastern European cantorial traditions), Yiddish song, and Ashkenazic prayer melodies, giving special attention to the musical details that make traditional Eastern European Jewish culture unique.

Mishne Study

An hour before t’fillah the pious prepared to pray.

One of the traditional methods of preparation for shacharit was the learning of mishnayot. We will continue this tradition by learning together for the hour before shacharit (6am, eastern). This year’s portion will be chapter 2 of Maseket Chaggiga, Ain dorshin b’arayot b’shlosha. Our method will consist of:
  • reading the entire chapter; just to see the overarching ideas
  • identifying themes from the overarching ideas
  • returning to the individual misnayot to see how they contribute to theme development and to analyze difficulties using Rabbeinu Ovadiya m’Bartenura.
While we will read and translate, Hebrew fluency is not a prerequisite for participating in our morning study / contemplation. 

download Chaggiga chap 2