Rabbinic Program Advance Preparation
The ALEPH Rabbinic Program trains rabbis to be community builders, teachers, spiritual leaders and artists of Jewish tradition. The rigorous curriculum engages our dynamic faculty and student body in a full spectrum of rabbinic learning and practice.
We expect students to have developed certain competencies prior to beginning the formal study within the rabbinic program.
We are human beings as well as Jews. The legacy of primal communities, the humanistic heritage of the West, and the spiritual heritage of the East all reveal key turning points in the human journey. Rabbis, hazzanim, pastors, chaplains and counselors today require this broader perspective on the spiritual and human quest toward meaning and divinity. Also, the student of Jewish studies cannot really grasp the fullness of Jewish spirituality, culture and history without knowing the broader contexts in which Jewish creativity took place.
Thus, while not a hard requirement (there are special individuals with unique life-trajectories which have not included completing a B.A.) a presumed prerequisite for entrance into the ALEPH Rabbinic Program is a liberal arts bachelor’s degree, preferably with a major and a minor in two of the following fields: history, comparative religion, anthropology, literature, the arts, music, science, psychology, ecology, etc.
If your prior education did not include these studies, including comprehensive survey courses in Western civilization and thought or Jewish studies, or these studies are in the distant past of your college years, you can obtain these and similar audio-visual college courses from THE TEACHING COMPANY (www.thegreatcourses.com)
- The Foundations of Western Civilization, parts 1-4
- Philosophy and Religion in the West, parts 1-3
- Jewish Intellectual History: 16th to 20th Century, parts 1-2
- Great World Religions – Judaism
- The Old Testament (an overview of Jewish Biblical and post-Biblical literature)
ALEPH offers courses in many of the following areas that are specifically designed for prospective students. For a list of these courses including a schedule of when the courses are offered, and suggested additional resources, go to Rabbinic Program Resources.
Jewish Knowledge and Skills
Hebrew is the sacred language of our people, the repository of much of our people’s spiritual wisdom, and the language of modern Israel. Competence in Liturgical and Torah Hebrew is part of the backbone of cantorial learning.
- Can you open a Chumash to a section of simple narrative Hebrew text and read and translate reasonably and comfortably, with a sense of the nuances in the Hebrew vocabulary? You will need knowledge of biblical syntax and grammar, as well as a basic Chumash vocabulary.
- Are you familiar with parshanut, the methods by which the Torah’s texts are explicated and mined for meaning? This includes PaRDe”S, the four levels of Torah commentary.
If you need work in this area, enroll in ALEPH Courses: Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Grammar 101 & 102.
2. Siddur / Language and Content
You should be able to open a traditional Siddur to a section of basic prayer text and read and translate reasonably and comfortably, with a sense of the spiritual underpinnings of the words. Do you understand the structure of the various services, which prayers are said every day and which are the prayers for special occasions? Do you know when the full Hallel is recited and when the half Hallel? What are the options for reciting the Amidah? A preparatory course you can take now is: ALEPH Course: A Walk Through the Siddur: An Introduction to the Liturgy
My People’s Prayerbook: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries, L. Hoffman, ed (Jewish Lights)
A Guide to Jewish Prayer, Adin Steinzaltz (Schocken)
Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts,Barry Holtz
Quest for God, Part IAbraham Joshua Heschel,
The World of Prayer, Vols.1 and 2, Elie Munk,
The full article on Prayer in the Encyclopedia Judaica
The Path of Blessing, (Bell Tower ’98/ Jewish Lights 2003) by Rabbi Marcia Prager
Recommended personal practice:
You should be regularly involved in communal worship, somewhere, somehow. If you can, attend a weekday minyan to absorb the sounds and rhythms of daily prayer. Tsei ul’mad (go forth, and learn!) — Sample diverse synagogues regularly to gain a sense of the range of styles and approaches to liturgy and communal prayer. Learn what works well, and develop your sense for what you think is needed.
3. The Cycle of the Jewish Year
Do you know the deep structure of the cycle of the Jewish year, including Shabbat, the major holidays, the fast days, the minor holidays? Have you studied the shalosh regalim and yamim noraim, paying attention to the ways that seasons give way to seasons and moods and foci shift through time? Do you understand the patterns and moods of the Jewish calendar as they express agricultural, mythic-historical, halakhic, and mystical points of view? Are you familiar with the particular practices and liturgies associated with each of the festivals and their seasons? An ALEPH course that you can take now if you wish is: ALEPH Course: Jewish Traditions of Sacred Time
Read: Seasons of our Joy, by R’ Arthur Waskow (Beacon 1982)
4. The Fundamentals of Jewish Practice
Are you familiar with the basic underlying principles of Jewish practice, including the divisions of mitzvot into positive and negative categories as well as mitzvot between practitioner and God and those which are between human beings? What does it mean to be chayav and patur? What is the concept of taharat ha-mishpachah and Jewish teachings about love and lovemaking? What are the fundamentals of classical kashrut and what does the concept of eco-kashrut add? How do we learn to understand what melachah is in relationship to Shabbat? An ALEPH course that you can take now if you wish is: ALEPH Course: Fundamentals of Jewish Practice
5. Introduction to Jewish History and Thought
Have you been introduced to the rich panorama of Jewish history and thought?
Jacob Neusner, The Way of Torah: An Introduction to Judaism (Wadsworth, 1988)
Chaim Potak, Wanderings (Knopf, 1978)
Richard Elliot Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?
6. Jewish Renewal
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal is a growing extended family of passionate students and teachers who are rediscovering and revitalizing the power of Jewish spirituality and practice. Have you studied with any of the teachers in Jewish Renewal? Have you been to the ALEPH Kallah, Ruach HaAretz, or a Jewish Renewal retreat? Have you been a participant in a Jewish Renewal community? Have you read some of the books and booklets of Jewish Renewal teachers such as Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, R’ Marcia Prager, R’ Arthur Waskow and others?
If you are new to Jewish Renewal, an ALEPH course that you can take now if you wish is: ALEPH course: Introduction to Jewish Renewal and Reb Zalman’s Thought
Counseling, Personal Growth and Therapy
The work of a rabbi places many challenges and stresses before us that are amplified by the nature of our position as clergy, counselors, teachers and spiritual mentors. Success in this work requires sensitivity and exceptional self-awareness, good emotional boundaries, and the ability to work with many different kinds of people. The ALEPH Rabbinic Program includes courses and practical experience in counseling, counseling education, relationship and family therapy, group work, Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), Social Work etc. It is recommended that you have been in therapy yourself in order to work through unresolved issues of your own, and in order to be familiar with the therapeutic process.