Kabbalah/Hassidut

Historical overview of the development of classical Kabbalah and Eastern European Hasidut; focused study of one Hasidic Rebbe to whom you are attracted; mystical understandings of Jewish sacred time and practice.

Hasidic Texts and Spiritual Practice

This course examines Hasidic approaches to the major ideas and pathways of Judaism.  We will explore the central themes in Hasidism through studying selected texts authored by great Hasidic masters from the 18th century to the present.  This journey will lead to an in-depth understanding of the unique Hasidic approaches to Jewish values and practices and an appreciation of Hasidism’s profound theological and psychological insights.

Hasidism as Mysticism: The Radical Teachings of Nachman of Breslov

The focus of this course is on Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), one of the most celebrated masters of Jewish mysticism and Hasidism, whose radical writings —poised on the precipice of modernity— have attained the status of spiritual classics. The ongoing fascination with Nachman stems both from his singular (mercurial, multi-tiered, seeking) personality and from the profound and uncompromising nature of his theological vision. Together we will explore the existentialist Nachman confronting the absence of God (his Torah of the Void); the questing Nachman wrestling with depression and utopian grandeur; and the mystical Nachman, finding vivid manifestations of the divine in the realm of nature (in Forest and birds, the grasses of the field), in song and hitbodedut, and in interpersonal dialogue and spiritual practices that deconstruct (and reconstruct) the ordinary self. Mitzvah gedolah lihyot be-simcha!  This course fulfills the content of the Intensive Study of one Rebbe.

History of Hassidism

What conditions in Eastern Europe made it possible for Hassidism to emerge? Were there differences between the various rebbes and the emerging groups. What differences among the founders were there regarding study, prayer, meditation? What were the differences between the Hassidic movement and the Mitnagdim? These questions and more will be explored in this course. (Cross listed in both History and Kabbalah / Hassidut)

Intensive Study of One Sefer or the Work of One Rebbe

This is a course of varying content which focuses on the life-work of a particular Hasidic rebbe or a particular sefer.

Some examples of rebbes and their s’farim are:

  • The Ba’al Shem Tov: Sefer HaBesht; Shivchey HaBesht; Tzava’at HaRivash
  • Ya’akov Yosef of Polenoye: Toldot Ya’akov Yosef; Ben Porat Yosef
  • Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch: Maggid D’varav L’Ya’akov; Likkutim Y’karim
  • Elimelech of Lizensk: No’am Elimelech
  • Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev: Kedushat Levi
  • Schneur Zalman of Liadi: Tanya; Torah Or; Likkutei Torah
  • Nachman of Breslov: Likkutei Moharan; Sippurei Ma’asiyot
  • Mordechai Yosef of Isbitza: Mei HaShilo’ach
  • Menachem Mendel of Chernobyl: M’or Einayim
  • Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov: Bnai Yissaschar
  • Yehudah Leib Alter of Ger: S’fat Emet
  • Moshe Hayyim Efraim of Sudelikov: Degel Machaneh Efraim
  • Simcha Bunem of Przysucha (Pshizcha): Kol Simcha
  • Shalom Noah Berzovsky of Slonim: Netivot Shalom
  • Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Piaseczner Rebbe: Derech ha-Melech; Esh Kodesh; B’nai Mahshavah Tovah

Introduction to Hasidut (readings in English)

This course examines Hasidic approaches to the major ideas and pathways of Judaism.  We will explore the central themes in Hasidism through studying selected texts authored by great Hasidic masters from the 18th century to the present.  This journey will lead to an in-depth understanding of the unique Hasidic approaches to Jewish values and practices and an appreciation of Hasidism’s profound theological and psychological insights.

Mo’adim l’Simcha: Hasidic Teachings on the Sacred Year Part 1 & Part 2

Two semesters. This course is based on learning to read  (decode, historically contextualize, interpret, and integrate into our lives) key Hasidic texts in the Hebrew original. The focus will be on the Sacred Year as a Guide to Spiritual Practice. Key texts to be explored include: the Sefat Emet, the Netivot Shalom of the Slonimer Rebbe, the B’nei Yissachar, and teachings of Nachman of Bratslav.  We will also read a key Hebrew text on the Sacred Year by Reb Zalman, enabling us to confront the Paradigm Shift. Our focus will be on key primary texts that are sure to challenge and enrich your own practice.

Mussar Practice: Middot

The physicist Neils Bohr once said that the opposite of a simple truth is a falsehood, but the opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth. In our spiritual lives we are often called upon to balance opposing truths: the need to cleave to those we love and to let go; as Jews to simultaneously embody Yisrael (one who wrestles with God) and Yehuda (one who practices gratitude); to be open to moments of breakthrough and to cultivate the slow, subtle movement of soul. In this course, we will explore some key psycho-spiritual moments in the life of the spirit, drawing upon classic kabbalistic and Hasidic texts.

Mystical Shabbat

To enter the Sabbath is to step out of the ‘River of More,’ of constantly needing to consume, do more. It is to practice having/being “enough,” of living into our largest visions our largest selves. In this course we will explore what it means to live with this expanded awareness through texts and practices that explore the plenitude of Shabbat and its vision of a more just and loving world: Shabbat in Historical Perspective/ Neshamah Yeterah /Contemplative Practices/Rituals for Entering Shabbat/Kabbalistic Bakashot and Zemirot/Havdallah/Hasidic Practices/ Zohar/ Et Ratzon/Seudah Shlishit.

Tanya

Tanya is the foundational text of Chabad Hasidut.  It introduces a paradigm shift in positing that existence is animated by the spiritually lowest realms and reimages God, mitzvah, and purpose in this light.  The text sees every moment of our lives in terms of profound moral choice.  This course will provide a glimpse of this consciousness, the extent of which will depend on the student.
This course fulfills the content of Intensive Study of one Rebbe.

The Theology of Rav Kook

Rabbi Abraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook  (1865-1935) is considered by many to be one of the preeminent contemporary Jewish thinkers and mystics. In this course, we will explore the foundations of his wholistic and wide ranging teachings. We will study selections of his original writings and explore their relevance and implications for our lives today. We will use the theoretical structure that his premier student, Rabbi David Cohen, HaNazir, identified as the central principles of Rav Kook’s theology. Volume Bet of Orot HaKodesh-Lights of Holiness is arranged according to this schema and will be the primary text for our class. This course fulfills the content of Intensive Study of One Rebbe.

The White Spaces between the Black Letters: Lernen the Kedushat Levi

An in-depth exploration of the mystical teachings of one of the most beloved of all the hasidic masters, Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. Focus will be on refining Hebrew text-reading skills and gaining intimacy with this great rebbe. The key text is the 2 volume edition of the Kedushat Levi along with supplements from cognate works and from the Mayseh (Tale) literature. Themes include: Hasidic prayer, serving through Devotion (mesirut nefesh),  Between Yesh and Ayin, Tzimtzum and Tikkun, Love of the Other, and Entering the White Spaces. Text work will be supplemented by niggun and brief meditations.  This course fulfills the content of Intensive Study of one Rebbe.

Ve-yesh Sod La-Davar: Themes of Jewish Mystical Tradition (Readings in English)

This course is an engaged study of the development of Jewish mysticism, its symbolic universe, meditation practices, and social ramifications. While we will survey Jewish mystical traditions from the early Rabbinic period through the modern, the heart of the course is that many-branched (post)-medieval stream known as kabbalah.

Zohar

The purpose of this course is to enable students to learn to carefully read the Zohar and enter its symbolic universe. (Creativity and spiritual improvisation; the symbolization of the Shekhinah; the dialectic between Revealment and Concealment; Exile and Redemption are among the topics we will explore.) To this end, we will make use of the “original” neo-Aramaic text, as well as Hebrew translations and commentaries. We will also read selected secondary literature investigating the Zohar’s historical placement,, the riddle of its authorship (not only who composed it, but how was it “written” amid the so-called “circle of the Zohar”), its reception history, and popularization.

History of Hassidism

What conditions in Eastern Europe made it possible for Hassidism to emerge? Were there differences between the various rebbes and the emerging groups. What differences among the founders were there regarding study, prayer, meditation? What were the differences between the Hassidic movement and the Mitnagdim? These questions and more will be explored in this course. (Cross listed in both History and Kabbalah / Hassidut)

Ve-yesh Sod La-Davar: Themes of Jewish Mystical Tradition (Readings in English)

This course is an engaged study of the development of Jewish mysticism, its symbolic universe, meditation practices, and social ramifications. While we will survey Jewish mystical traditions from the early Rabbinic period through the modern, the heart of the course is that many-branched (post)-medieval stream known as kabbalah.

Hasidic Texts and Spiritual Practice

This course examines Hasidic approaches to the major ideas and pathways of Judaism.  We will explore the central themes in Hasidism through studying selected texts authored by great Hasidic masters from the 18th century to the present.  This journey will lead to an in-depth understanding of the unique Hasidic approaches to Jewish values and practices and an appreciation of Hasidism’s profound theological and psychological insights.

Introduction to Hasidut (readings in English)

This course examines Hasidic approaches to the major ideas and pathways of Judaism.  We will explore the central themes in Hasidism through studying selected texts authored by great Hasidic masters from the 18th century to the present.  This journey will lead to an in-depth understanding of the unique Hasidic approaches to Jewish values and practices and an appreciation of Hasidism’s profound theological and psychological insights.

Tanya

Tanya is the foundational text of Chabad Hasidut.  It introduces a paradigm shift in positing that existence is animated by the spiritually lowest realms and reimages God, mitzvah, and purpose in this light.  The text sees every moment of our lives in terms of profound moral choice.  This course will provide a glimpse of this consciousness, the extent of which will depend on the student.
This course fulfills the content of Intensive Study of one Rebbe.