Rabbinics/Halacha

Rabbinic/Halachic Literature

Courses in Rabbinic Literature and the Halachic process, including Mishnah, Gemara, Codes (e.g., Mishnah Torah, Tur, and Shulchan Arukh), and responsa (particularly for thematic/case studies), and Aggadic Literature.

Cosmic Halachah: Halachah through Hasidic Eyes

Halachah is the behavioral expression of the experience of the divine. When a student wants to watch the teacher tie his or her shoelaces, it is to see the connection among the fine detail of practice, the revelation at Sinai, and the final redemption.  In this class, part of the sequence of courses in halachic method and sources, we will explore the mystical roots of halachic codes and their authors as well as specific topics such as halachah as a community-building tool, private and public prayer, and kashrut. This course will be mostly in English.

Disabilities and Personhood

This is a multi-disciplinary course, examining the way in which Jewish teaching has responded to the issues of Dis/Ability.  Our sessions together will examine diverse sources, including Torah sheh-bichtav and Torah she b’al peh; personal testimonies; readings in the emergent field of Disability Studies.  We will also explore in detail several case studies that place theoretical issues in the crucible of policy making decisions for the Jewish community at the macro and micro level. The Principal course text will be “Halakha and Handicap: Jewish Law and Ethics on Disability” by Rabbi Dr Tzvi Marx.

First Encounter with Talmud and Midrash

Focusing on Time and Prayer (זמנים, מועדים, תפלה) this course we will cover the basic works of rabbinic literature:  Mishnah, Tosefta, Halachic and Aggadic midrash collections, Yerushalmi and Bavli.  Students will learn how to listen to the different voices within rabbinic literature and uncover the structure that lies beneath each collection's form.

Hilchot Shaliach Tzibbur

Three terms that are used in our tradition to describing leaders of prayer: Shaliach Tzibbur, Baal Tefilah and Hazzan. This course focuses on the role and responsibilities of the Shaliach Tzibbur: Shaliach – from the Hebrew term for sending, or message. Tzibbur – from the Hebrew term for community. The Shaliach Tzibbur is the messenger of the community. The standards of a Shaliach Tzibbur are detailed in the legal codes of our tradition. The Shulchan Arukh (basing itself on a passage in the Talmud) states; The Shliach Tzibbur must be appropriate. What is appropriate? This person should be free of sin, about whom there must never have been ugly gossip spoken; humble and desired by the community; having a pleasant voice and able to regularly read from the Torah, Prophets and Writings. The Mishnah Berurah adds: [The Shaliach Tzibbur] should be first into the Synagogue and last out, never foolish or frivolous, and able to speak of the needs of the community. OH 53:5. Then the Shulchan Arukh (following the Talmud) goes on to say: And if you can’t find one who has all these qualities, choose the best of the community in matters of wisdom and good deeds. We will work with traditional codes and contemporary materials in exploring the requirements for leadership of prayer.

Introduction to Codes

Close readings in the literature of the halachah — texts selected to assist students in developing familiarity with this literature and to attempt a close halachic analysis of issues important to contemporary Jewish life.  Themes will include: (1) obligation to have children, (2) kavvanah in prayer, and (3) relationship with non-Jewish community. Other topic(s) will be selected by the class in consultation with the instructor.  There will be some discussion of issues raised by contemporary scholars/philosophers of halacha, including Elliot Dorff, Eugene Borowitz, Joel Roth, Gordon Tucker and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Prerequisite: One semester of study of Rabbinic literature from primary sources.

Mikraot G’dolot

Students will learn to listen to the different styles and voices within Biblical/Rabbinical/Hassidic/Zoharic interpretation through the lens of the hermeneutics of PaRDeS, encompassing the full range of understanding, from the contextual to the hidden.  Focus is on use of Mikraot G'dolot as a rabbinic tool: reading, translating and analyzing scripture and the commentaries. In addition to building an understanding of the arguments of the classical commentators, students will develop their own "inner commentator."  Biblical Hebrew I and II (or equivalent) is required along with some ability to read without vowels.

Mishnah (Rabbinic Text Shiur)

Mishnah is the textual embodiment of Malchut, and helps us bring God’s sovereignty into every detail of our lives. This class will use readings in the Mishnah to introduce students to the language and style of rabbinic literature. We will look at selections concerning prayer, responsibility, and other facets of human life, seeking to understand how the Mishnah brings the abstract principles of the Torah into everyday life, and thinking about how we can bring its teachings into our own lives. This class will also introduce students to the different types of early rabbinic literature and their relationships, to help students understand how early rabbis thought, and why they thought the way they did.

Rabbinic Text (shiur)

A seminar setting for the close reading and development of understandings in various rabbinic texts.
 

Reading Post Rabbinic Texts

(Former title: Breaking the Sefer Barrier) The course will consist mostly of reading rabbinic text in preparation and in class, translating words, expanding abbreviations, and understanding the references (as well as the content). As a final assignment each student will be assigned a text to point and translate. This course can be taken as many times as necessary in order to fulfill the Hebrew reading and comprehension requirement.

Second Encounter with Talmud and Midrash

This class follows First Encounter with Talmud and Midrash, continuing to explore important sugyot that every rabbi should know (e.g., the three things one must die for, Moses and Rabbi Akiba) and their contexts. Concentrating mostly on Bavli, parallels in Tosefta, Yerushalmi and midrash collections will also be explored.  Class focuses on ability to translate the text from Hebrew/Aramaic and understand it in literary and historical terms.

Talmud through Hasidic Eyes

In this class we read different sections of Talmud and Hassidic texts related to those texts.talmidim write a paper using an additional Talmudic text not covered in class from a selection provided by the instructor, in which each student offers a neo-Hassidic drash on that text.

The Halachic Process / Theory of Integral Halachah

This course provides an opportunity for rabbinic students in their first two years of study to explore and develop their relationship with the halachic process, and to find their places within the expanded parameters created by the addition of Integral Halachah. Through this course, we will look at the halachic process from a spiritual perspective, renewing its potential as a guide for ethical decision-making  while taking an honest and compassionate look at how this process narrowed over the past two centuries. We will do this by exploring selected issues (e.g. kitniyot on Pesach, the melachot of Shabbat; kashrut and eco-kashrut), looking at the limits of traditional halachic discourse, adding the perspective of Integral Halachah and formulating Integral approaches to those issues. This course is required of Rabbinical Students within the first two years of being in the program and follows reaching competence in the Reading Post-Talmudic Rabbinic Texts (aka Breaking the Sefer Barrier) and can either precede or follow First Encounter with Talmud and Midrash.

Third Encounter with Talmud and Midrash

The Goal is to build on the core competencies of the First and Second classes while introducing a meta level of understanding Rabbinic texts. Philosophically and theologically we engage in deep primary text study, including texts influential to Reb Zalman; providing a framework for students to engage with the wisdom of our Sages as they explore topics that inform our work as rabbis and as leaders in Jewish Renewal. Sugyot from tractates Sanhedrin, Hagigah, Eruvin, and Gittin are windows to explore topics such as Paradigm Shift, rabbinic leadership, revelation, gender, mysticism, and the study of Talmud itself. Critically,  students are acquainted with contemporary academic approaches to the study of Talmud, with the objective of  understanding the historic developments of this literature, as well as the tools and methodologies available for scholarship.

Talmud through Hasidic Eyes

In this class we read different sections of Talmud and Hassidic texts related to those texts.talmidim write a paper using an additional Talmudic text not covered in class from a selection provided by the instructor, in which each student offers a neo-Hassidic drash on that text.

Cosmic Halachah: Halachah through Hasidic Eyes

Halachah is the behavioral expression of the experience of the divine. When a student wants to watch the teacher tie his or her shoelaces, it is to see the connection among the fine detail of practice, the revelation at Sinai, and the final redemption.  In this class, part of the sequence of courses in halachic method and sources, we will explore the mystical roots of halachic codes and their authors as well as specific topics such as halachah as a community-building tool, private and public prayer, and kashrut. This course will be mostly in English.

Second Encounter with Talmud and Midrash

This class follows First Encounter with Talmud and Midrash, continuing to explore important sugyot that every rabbi should know (e.g., the three things one must die for, Moses and Rabbi Akiba) and their contexts. Concentrating mostly on Bavli, parallels in Tosefta, Yerushalmi and midrash collections will also be explored.  Class focuses on ability to translate the text from Hebrew/Aramaic and understand it in literary and historical terms.