In the first part of this course we will introduce students to the basic periods, genres, nomenclature and personalities of Rabbinic Literature. In the second part we will take up an intensive reading of Mishnah in order to appreciate the Paradigm shift thinking which the Sages used to create this first document of Rabbinic Literature. This will also be essential training in reading rabbinic literature in the original Hebrew. By the end of this course students must demonstrate a reasonable level of competence in reading Mishnaic Hebrew. Prerequisite: Foundations of Jewish Practice
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.
1st Encounter with Talmud: Intro to Rabbinic Literature and Reading Mishnah for Meaning
2nd Encounter: Skills in Reading Talmud
This course will give students an opportunity to improve their skills in reading Talmudic texts in the original Aramaic and Hebrew. It will include study of some of the most essential sugyot of the Talmud and integrate a Renewal, feminist and crititcal perspective into the reading of these texts. By the end of this course students will need to be able to read rabbinic literature at a reasonable level. This course will serve as the main “breaking the sefer barrier” course. As such students may need extra work with tutors or they may need to take additional course work in rabbinic literature in order to pass this course with the requisite level of competency.
3rd 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.
Codes, Responsa and Halachic Literature
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.
Foundations of Jewish Practice
In this course, we will survey the Jewish traditional practices pertaining significant aspects of Jewish life, including Shabbat, Kashrut, and practices concerning the body. The course will be organized according to eight different dichotomies intrinsic to the system of applied halachah (Jewish Law and Custom). As we explore such categories as the permitted and the forbidden; the pure and the impure (tahor/tamei); liability and exemption; we will simultaneously frame and examine specific practices pertaining to Shabbat, kashrut, sex, mikveh, tallit and tefillin. A major goal of this course is to introduce a Renewal perspective on rabbinic concepts, thus giving students the building blocks to continue learning and using Rabbinic Literature as an integral part of there Jewish outlook and practice.
Halachic Process / Theory of Integral Halachah
This course provides an opportunity for rabbinic students 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 requires competence in reading rabbinic texts.
Mishnah Shiur (Advanced)
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.