Thought

Jewish Thought/Philosophy/Theology

Courses on Biblical, Rabbinic, Medieval, Modern and Contemporary Jewish theology and thought. In addition, our approach requires that we understand Judaism in the context of world religions. Thus, courses in what we call Deep Ecumenism with emphasis on the emergence of Christianity and its roots in Second Temple Judaism; the emergence of Islam and its relationship to Judaism; our connections with Eastern paths of practice and meditation, as well as earth-based traditions, are also crucial parts of the knowledge we expect our students to seek. We also hope that students will acquaint themselves with the New Cosmology by studying authors including Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Ken Wilbur, Rupert Sheldrake, Matthew Fox, Amit Goswami, Gary Zukav, and others.

Conversations with Jewish Thinkers: Resources for Jewish Renewal Thinking

This course will look at the foundational thinkers and their contribution to what has become renewal theology. We will look at Rosenzweig, Buber, Hartman, Heschel, Green.

Deep Ecumenism

The course begins with the questions raised by a close reading of Reb Zalman’s writings on “deep ecumenism.”  We study comparatively the spiritualities / mysticisms of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism utilizing insights from Ken Wilber's writings to help our comparisons.  Each student partakes in an ecumenical experience and reports to the class.

Foundations of Jewish Philosophy and Theology

Introduction to philosophical thinking in a Jewish idiom through selected writings by Philo, Saadia Gaon, Yehudah HaLevi, the RaMbaM, and Spinoza. Discussion of their work on its own terms, and its relevance to Jewish Renewal and spiritual development.

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.

Introduction to Jewish Renewal & Reb Zalman’s Thought

Crucial to a full understanding of Jewish Renewal is knowledge of the history and development of the movement, its structures, its leaders and their thought, including the principles and development of Paradigm Shift, Integral Halachah, and Davvenology.talmidim will be introduced to the rabbis and teachers who embraced Reb Zalman's thought and invitation to renew Judaism with their own unique gifts. 


Rabbinic Pastor talmidim may choose either this course or Transformative Themes in Reb Zalman's Writings to fulfill the requirement.

Introduction to Jewish Thought

Jewish Thought touches on universal themes of spirituality, ethics, psychology, and society – using a uniquely Jewish vocabulary drawn from Torah. Every historical era creatively uses Torah stories, metaphors, and teachings to advance our understanding. In this course we will become acquainted with these “faces of Torah” as they appear across Jewish history. We will sample classic texts from TaNaCh, Mishnah, Gemara, Midrash, Philosophy, Medieval Torah commentary, Kabbalah and Hasidut. When we learn the language and style of Jewish thought, we gain keys to vast resources of spiritual teaching.

Jewish Feminist Thought

The past, present and future of Jewish feminist thought since its birth in the 1960’s is examined.  We explore definitions of feminism and what makes it “Jewish,” theological issues that have emerged because of feminism, Jewish women, ritual, midrash and Torah, women and the synagogue, gender, sexuality (including queer theory and transgender issues) matters of age and women, Jewish women in positions of communal leadership (in the rabbinate and beyond) and Jewish women’s involvement in the challenges of social justice. We ask “where have all the feminists gone” as we explore the apparent waning of the “age of Jewish feminism” from the forefront of the Jewish communal scene and ask “where do we go from here” in relation to feminism.

Jewish Traditions of Sacred Time

This course will cover shalosh regalim and yamim noraim, paying attention to the ways that seasons give way to seasons and moods and foci shift through time. Course goals:

1. To understand the patterns and moods of the Jewish calendar as they express agricultural, mythic-historical, halakhic, and mystical points of view.

2. To become familiar with the particular practices and liturgies associated with each of the festivals and their seasons.

Losing God, Finding God: Jewish Responses to Suffering

Catastrophe, and Paradigm Shift”) Philosophical questions about God's role and pastoral questions about practical responses to suffering. Texts may include Job, Eicha, sections of Talmud tractate Berachot, medieval midrash, Piacetzner Rebbe, contemporary post-holocaust philosophers, selected prayers. Coursework includes creative group presentations.

Medieval Thought

Jewish philosophy and theology had its greatest flowering in the Medieval period. Philo, Saadia, Maimonides, Albo, Crescas and others laid down the issues, questions, and proposed theologies with which we are still wrestling. This course will explore the most influential writers and leaders of the Jewish middle ages, beginning with Philo and then focusing primarily on Saadia Gaon, Yehudah Halevi,  the RaMbaM and RaMbaN,  contrasting the rationalism of Saadia and RaMbaM with the more mystical approach of Halevi, the poet, and RaMbaN  the mystic.

Modern Jewish Thought

Modern Jewish thought began with Spinoza (The first secular Jew) to Nachman Krochmal (according to Reb Zalman the first Jewish Renewalist) to the mysticism of the early Martin Buber, and to Franz Rosenzweig—arguably the most influential Jewish Philosopher of the 20th century. We will examine the roots of our contemporary Jewish thought.

Theological Controversies

Jews rarely agree about much. Our theological history is one of contrarian views. Issues such as Redemption, Revelation, galut, nationalism, particularism and universalism, chosenness are a few examples of the controversies that will be studied.

Transformative Themes in Reb Zalman’s Writings

As we cannot imagine a Reconstructionist rabbi unfamiliar with the writings and thought of Mordechai Kaplan, a renewal rabbi should be intimate with Reb Zalman's writings and thought. One of the objectives of becoming a rabbi for the renewal of Judaism and the Jewish people is to be a paradigm shifter.  Studying the writings of Reb Zalman is to feel the shift happening and to know many of the ingredients of that new paradigm. This course will examine Reb Zalman’s writings in the following areas:  Renewing Judaism, Paradigm Shift, Psycho-Halachah (Integral Halachah), Teshuvah, Deep Ecumenism, Spiritual  Practices and the Nature of the Spiritual Life, Hasidic and Kabbalistic Sources of Reb Zalman’s thought, Models of Rebbetude, Spritual Direction, and Davvenology.

Rabbinic Pastor talmidim may choose either this course or Introductionto Jewish Renewal & Reb Zalman's Thought to fulfill the requirement.

Jewish Traditions of Sacred Time

This course will cover shalosh regalim and yamim noraim, paying attention to the ways that seasons give way to seasons and moods and foci shift through time. Course goals:

1. To understand the patterns and moods of the Jewish calendar as they express agricultural, mythic-historical, halakhic, and mystical points of view.

2. To become familiar with the particular practices and liturgies associated with each of the festivals and their seasons.

Introduction to Jewish Renewal & Reb Zalman’s Thought

Crucial to a full understanding of Jewish Renewal is knowledge of the history and development of the movement, its structures, its leaders and their thought, including the principles and development of Paradigm Shift, Integral Halachah, and Davvenology.talmidim will be introduced to the rabbis and teachers who embraced Reb Zalman's thought and invitation to renew Judaism with their own unique gifts. 


Rabbinic Pastor talmidim may choose either this course or Transformative Themes in Reb Zalman's Writings to fulfill the requirement.

Medieval Thought

Jewish philosophy and theology had its greatest flowering in the Medieval period. Philo, Saadia, Maimonides, Albo, Crescas and others laid down the issues, questions, and proposed theologies with which we are still wrestling. This course will explore the most influential writers and leaders of the Jewish middle ages, beginning with Philo and then focusing primarily on Saadia Gaon, Yehudah Halevi,  the RaMbaM and RaMbaN,  contrasting the rationalism of Saadia and RaMbaM with the more mystical approach of Halevi, the poet, and RaMbaN  the mystic.

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.