Ordination Program Courses

Students in the ALEPH Ordination Programs are expected to take three kinds of courses:

Courses whose content is required and which must be taken within our program;
 
Courses whose content is required and may be taken either within our program or elsewhere, with the prior approval of the Director of Studies and typically also with the approval of the ALEPH faculty member who is most expert in that subject area; and
 
Electives are courses that students take for credit on subjects that we believe to be crucial for Ovdei haShem, selected by the student in conjunction with his or her Director of Studies. Elective courses include graduate-level courses offered during the ALEPH Ordination Program’s Intensive Learning Week, also called “smicha student week,” at the ALEPH Kallah, and at the ALEPH Ruach HaAretz Retreat. Electives may also be taken elsewhere with the approval of the Director of Studies.

Each of the ALEPH Ordinations Programs require a specific minimum of units of study spanning an array of subjects and disciplines. Below you will find a listing of all of the courses by subject area that are offered by ALEPH, along with an indication for which program the course may be required.

History

Study of Biblical, Rabbinic, Medieval, Modern and Contemporary historical periods.

Biblical History and Civilization Part 1

This is Part 1 of an intensive year long survey of the major movements, themes and developments  in the evolution of Israelite/Jewish civilization from the birth of Israelite religion and people to the end of the biblical period. The course covers the essential elements of biblical history, law, religion, culture and thought. Students will become familiar with the major methodologies and disciplines of biblical studies and will encounter the approaches of some of the most prominent scholars in the field of biblical studies. While the course will focus mostly on the scholarly and religious perspectives concerning biblical history, text and culture, there will also be opportunities to assess what we learn together from a spiritual perspective. We will also always consider how students can teach biblical history in ways that will make it meaningful and relevant to today’s Jews. Students need not have yet passed the “Sefer Barrier” course to take this course, though a working reading proficiency of the biblical text is expected.  The description for Part 2 is listed under the TaNaCh course listings.

Biblical History and Civilization Part 2

This is the second part of an intensive two-semester survey of the major movements, themes and developments in the evolution of Israelite/Jewish civilization from the birth of Israelite religion and people to the end of the biblical period. Topics to be explored are: the nature of Israelite prophecy, the history of the Northern Kingdom especially in relation to its prophets (Eliyahu, Elisha, Amos, Hosheya, the history of the Southern Kingdom, especially in relation to its prophets, (Yishayahu (“First” Isaiah), Mikha, Yermiyahu) Sefer D’varim, the First Exile and “Second” Isaiah, Shivat Tziyon, Ezra and Nechemiah, Women and Gender in Ancient Israel, Wisdom Literature (Kohelet and Mishlei), Wisdom and Theodicy (Sefer Iyov), Tehillim, Megillat Rut and Megillat Esther.  The course description for Part 1 may be found under History Courses.

Emergence of Jewish Historical Consciousness

History is an integral part of conscious experience that binds our present moments of awareness into a coherent pattern that provides a sense of personal and collective continuity that depends upon having an historically bound steam of consciousness. Paradoxically, the Jews came to examine their own history in the 19th century. That was when we came to realize that events and transformational change could be understood only by examining our past in order to appreciate the evolution of ideas, institutions and the changes in the condition of the Jewish people.

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)

Jewish Emancipation Period

This course will focus on the external forces (political, cultural, and philosophic) that we know as “the Enlightenment” and the various responses that emerged from the forces of modernity. 

Jewish Life in The Middle Ages: In the Worlds Of the Cross and the Crescent

For a thousand years in Diaspora, from about 500 C.E, Jews lived under the domination of the Cross and the Crescent. The focus of this course is the social, religious, economic, political and cultural conditions of life for Jews under Muslim and Christian rule and how they navigated a world that challenged them both internally and externally. Among the topics to be studied are:

  • Jewish Life under the Muslim caliphate and life in the Genizah world
  • The medieval Christian Church and the Jews (theological tensions, inter-religious polemic, disputation and dialogue as well as ecclesiastical measures focused on Jews)
  • The impact of the Crusades on the Jews of the Rhine district of Germany
  • The development of internal Jewish communal and intellectual life in medieval Europe
  • Jewish life in medieval Islamic Spain (living as a ‘dhimmi’ or ‘protected’ people; the deep cultural interchange between Muslims and Jews, and the ‘golden age’ of medieval Jewry under Muslim rule)
  • Myths and stereotypes of medieval Jewish women and family life

Jewish Messianism

Judaism expresses it ongoing desire and hope for transformation through messianism. The forms that messianism has taken have changed and are changing along with our evolving reality-maps. The term that what was once used for the anointment of Cyrus and later  the return of the Davidic messiah has now in stages  morphed to Reb Zalman’s  description of  “moshiach as a transformative principle.”  Reb Zalman teaches that messianism is for Jews our teleology. Messianism expresses the values that draw us into the future at any given time. We also will be mindful of Gershom Scholem’s warning that there is “a deep, dangerous and destructive dialectic in the messianic idea...we have generally chosen to ignore the fact that the Jewish people have paid a very high price for the messianic idea.”

Second Temple / Rabbinic Judaism

The Temple and its centrality for spiritual/religious expression was the first paradigm of our people. When the Temple was destroyed there emerged the 2nd paradigm for our people that still heavily influences Judaism to this day. This course will examine how Talmudic/Rabbinic Judaism succeeded. We will examine the major people and what constituted this paradigm. The general content of the paradigm will be examined.

Survey of Jewish History

For contemporary Jews, a conception of their past is vital to their self-definition. Identity is rooted in some view of the past which sustains them and serves as their basis for contemporary life. The great diversity of Jewish experience has enabled modern Jews to choose particular strands as paradigmatic of their own form of Judaism or Jewishness. This course will look at Jewish history through the prism of distinctive cultures of Judaism: Biblical, Talmudic, poetic-philosophic, Mystical-Hasidic, Rabbinic, Emancipation, National-Israel culture. We will also look at the three great tensions in Jewish history: Between nationalism and universalism, Between the Jewish individual and the collectivity, land, language, and vision of the future.

Varieties of Zionism

Many people are unaware that there are many varieties of Zionist ideology and approach. This course will explore the birth of modern-day Zionism from Theodor Herzl’s Der Judenstaat to Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionism, to Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook’s Religion, Mystical Zionist to Be’er Borochov’s Socialist Zionism to Ahad Ha’Am’s Spiritual/Cultural Zionism to Leon Pinsker’s Labor Zionism to Max Nordau’s ‘Muscle Zionism,’ and much, much more. Together we will explore voices that considered the so-called ‘Arab question,’ — those that sought to find just pathways to a Jewish homeland, and addressing the realities that an Arab population lived in the land called Palestine by the British Mandate, and those Zionists who ignored the problem entirely. We will also consider how ancient and new Messianism played into the Zionist drama. Though the geopolitical unfolding of events in the Middle East from the late 19th century until the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 will serve as a backdrop to our deliberations, this course will focus on the foundational ideologies of  earlier Zionist thinkers (until about the 1930's and 40's)  and these thinkers' articulation of their ideas.

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.

Kli Kodesh

Kli Kodesh as Eved Hashem

Study and experience that includes: Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction; one unit of CPE or approved equivalent; lifecycle ceremony facilitation; educational pedagogy; curriculum development; DLTI & Davvenology, including mastery of basic musical nusach ha-t’fillah, Torah and haftarah leynen, and megillot; congregational dynamics and working with boards; community organizing; interfaith relations and more.

American Jewish Organizational Infrastructure

The Contemporary Jewish World is full of vital centers, offering energy and wisdom, strength and security to our people.  There are also vestigial entities, surviving to give a role and importance to self appointed Board members.  There are "corridors of power" and channels of funding and influence.  This course will support future leaders of the Jewish People to develop an understanding of the complex political structures of the Jewish People, and the most effective ways to negotiate these structures.  Careful analysis of contemporary history of Jewish institutions, examinations of current platforms and agendas, and exploration of the past, current and future role of ALEPH will be included. Most of all, there will be scope to see where the simple insights and power of the Divine break through even the most obfuscating structure:  The evolving role of the Prophetic imperative in contemporary times.

Congregational Dynamics and Growing Sacred Communities

This class will explore historic and current approaches to effective leadership and core elements in building sacred and healthy Jewish community, from a Jewish and spiritual values-centered approach. Topics will include in-reach and outreach, leadership and governance from systems perspective, human and financial resources. We will combine text and best practice study, small and large sharing of challenges and successes, creative and interactive exercises, as we deepen our understanding of the sacred bonds of congregational life, the challenges to it in our day and how we as spiritual leaders can become more effective agents for healthy change growth in the major areas of communal life.

Death and Dying

This course explores the many facets of death and dying from a Jewish and pastoral perspective.  We will look at the rituals that take place before and directly after death, including vidui, living wills, ethical wills, DNR’s, and briefly look at funerals, shiva and unveilings. The course explores the diverse beliefs Jews hold, or have held, concerning the the soul and its experience of the afterlife along with contemporary issues such as organ donation,  extending life versus prolonging death, death-related ethical issues and current practices and trends in the care and treatment of the terminally ill. A primary goal of this course is understanding how to use the course material in support of the families and loved ones of the dying person.

Forms of Personal Prayer and Spiritual Guidance: Intensive II

Objectives for the talmidim are to enlarge the scope of how guidance is felt; to understand that experiences of angels, ancestors and spirit guides may be real for people; and to increase a sense of comfort with modes of intercessory prayer.

Required papers include a pre-intensive reflection on personal prayer experiences from childhood on, as well as experiences with Guidance, and a post-intensive reflection on experiences with Guidance during the classes, and new approaches to personal prayer.

Admission to the Hashpa'ah program is required for this course.

Issues in Hashpa’ah

Hashpa’ah is the art and practice of mentoring people as they seek to grow closer to the Divine in a Jewish context.  Spiritual Direction centers around relationship to God, regardless of religious setting. Topics will include Spiritual Development and Typologies, Kaballistic Perspectives, Stages of the Journey, Sacred Narratives, Moral Development, Spiritual Practices, and Issues in conducting a session. Assignments will consist of two short personal reflection papers, a class report on related reading, and monthly middot work with a spiritual hevruta. It is assumed that participants will engage in a daily meditation and prayer practice.

Admission to the Hashpa'ah program is required for this course.

Issues of Sage-ing in Hashpa'ah

This course focuses on relating in wise ways by exploring the quality of relationships and the vitality of the social web. Presentations are intertwined with journal writing exercises, text study, interactive and individual meditations, and group sharing. While learning transformative “Sage-ing Tools” based in Jewish practices, we will also draw on the wisdom of other traditions, psychotherapy and current integral teachers. We view this as a deeply ecumenical process and invite all participants to connect their aging to their spiritual life.  This course is not the required course for the Hashpa'ah program.

Issues of Sage-ing in Hashpa'ah (cohort)

We will be guided by our deep, interactive study of Reb Zalman's groundbreaking work: From Age-ing to Sage-ing and our own experiences and personal insights generated through the application of his exercises, to discover how we might direct our own mushpa'im/'ot on the Sage-ing path.

Admission to the Hashpa'ah program is required for this course.

Jewish Bioethics and the Role of Jewish Clergy

This class will prepare talmidim to undertake the main roles and responsibilities of a Jewish clergy person in a wide-range of settings where Jewish bioethical questions arise. The history and fundamental principles, decision-making and counseling processes involved will be taught, often through application to realistic case situations brought by students and instructors. Primary Jewish sources will be studied, as well as contemporary responses from across the full spectrum of Judaism. Learning modalities will include reading in assigned books, articles and teshuvot, podcasts, weekly hevruta, and role playing. Topics will include issues relating to the beginnings and endings of life, abortion and contraception, organ donation/transplantation, stem cell research, gender and sexuality, addiction and mental health issues, and more. 

Jewish Pastoral Counseling Parts 1 and 2

Two semesters; a primary aspect of clergy effectiveness is how one enters into and maintains healthy and holy professional relationships with those who come to us as students, congregants, clients, board members and employees. This introductory course provides a Jewish G-d–connected lens and approach to learning and applying such fundamentals as professional conscious use of self, boundaries, pastoral counseling models and methods, common situations facing individuals who approach clergy for counseling (depression, conflict resolution, addictions, eating disorders, disfigurement, rape, unemployment, divorce and remarriage, difficulties with teens, suicide and crisis intervention, etc.), role limitations, and referrals.

Life Cycle Ritual Practicum Parts 1 & 2

Pre-requisite: Liturgy of the Lifecycle. In this ten full-day (two full weeks) summer residential training course wedding/commitment ceremonies, funerals, and baby-naming ceremonies, are created and enacted. Other life-cycle events are touched upon integrating traditional forms and liturgies with new approaches.  Participants share experiences and resources, give and receive feedback, and are lovingly yet challengingly coached. This intensive master class uses hands-on practice of skills for using Jewish ritual tools. Practical skills, traditional structures, contemporary adaptations and mystical underpinnings of Jewish ritual tools and skills are explored in a laboratory setting.

(Liturgy of the Life Cycle and Life Cycle Ritual Praticum Parts 1 & 2 are listed in Kli Kodesh and Liturgy. These courses must be taken in sequence.)

Music of the Jewish Liturgical Year

Basic nusach and melodies for non-cantorial students. Jewish liturgical music is based on sets of musical modes with melodic motifs for different types of prayer. It is calendar-linked to event and time of day. Folk melodies, niggunim, compostions for cantor and choir, and contemporary liturgical songs have supplemented or supplanted traditional nusach as synagogue life has changed. This course covers the basics of nusach, melodies and niggunim, with the goal of competence in leading services that are traditionally grounded and melodically accessible. It is intended for both music readers and non-readers. Participants should be able to download mp3 files and have a working knowledge of the siddur and machzor. (Cross listed in Kli Kodesh and Liturgy/Hazzanut).

Personal Theology and Interfaith Issues in Hashpa’ah

This intensive aims to help talmidim explore areas of knowing and doubt about how the Divine works in their lives and to articulate their current personal theologies, to be aware of issues others have, and be able to support them as a mashpia/ spiritual director. A secondary goal is for talmidim to be become sensitive to issues that seekers may have who come from other spiritual traditions, and to expand their skill sets with tools from other forms of spiritual guidance.

Rituals for Guidance; Group Spiritual Direction

This intensive focuses on the various types of rituals that may be brought into Hashpa’ah sessions, as well as those that might be assigned. Talmidim will have experience co-creating a closing ritual. Techniques of Group Spiritual Direction will be introduced, including Peer Group and Facilitated Group. The afternoon sessions will be devoted totalmidim leading their own groups under supervision as well as working one-on-one with a mushpa.

Sacred Text and Hashpa’ah

We will be studying parashiot selected for the general themes of spiritual development they represent. Our focus will be: to read and understand the narrative in both Hebrew and English; to meditate upon the readings to discern what personal spiritual message(s) and sense of God’s presence in our lives the text raises; to learn how to incorporate personal spiritual experience into a dvar Torah, and involve participants in discussion. talmidim should study an aliyah of each parshah daily for each of the 13 weeks of the class, so that the entire Torah reading becomes a personal guide to the talmidim' inner lives and spiritual concerns.  The guiding question is, "How is God speaking to you through Torah (or how do you discern God’s presence in your life through the parshah), what is the message, and how can you incorporate this into your personal and professional life? After the sharing of the dvar Torah and reflections of the presenter, they will facilitate the rest of the group in a hashpa'ah format (to be discussed the first week) to share what arises for them in response.

Stories for Healing and Teaching

This class will explore when and how to use stories in teaching, in homiletics and in counseling/chaplaincy settings: When is it appropriate to use a personal story?  How to use a hasidic story, and draw out its message? When is it appropriate to change a story?  Can you invent a story? We will also look at the margins of our groups, and discuss the use of stories in working with people who are gay or lesbian, those who have mental illness, those who have experienced racism, bigotry and abuse, and those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. Each student is required to present six stories including a personal story and ones that address the subjects above. The use of song and poetry to augment the message of a story is also explored.

Styles of Hashpa’ah: Intensive I

An introduction to various styles of Hashpa’ah by observing and learning from the core faculty. In addition, spiritual practices through a Hashpa’ah lens will be experienced, including morning, afternoon and evening prayer services.  Talmidim will have their first experience of serving as a mashpia/spiritual director, under supervision.  A reflection paper on personal experiences as a mushpa/at/ directee is required before the intensive, and a reflection paper on the various sessions is due after the intensive.

Liturgy/Hazzanut

Courses in the historical development and theology of liturgy; the structure of the siddur; exposure to the multiple versions of prayers in different Jewish communities; the “style of Renewal davvenen’.

A Walk Through the Siddur

Entry into the ALEPH Rabbinic Program and completion of the Rabbinic Pastor and Cantorial programs require a basic understanding of our liturgy and its central concepts and terms. In this course, we will explore basic terms such as matbe'a ha-t'fillah, chiyyuv, sh'ma u-virchote'ha, and heiche k'dushah. We will look at what makes a shacharit service whole and how weekday, Shabbat, and holiday services are similar to and different from each other.

Comparative Liturgical Traditions

Most of us grow up with the sense that there exists “the siddur” – a fixed and universal liturgy. While most of our liturgy is indeed held in common, at least with regard to the sequence and content of prayers, there are also significant difference among siddurim from various time periods and communities. Becoming aware of these differences can open our minds to new possibilities, manifest theological nuances, and provide opportunities to opt for alternative liturgical choices in ways that are authentically traditional.  This class explores these differences under several categories, including theology, the “curious,” and the contemporary. We will also variations in synagogue practices and etiquette (such as standing and sitting, bowing and stepping).

Entering Deeply into the Shema: Teachings and Practices

The Shema: Often the first prayer we learn as a child, and the last offered on our deathbed, it is both mantra and consciousness raiser. Uttered not so much to God as to ourselves, it is a reminder that beneath all the variation, all the distinctions and separations, there is a deeper Unity that binds. In this course, we will explore key readings and practices of the Shema: moving from rabbinic and philosophical notions to (especially) the mystical. All key teachings will be provided in the Hebrew or Aramaic original; English translations will also be available.

Haftarot

Study of the traditional Haftarot of the liturgical year.Analysis of the connection of those texts with their parshiyot and festivals, with an eye to the creation of kavannot and divrei Torah. Attention to the selection / creation of alternative Haftarot from other sources, and the challenges of setting English versions to Haftara trop. (cross listed with Liturgy)

Hallel

Goal: to understand the poetic structure of the Psalms of Hallel, and the predominant themes of this sequence of Psalms of praise. The class will discuss various interpretations of these themes, looking at the text through the lens of PaRDeS: P'shat, Remez, D'rash, and Sod. We will work with the ancient custom of zogn tehilim, working with diverse customs of psalmody, and re-new it as a spiritual path to open the gates into the deep joy of praise. Study sources include Talmud references, Rambam Torah Sefer Z'manim, Rashi and others.

Hazzanut

Two-year core curriculum in the classical Ashkenazi-Lithuanian tradition including a semest in each of:  Shabbat Nusach, Rosh Ha'Shanna, Yom Kippur, Shlosh Regalim. The entire liturgical year is covered, including life cycle. The pedagogy is focused on mastery of Nusach as an improvisational medium. Study sources:  an extensive collection of sheet music developed by Hazzan Kessler, based on the work of earlier authorities, particularly Max Wohlberg. Printed music includes sections of scalar and motivic analysis along with samples, e.g. multiple settings of texts. Classes include coaching of talmidim as they  develop their own style and improvisational skills.

Hazzanut Masterclass

Yearly course as part of the Study Intensive Week attended by all ALEPH Ordination Programstudents and faculty. Study sources: music by Cantorial composers, e.g. Leib Glantz, Moshe Koussevitsky, Adolph Katchko, etc, plus audio tracks of the great Hazzanim. The class includes analysis and performance in masterclass format, including work on stylistic aspects, vocal issues, and emotional communication.

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.

Jewish Music History

(Two-semester course).  This course addresses a wide range of topics under this heading, including known scholarship on early Jewish music, the cultural contexts in which the multiplicity of Jewish communities developed their musical traditions, and Jewish music in modernity. Some lecture titles (by way of example) are: The Music of the Temple; Early Jewish Music and its Influence on Early Christian Chant; Cultural and Denominational Diversity in Jewish Liturgical Music; The Basic Elements of Ashkenazi Modality; Environmental Influences upon Cantorial Music; European-Jewish Psalm Settings; Learning to Chant the Bible in the Bukharan-Jewish Tradition; Sulzer's Musical Style in the Context of 19th-century German Romanticism; A Hundred-and-fifty Years of Jewish Art Music: from the French Revolution to the outbreak of World War II.

Life Cycle Ritual Practicum Parts 1 & 2

Pre-requisite: Liturgy of the Lifecycle. In this ten full-day (two full weeks) summer residential training course wedding/commitment ceremonies, funerals, and baby-naming ceremonies, are created and enacted. Other life-cycle events are touched upon integrating traditional forms and liturgies with new approaches.  Participants share experiences and resources, give and receive feedback, and are lovingly yet challengingly coached. This intensive master class uses hands-on practice of skills for using Jewish ritual tools. Practical skills, traditional structures, contemporary adaptations and mystical underpinnings of Jewish ritual tools and skills are explored in a laboratory setting.

(Liturgy of the Life Cycle and Life Cycle Ritual Praticum Parts 1 & 2 are listed in Kli Kodesh and Liturgy. These courses must be taken in sequence.)

Liturgy of the Lifecycle

A class to introduce and complement the Life Cycle Ritual Practicum.  This sequence explores the rituals and customs of the Jewish lifecycle. Students will develop understanding of the history minhagim and halachah associated with each event in the cycle of life - and explore the circumstances and context that has led to the development of new rituals and ceremonies at various stages in Jewish history. Even as we recognize that the contemporary era is a time of great fluidity and paradigm shift, the course will emphasize knowledge and fluency with the traditional sources as the basis for exploration and development of new or innovative approaches. This class will look at halachot and customs associated with traditional and modern life cycle events, and at both classical and modern liturgical texts associated with these events, covering birth, maturation, marriage, and death.  There will also be consideration of conversion, divorce and newly identified life-transitions such as retirement, leaving home, menopause, entering military service. (Cross listed in Kli Kodesh and in Liturgy)

Liturgy: Festivals

This course offers a rigorous historical and textual survey of the liturgy of the Shelosh Regalim, Yamim Nora’im, Minor and Contemporary Festive and Mournful Days (including Yom HaAtzma’ut, Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikkaron, Tu B’Shvat, Purim, Hannukah).  The critical texts of each day will be examined for historical context, and also for spiritual significance and ritual agenda.  We will consider the dynamics and structure of these unique gatherings of the Jewish People, and the various strategies that have been employed by denominational streams and Jewish Renewal to construct and reconstruct meaning in the layered rubrics that have been passed down to us. The course will pay close attention to the text, but aim “beyond the text” to empower future rabbis and cantors to lead the Jewish People with learning, insight and courage.

 

Liturgy: Shabbat v’Chol

This class offers a literary, historical and religious approach to the daily and Shabbat liturgy. We will look at current scholarship concerning the development of the matbe’a ha-tefillah and the institutions and structures of Jewish liturgy. We will also study the texts closely, looking especially at the implications of quotation or reference to Biblical/Rabbinic sources. The piyyutim of Shabbat and the Daily service will be studied closely – and there will examination of the history and current customs of Keri’at HaTorah.

Liturgy: Yamim Nora’im

This course offers a rigorous historical and textual survey of the liturgy of the Yamim Nora’im.  The critical texts of The High Holidays will be examined for historical context, and also for spiritual significance and ritual agenda. We will consider the dynamics and structure of these unique gatherings of the Jewish People, and the various strategies that have been employed by denominational streams and Jewish Renewal to construct and reconstruct meaning in the layered rubrics that have been passed down to us. The course will pay close attention to the text, but aim “beyond the text” to empower future rabbis and cantors to lead the Jewish People with learning, insight and courage

Middle Eastern Maqam

Exposure to the classical modal tradition of the Middle East, in which most Jewish music is grounded. A number of basic modes will be studied, with access to online resources. As part of the work,talmidim will be expected to demonstrate their knowledge by composing their own melodies in these modes. 

Modal Harmony

This is a 1/2-semester course (6 full sessions). The material covered will be basic harmonization of modal melodies in terms of chord choices, modulations, and  harmonic rhythm/speed, with a concentration on harmonizing melodies in the classical liturgical modes (e.g, freygish) using litiurgical material and niggunim. Competence in this skill set will be recognized as part of completion of the music theory requirement.

Music of the Jewish Liturgical Year

Basic nusach and melodies for non-cantorial students. Jewish liturgical music is based on sets of musical modes with melodic motifs for different types of prayer. It is calendar-linked to event and time of day. Folk melodies, niggunim, compostions for cantor and choir, and contemporary liturgical songs have supplemented or supplanted traditional nusach as synagogue life has changed. This course covers the basics of nusach, melodies and niggunim, with the goal of competence in leading services that are traditionally grounded and melodically accessible. It is intended for both music readers and non-readers. Participants should be able to download mp3 files and have a working knowledge of the siddur and machzor. (Cross listed in Kli Kodesh and Liturgy/Hazzanut).

Mystical Piyyut as a Gateway to Deep Practice

Chanted at the festive table, in Shabbat and High Holiday prayers, at dawn vigils or in hitbodedut,  Piyyutim, the alliterative prayer-poems of Jewish tradition, are are at once a literary and an embodied art. Some piyyutim express longings for the Beloved (Yedid Nefesh), the mystical joy of Shabbat (Yah Ekhsof), the music of the heavenly spheres (El Adon), while others are stately and mysterious (Adon Olam), trance-formative (L’Chei Olamim), or trace a quiet blossoming into devekut (El Mistater). In this course, we will focus on a selection of mystical piyyutim, especially those that have entered into the liturgy and zemirot. We will decode their deep meanings, their performance context and kavvanot, and will learn chants (spanning the Jewish world) that enliven and transform the semantic meaning. Students in the course will have access to a website that will provide historical and literary analyses, sound clips, and visual dimensions of these prayers.

Niggun

The Chassidic realm of Niggun (wordless melody) is a vast, deep tradition of pure melody as a vehicle for spiritual ascent. This course explores the classic niggunim of the major dynasties. The goal of the class is to become a baal niggun: someone who can teach and transmit the essence of the process in contemporary settings.

Non-Ashkenazi Jewish Music: Sephardi and Italian Music; Moroccan; Iraqi; Yemenite

These courses are exposure to the musical styles of communities whose traditions are not part of the American mainstream. They are taught by teachers native to those traditions, and include a range of styles: nusach, piyyut singing, and folk melodies. The courses may be of less than one semester duration. 

Pedagogy: Teaching Tefillah

This seminar establishes a methodological approach to the teaching of the Siddur and the Mahzor. Theological issues arising from these prayer books will be discussed. Affective approaches that complement cognitive and skill learning will be explored. Observation and micro-teaching are required.

Tehillim

Study of Tehillim from the daily and weekly liturgy. Attention will be paid to the poetic structure, linguistic aspects of Psalms, theological and spiritual messages of the Psalms, and the relationships between the Psalms studied and other passages of Biblical narrative and poetry.

Zemirot

This six session (1/2 semester) seminar will explore the background and overall message of some of the Piyyutim known as Zemirot. These table songs have enriched the Shabbat experience of Jews throughout the world and continue to be the basis for musical creativity today. We will engage in literary and rhetorical analysis of the texts including attention to the value-concepts which are explicitly mentioned or embedded in them. Sessions will be conducted with the assumption that assigned readings have been completed in advance.

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 encounters with Talmud, adding the layer of academic and critical approaches to the study of Talmud.  Students will gain competence in: understanding academic scholarship, identifying classic literature, researching aggadic tradition, and recognizing rabbinic roots of concepts central to Jewish Renewal.  The course consists of two elements: one a survey and the other text study.

TaNaCH

Courses in the pshat of the text viewed through the lens of contemporary Biblical criticism as well as courses exploring classical commentaries on TaNaCH including Rashi and other medieval m’forshim; midrash; hassidic commentaries; contemporary and feminist commentaries.

Biblical Hebrew I and II

Areas covered:  nouns, study recognition and translation of the seven binyanim and weak (irregular verbs) verbs and other topics. The course employs texts from Genesis, parashiot ha-shavuah, and siddur. The goals of these courses are a solid grounding in translation and interpretation of classical Hebrew texts.

Biblical History and Civilization Part 2

This is the second part of an intensive two-semester survey of the major movements, themes and developments in the evolution of Israelite/Jewish civilization from the birth of Israelite religion and people to the end of the biblical period. Topics to be explored are: the nature of Israelite prophecy, the history of the Northern Kingdom especially in relation to its prophets (Eliyahu, Elisha, Amos, Hosheya, the history of the Southern Kingdom, especially in relation to its prophets, (Yishayahu (“First” Isaiah), Mikha, Yermiyahu) Sefer D’varim, the First Exile and “Second” Isaiah, Shivat Tziyon, Ezra and Nechemiah, Women and Gender in Ancient Israel, Wisdom Literature (Kohelet and Mishlei), Wisdom and Theodicy (Sefer Iyov), Tehillim, Megillat Rut and Megillat Esther.  The course description for Part 1 may be found under History Courses.

Contemplative Torah

This class will focus on a Jewish adaptation of a centuries-old contemplative form of engagement with Bible called ‘lectio divina’ — renamed here ‘kriat ha-kodesh’ — that will focus on learning midrash and then engagement of the heart, mind and soul through a repetitive listening (rather than reading) to biblical text and then praying, meditating on the words and meanings, and finally contemplating on the text in the very personal and intimate context of one's own life. Students will learn the method of ‘kriat ha-kodesh’ and gain an opportunity to practice leading, as we delve slowly and mindfully into Torah's stories.  Our goal is that talmidim will have a new tool to share with their communities so that each person may enter deeply into Torah’s intimate and personal meaning for her/his life.

Haftarot

Study of the traditional Haftarot of the liturgical year.Analysis of the connection of those texts with their parshiyot and festivals, with an eye to the creation of kavannot and divrei Torah. Attention to the selection / creation of alternative Haftarot from other sources, and the challenges of setting English versions to Haftara trop. (cross listed with Liturgy)

Learning to Love Leviticus

How are we to understand Torah today?  The best way to begin is to approach Torah “on its own terms.” This course brings the learner back in time to explore as much as we can know of the original meaning of ancient practices and ideas that may puzzle us as moderns.

Midrash from a Renewal Perspective: Contemporary PaRDeS

This course will offer a deep engagement with Torah text using the diverse tools of old and new midrash aggadah. Together we will mine the Torah itself, first holistically activating our own integrated selves as midrashists, and then turning to ancient rabbinic aggadah as well as contemporary forms such as poetry, prose and music. This Jewish Renewal perspective will open gates to new ways and new perspectives (e.g., feminist, masculinist, queer, environmentalist, etc.) of approaching Torah text with the folks we serve as rabbis, rabbinic pastors and cantors. Through our learning together, we will strengthen our own ability to guide our ‘folk’ on the paths of their own fully engaged and holistically integrated experience of Torah and more meaningful Jewish lives. Basic comprehension of Midrash Rabbah level Hebrew is desirable for this course as each student will be expected to read aloud, translate and facilitate a discussion of a Hebrew text.

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.

Sefer Iyyov – The Book of Job

An in-depth exploration of the bewildering, heart-wrenching and profound book of Job. The text will be encountered in Hebrew and in English, focusing on the deep questions: 

 •why do good people suffer? •where is God in our suffering? •in the face of suffering, what is the meaning of life? •what can we expect of God? •do we have the right to indict and argue with God? •what must we expect of ourselves? •what is the nature of friendship? •what is the nature of faith? •what do we learn from this book that is useful to us as  rabbis, rabbinic pastors and caretakers? The class will also include such modalities as bibliodrama, consideration of a modern theatrical treatment of the story of Job, a contemporary film that focuses on Job as its thematic center and a contemplative approach to the text.

The Prophetic Book of Jeremiah

Prophets were known by several terms–both Greek and Hebrew: The Greek term that our English term comes from is prophetes meaning one who proclaims and interprets divine revelation and is descriptive of one who speaks forth God’s word. The Hebrew terms used for a prophet is primarily navi which is probably descriptive of  “one called” to speak for God or one who “brings” the word of God to the people. This course is a critical study of the prophetic book of Jeremiah, who was called to speak for God in and around Jerusalem before the city fell in 587 BC. Through a close reading of the text and historical background students will develop skills for reading the prophetic books; study how biblical scholarship has impacted our understanding; learn how Jeremiah in particular was perceived by his contemporaries and grapple with the issues he addressed.

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.