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Ayeka: Bringing G-d into My Daily Life

 

Ayeka is the first question in the Torah. In the Garden of Eden, when G-d asks Adam – “Where are you?” – Adam is hiding. We all hide, at times, in different ways. The goal of this course is to provide a venue in which we can stop hiding in order to explore our personal relationship with G-d, and to see how this relationship can impact our lives. In this course, we will blend classic Jewish sources with reflective experiential exercises and spiritual chavrutot. Our goal will be to bring a greater awareness of G-d into our daily living and into our relationships, with a focus on topics such as consciousness, our bodies, our waking/sleeping/eating habits, jealousy, loving difficult people, arrogance/humility, and more.

 

 
 

 

Derech Hashem

 

Derech Hashem, by Rav Moshe Chayim Luzzato, is one of the most important works on Jewish philosophy. It expounds upon some of the most basic questions in life. What is the purpose of creation? What is our mission in this world? What are the five levels of the soul? What can I contribute to the world? What is the purpose of mitzvot? How can I personally connect to the spiritual root of a mitzva? How does our physical world parallel the spiritual world? How can a finite human being create a relationship with an infinite being (HaShem)? You will discover the tremendous power each Jew can make in his own life and within the community at large.

 

 
 

 

Mashiach, Ressurection & the World to Come

This course will try to bring the future to life. The concept of Mashiach, the vision of life in the future, and the resurrection of the dead are as familiar as they are misunderstood. The goal of this class is to describe the future in the clearest of terms, with the intent of experiencing a taste of the beauty of what is to come. We will base all analyses on early textual
sources, while simultaneously illustrating how the “World to Come” is currently coming alive around us.

 

 
 

 

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Jews

“Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, by acclaimed author and consultant Stephen Covey, is one of the most influential books of the past two decades. “Seven Habits” is built upon the idea that there are root principles intrinsic to human relationships that govern the outcomes of our interactions. By living in alignment with these principles, one can build and maintain deep, satisfying connections with others. The goal of this course is to analyze these principles in a Jewish context and to learn how to identify the principles within ourselves and achieve self esteem and relationship success.

 

 
 

 

Permission to Receive/ Believe

 

There are a number of ways to understand the fundamentals of Judaism – rationally, philosophically, scientifically, or historically. In this course, we will use the renowned works of Rabbi Lawrence Kellerman: “Permission to Believe” and “Permission to Receive” to examine how we can connect to the concepts of belief in G-d and the divinity of the Torah.

 

 
 

 

Haggadah of Rav Soloveitchik

 

The seder night can be a magnificently, exalted evening. On the night of the Exodus, the Jewish People have a personal encounter with G-d. Our freedom and excitement catapults us to seek fulfillment and construct spiritual order in our lives. With the help of Rav Soloveitchik’s perspective, the text of the Haggadah, and the symbols of the seder night, we will find
depth and meaning that will transform this night of liberation and the way we relate to Judaism for the rest of the year.

 

 
 

 

Keep It Real

 

The Torah is filled with seemingly esoteric, lofty ideas and ideals. Bringing these ideas and ideals down to earth is a central challenge we face every day. Keep It Real is designed to take basic Jewish concepts, define them, and demonstrate their practical relevance as we learn to incorporate them into our personal lives. We will concentrate on one topic per session as we bring these concepts to life - real life!

 

 
 

 

Thought of Rav Soloveitchik

 

Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik [1903-1993], known reverentially as “the Rav”, was one of the greatest Talmudic scholars of the 20th century. His lectures were attended by thousands of listeners and his writings, which continue to be published posthumously, play a central role in contemporary discussions concerning Jewish thought and Jewish law. In this course, we will discuss a number of Rav Soloveitchik’s essays and discover his unique approach to a number of topics including: repentance, community, redemption, prayer, and the significance of the modern State of Israel.

 

 
 

 

Pirkei Avot

Many moral and ethical lessons can be found in the succinct sayings of our sages. You will acquire the tools for ethical behavior and developing more positive inter-personal relationships while learning selected Mishnayot from Pirkei Avot.

 

 
 

 

Famous Jewish Letters

If you have ever received a letter from someone you love, you will know how a personal letter can often contain both wisdom and emotion. While we often study the commentaries of great Jewish teachers, what is less well known is that many Jewish teachers also wrote letters to friends and relatives that contain much wisdom and emotion. For example, while
living in Israel, the Ramban wrote a letter to his son in which he included valuable advice for maintaining a religious lifestyle. In this class, we will read some famous Jewish letters written by great Jewish teachers and try to identify some timeless lessons that are encrypted in them.

 

 
 

 

Writings of Rav Kook

 

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook [1865-1935] was renowned for his penetrating and unified understanding of Torah and Torah living. One of his gifts was his ability to sew seemingly disparate segments of Torah thought into a seamless entity. Filled with an experiential perspective on Torah life, Rav Kook’s writings are alive with energy and passion. In this
course, we will explore select pieces from his essays to access a thought process that is startling in its profound relevance to the issues of today’s modern world. All sources will be translated in class.

 

 
 

 

Themes in the Siddur

We will explore different themes in the siddur and learn not only about the words we recite in prayer, but also the concepts found within our prayers. In each session, we will deepen our understanding of key ideas in Judaism such as love, redemption and peace, as well as more complex relationships such as how we associate with nature and the people around us. This course will transform your prayers and the the way you look at your siddur.

 

 
 

 

Messilat Yesharim

 

Can you really be in control of your life? How do you change a negative habit or trait? What is at the essence of change? In order to connect with yourself, you need to learn and uncover your strengths, capabilities, weaknesses and deficiencies. Using the classic Mussar sefer Messsilat Yeharim, this course will empower you to discover the true you.

 

 
 

 

Living, Loving and Learning

 

This course will be a journey of exploration that begins with a voyage of self-discovery. We will navigate through the web of interpersonal relationships, dating, and intimacy and discover how we lay the foundations for a successful marriage. We will utilize many Torah sources; however, all sources will be accompanied by an English translation.

 

 
 

 

Torah to Art

 

This course will engage students in profound learning of different Jewish texts and sources to develop a deeper appreciation for prayer and berachot. Visual concepts will be inspired and conceived through the understanding of these texts. This course is suited for the student with a quest for personal growth and a desire for a more sophisticated connection to Jewish identity, thought, and philosophy - as a starting point in the creative process. Students will see that creativity is an expression of personal experience. Basic drawing skills are not mandatory; however, creativity and artistic expression is highly recommended.

 

 
 

 

The Amida

 

Do you find it difficult to daven the same amida every day three times a day? Are your dreams, aspirations, and thoughts found within the words of our sages? Is it possible to say the same words and mean something different each time? What if you could see the amida in a more personal, meaningful and relevant manner? Our journey will allow you to analyze each bracha of the amida. You will see the process and development of how each bracha links into the next until you have a complete picture of meaning and purpose. Your davening will never be the same!

 

 
 

 

Tefilla Seminar

 

Tefilla is our attempt to reach out to G-d as a matter of heart. As it says in the shema, we turn toward G-d and seek Him with our heart, soul and might. But, how can we accomplish this without fully understanding what the prayers mean? How can someone else’s words be meaningful for me? How can we make the same words that we say everyday come alive with newness? In the tefilla workshop, we will discover the essence of prayer. We will look at the texts of many tefillot and come to a deep understanding of our ancient texts as we make them personal. We will learn how to use tefilla as an essential tool in building our relationship with Hashem.

 

 
 

 

Spiritual Growth

 

We will explore a wide range of ideas and dilemmas in basic Jewish thought. Our goal is to enrich our Jewish spiritual lives by making these concepts relevant. Topics include: the true nature of the yetzer hara, holiness versus natural morality, how to elevate the physical world, the process of teshuva, and building a relationship with Hashem.

 

 
 

 

Aggadata

 

Why were we created? What is our purpose in the world? What does G-d want from us? How do we repent? How does G-d reward and punish us? What does it mean to be holy? What will happen when Moshiach comes? The Gemara constantly deals with these issues; however, it speaks in subtle ways - in mystery-filled language - known as aggadata. These  teachings are veiled within a protective layer of legends, riddles, parables, and cryptic debates. Together we will unravel the mysterious teachings of Chazal and derive knowledge and inspiration on how to conduct our lives.

 

 
 

 

Entering the Orchard: Explorations in Philosophy and Mysticism

 

What do we really mean when we talk about G-d, Torah, the Jewish People and creation? The teachings of the Kabbalists and Chassidic masters bridge the gap between knowledge and the unknowable. They help us untangle life’s paradoxes, find profound meaning in the mundane, and to live our lives with simcha and deep faith. In this course, we will investigate some of the fundamental discussions of ‘Pnimiut HaTorah’ with a goal of making even the most abstract ideas of Judaism engaging, accessible, and relevant.

 

 
 

 

The Jewish Year in the Light of Chassidus

Our festive days are not just commemorations of momentous events from long ago. Each chag is an opportunity for growth, insight, and of course, simcha. In this course, we will learn how the holiday stories and miracles recur each year in our own lives and how the unique challenge of each festival is expressed in its mitzvot.

 

 
 

 

Michtav M’Eliyahu

Is love something that just happens to you, or can you choose to love? Do we have free will on every choice, or are some things too difficult for us to overcome? How can we use mussar not only to be inspired for the moment, but to actually refine our character for the long term? Is there such a thing as nature, or does Hashem make everything in the world happen directly, as a kind of miracle – and how does this affect the choices we make in our lives? We will learn the popular and inspiring Sefer Mussar, Michtav Me-Eliyahu, by Mussar Master Rav Eliyahu Dessler (1892-1954). Rav Dessler’s writings combine Torah, philosophy and psychology to provide a spiritual path towards growth for our generation.

 

 
 

 

Alei Shor - Building a Relationship with G-d*

 

Rav Shlomo Wolbe, zt”l, was one of the greatest mussar giants of our generation. In his sefer Alei Shor, Rav Wolbe masterfully presents a road map for spiritual growth combining engaging Torah sources, psychology, encouragement, and inspiration as he guides the aspiring ben and bat torah to embrace the truths of this world.

The class will be taught in a Va’ad Mussar style where students will be encouraged to share and discuss their own spiritual challenges.

 

 
 

 

Dating G-d: The Chagim

 

In this course, we will learn to appreciate the holidays of the Jewish year in a totally new way. We will learn how each individual holiday provides an important aspect and component in our relationship with G-d. By the end of the year, we will be able to appreciate every single “date” and build a beautiful and ongoing relationship with Hashem.

 

 
 

 

DNA of Creation

 

The world around us is an endlessly complex mosaic of details. According to our earliest sources, the underlying building blocks of this mosaic are the Hebrew letters, embedded within reality. In this class, we will analyze the letters to uncover the DNA of creation, and to develop a deeper awareness of the dynamic world within which we live.

 

 
 

 

Nefesh Hachayim

Rav Chaim of Volozhin [1749-1821], the founder of the Volozhin Yeshiva, was one of the most prominent students of the Vilna Gaon. Following in the footsteps of his teacher, Rav Chaim was rich with knowledge and wisdom, and his deep perspective on life was most powerfully expressed through his writings in Nefesh HaChaim. The book systematically connects kabbalistic principles with day to day Torah living in a way that makes our relationship with Hashem come to life. In this course, we will examine both the kabbalistic elements themselves, as well as Rav Chaim’s practical application of them.

 

 
 

 

Inner Meaning of Halacha

 

Halacha literally means ‘the way’. In this course, we will challenge ourselves with the root question – ‘the way to where?’ We will focus on specific, familiar halachot from everyday life with two goals in mind. Our first goal will be to understand the deeper elements underlying the chosen examples. Our second goal will be to portray how these elements and the performance of halacha transforms us into our true selves.

 

 
 

 

Radical Responsibility

 

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks recently retired from his position having been Chief Rabbi of England for 22 years. In addition to this numerous roles in guiding the UK Rabbinical community and meeting with Royalty, politicians and community leaders, Lord Sacks has published over 25 books. This course will explore the major themes found in Lord Sacks’ writings through examining one of Lord Sacks’ books per week. We will talk about the significance of the Modern State of Israel, Jewish
peoplehood today, Jewish attitudes to other religions, modern trends in anti-Semitism, the true meaning of Tzedakah, Jewish attitudes to multiculturalism and whether science and religion can live in harmony.

 

 
 

 

Introduction to Kabbalah

 

In this class, we will explore the root principles underlying the system of thought known as the Kabbalah. The goal of the class is to distill the various themes of the Kabbalah to their foundations, achieving at least a beginner level of understanding of the system as a whole. Ultimately, we will show how Kabbalah plays a central (perhaps even the most central) role in our daily lives, and how, when properly harnessed, fills our lives with love, harmony, confidence and closeness.

 

 
 

 

Kabbalah II

 

In this class, we will continue with our in-depth study of the sefirot. By analyzing these ten elements of reality, we will try to reveal more depth and meaning in the system of Torah living. This class is mainly intended for those who enrolled in Introduction to Kabbalah.

 

 
 

 

Judaism & Psychology

 

Topics that will be covered in this course will include:
The Mind-Body debate / Psychology vs. Torah - Id vs. Yid- Psychoanalytic theory and Torah, Id, ego, superego vs. the levels of the soul / The unconscious and Defense mechanisms / Learning Theory – Behaviorism - Learned helplessness /  Cognitive-Theory / Humanistic Psychology – Carl Rogers / Positive Psychology - Optimism and Bitachon / Teshuva - Psychology of Teshuva, Teshuva and Self esteem / Addiction - The Twelve Step programs and mussar

 

 
 

 

Singing to Hashem: Tehillim of Pesukei DeZimra *

The daily process of Tefilla has the potential to be deeply meaningful, relevant and fulfilling. The structure of this course is to focus on the songs of King David found within the segment of Pesukei DeZimra. Taken from the book of Tehillim, these songs are a powerful expression of the inner yearnings of the human heart. Using textual analysis, our goal will be to unlock the evocative meaning of these writings, allowing ourselves to be swept up in the deep passion of true tefilla.

 

 
 

 

Mitzvot: Getting Inside*

 

According to early Jewish sources, there are 613 different Biblical mitzvot. A cursory examination of this long list seems to indicate a chaotic variety of commandments, some being strange and less known, while others incredibly familiar and fulfilling. The goal of this course is to examine specific mitzvot with the intent of revealing both a unique meaning and theme intrinsic to each mitzvah, as well as a unifying lattice connecting all 613 to each other.

 

 
 

 

Rationale of Mitzvot

 

How many commandments are there? How do we know? How can we find the intricacies of our mitzva observance in the Torah? What are the laws and obligations governing each of the different mitzvot? In this course, we will explore a select number of mitzvot, beginning with the obligation in the Chumash and traveling through a variety of early rabbinic and other
sources. In doing so, we will examine the laws governing the different mitzvot and investigate many implications of our mitzvot in our daily life.

 

 
 

 

Torah and Science

 

We will explore some of the major issues and conflicts between Torah and science. We will begin with the classic “hot” topics such as Age of the Universe, Dinosaurs, Fossils, Creation/Evolution and move on to conflicts of the modern age such as Brain Death, Euthanasia, Stem Cell Research, and Cloning. Other topics will be discussed as well. This is a text based class using classic commentators and we will incorporate views of leading scientists. The aim of the class is to enable students to feel confident in their knowledge of the issues and to be exposed to various resolutions.

 

 
 

 

Oral Law Under Attack

 

If you’re somewhat unsettled about the role of rabbis, about rabbinic law and why we need it, about what is rabbinic and what is Divine in the first place, and all of that, then this is the course for you. We’re going to grapple with lots of sticky questions and then take a look at how some of the greats of the nineteenth century grappled with some of these very issues when they were first raised by the Reform Movement.

 

 

Learn more about the  courses we offer in Tanachmore-arrow Halachamore-arrowJewish History and Israel Studiesmore-arrow

 

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