Over the last few months, I've been taking a course called "Jewish Mysticism: Digging Deep into the Uplifting Teachings of Hasidism," taught by Rabbi Yakov Travis. The course is offered jointly through Aleph and The Tiferet Institute, and it's terrific. The discussion is lively, and Reb Yakov has a great deal to give over and to teach. I like the way we're approaching these Hasidic texts simultaneously on an academic level, and on a spiritual level.
And it turns out I really like the virtual classroom webconferencing model (which I can describe best as follows: you know the opening credits to The Brady Bunch, where the screen splits into 12 little windows? It's kind of like that, only instead of Marsha and Carol and Greg Brady, the little windows on my screen show moving pictures of my teacher and my fellow students.) Let me say this: the course I've been taking meets from 9-11pm on a weeknight, which is really not my finest hour, and yet it's engaging enough that I'm wide awake and energized all the way through.
The Tiferet institute is about to offer three short online courses, which are listed here, and I'm planning to take two of them. (The two that meet on weekday mornings in my timezone. Did I mention I'm really not a late-night person?) One of them is:
Learn kabbalistic conceptions of God and humanity as you explore the Zohar's mystical interpretation of creation, the Garden of Eden, and the inner purpose of our ancestors 'journeys. This seminar will lead you deeply into both Sefer ha-Zohar, the masterpiece of the Jewish mystical tradition, and a kabbalistic understanding of the book of Genesis. Each session focuses on close readings of selected Zohar passages (Aramaic & Hebrew, with English translation). (April 26-June 28 -- see website for full description.)
And the other one is:
Kabbalists trace the origin of Kabbalah to Moses’ revelation at Sinai. That secret tradition took on a radical twist when Madonna became its most visible proponent. What could be more bizarre? However, there is more here than meets the eye. For Kabbalists, the real truth is always many layers deep. And the greatest light comes from the darkest places. This seminar takes you on an exploratory journey from the cryptic origins of traditional Kabbalah to the implications of mass-marketed Kabbalah. (April 24-June 26 -- see website for full description.)
If this is the kind of thing that interests you, join us! (Register here.) It would be fun to learn with some of y'all, and (unlike the class I'm taking now, which is for rabbinic students only) these courses are open to the general public.