Another word for sky
Becoming a healthier pastor

My spring semester begins!

Because of the vagaries of rabbinic school scheduling (so many students and teachers have pulpit commitments that we didn't begin our fall semester until after the Days of Awe were over), I just this morning had my last fall class. The sweet chatimah (seal) on my fall was the final session of my class on the Me'or Eynayim, the Chernobyler rebbe -- one of the best classes I've taken yet; I feel a real pang of loss at its ending.

My spring, of course, started a few weeks ago, with the Talmud class which began while I was at Ohalah. (This is the challenge of taking courses through different schools and seminaries: their academic calendars rarely match.) I have one more paper to write before my fall can really be considered "through," but two spring classes begin in the coming days, so I think it's now really, truly, and officially the spring semester!

My spring will feature a course on Biblical history and civilization (remember the academic grid I've blogged about in the past? this course will be filed under "History"), an immersion in Talmud ("Halakhic Literature"), a continuation of the Rashi work I began to do in the fall ("Exegesis"), and a pastoral care and counseling intensive which will last for two semesters (that one goes under the catch-all category "Various.") To learn more, read on...

Last semester I attempted five classes. That turns out not to be a great idea, so this time around I'm returning to a more-manageable four:

  • Biblical History & Civilization, Part 1
    ALEPH telecourse with R' Leila Gal Berner

    This is the first part 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.

    Together we will explore the essential elements of biblical history, law, religion 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 some opportunities to assess what we learn together from a spiritual perspective as well.

  • 14 Sugyot Every Jew Should Know
    Conservative Yeshiva online course with R' Mordechai Silverstein

    The Babylonian Talmud is the foundation of Jewish life since its formation some 1500 years ago. It is the source of Jewish practice and, perhaps more importantly, it is central to shaping the Jewish thought process, our way of looking at the world, and the manner in which we approach, think about and solve problems. This course will seek to provide the student with representative examples of important discussions on a variety of issues that will offer a window into how the sages think and analyze problems. As the title of this course suggests, the selection of the examples keeps in mind that there are certain classic Talmudic debates that are fundamental to Jewish identity, religious and moral meaning and practice. These examples, obviously, touch only the tip of the iceberg, but will hopefully provide the student with some basic Talmudic skills, some inspiring debate, and an appetite for more learning.

  • Jewish Pastoral Care Intensive
    ALEPH telecourse with R' Goldie Milgram

    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.

  • Rashi
    Tutorial with my rabbi

    This is the continuation of the Rashi tutorial that we began during the fall. (I learned, this fall, that five classes is more than I can reasonably sustain -- at least, alongside teaching Hebrew school and being on a couple of boards and chairing a committee or two. And having relationships. And occasionally sleeping. So anyway, we're going to keep studying Rashi on the parashat hashavua until we both feel like I've got a better handle on how he works.)

I'm looking forward to getting a better grounding in Biblical history and civ (and I expect I'll take the second part of that class in the fall, which will focus on post-Biblical themes and developments.) And the pastoral care course sounds intense but quite wonderful (even though I feel some trepidation about beginning a class now that will stretch through the summer!) I do wish I had a bit of a break between terms, a moment to catch my breath and perhaps process some of what I learned during the fall semester, but this year that just isn't meant to be. My spring began a few weeks before my fall came to an end, and it will be a struggle to finish my fall papers without falling behind on my spring reading. But it'll all get done somehow in the end; it always does.

It does feel odd to be entering a semester without any classes in Hasidut -- which says something, I'm sure, about Jewish Renewal and our attachment to our joyful Hasidic roots! (There's actually a class in the teachings of the Ba'al Shem Tov which looks great to me, but I'm doing my best to resist enrolling in it, having learned in the fall that four courses is really my carrying capacity.) Still, I'm looking forward to seeing how these classes will feed me as the months go by. Meanwhile, kindly excuse me; I have 100 pges of A History of Israel to read by tomorrow morning...

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