Ready or not (Radical Torah reprint)
Reading the song and singing our own (Radical Torah repost)

Diving into another spring semester

The life of an ALEPH rabbinic student is always full, and this winter is no exception. Because our fall semester didn't begin until after the high holidays (so many students and faculty have HHD pulpits that it didn't make sense to begin in early September and then halt our studies for the chagim), it's only now ending; one of my classes has scheduled oral final exams this week, and another class will have its final session on Friday (followed by the writing of several essays.) Meanwhile, my spring semester is beginning this week too.

I'm taking four classes this spring: one on the liturgy of festivals and holidays, one on spiritual direction (part of the three-year program in hashpa'ah which I began last month), and two in the field of Hasidut: an overview of Hasidic teachings on the sacred year, and an immersion in Kedushat Levi, the writings of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev.

You can read more about each of these classes beneath the extended-entry tag.

  • Liturgy: Festivals and Yamim Nora'im
    Taught by Rabbi Sami Barth

    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 Ha'atzma'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.

  • Moadim le-Smikha: Hasidic Teachings on the Sacred Year
    Taught by Rabbi Elliot Ginsburg

    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 Yissakhar, and teachings of Nahman 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.

  • Issues in Hashpa'ah and Spiritual Direction
    Taught by Rabbi Shohama Wiener

    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. Readings will focus on the stages of spiritual development, and issues in hashpa'ah, which include struggles around theology, ritual, and personal spiritual practices. Focus will be on noticing experiences of hashgachah pratit (Divine guidance).

  • Kedushat Levi: Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev
    Taught by Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser

    This class is an intensive immersion in Kedushat Levi, written by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. The focus will be on translation from the Hebrew, with periodic dips into questions of how studying Kedushat Levi is impacting my spiritual life and how this learning has the capacity to shape my rabbinate.

I'm excited about the semester ahead. All of these teachers are rabbis with whom I've learned before, so we'll bring the depth of our previous encounters to this spring's learning.

The two Hasidut classes will require a lot of reading-and-translating, which will be good for my text skills (and I'm excited to have the chance to do some broad learning as well as some deep learning in that field.) The liturgy class is the sequel to a class on the liturgy of Shabbat and weekday which I took a couple of years ago. And Reb Shohama is one of the people who led our first hashpa'ah intensive last month; I imagine that the teleclass will take the intensive as a starting point and move forward from there.

It should be an exciting semester. I do kind of wish it were possible to get a break of a week or two between the end of one term and the start of the next -- but since it isn't, all I can do is dive in.

ETA: Typepad fixed the category problem! So now this post is filed under "rabbinic school," and anyone who is so inclined can read my collected rabschool posts here.

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