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Welcome to our blog!

Thank you for joining us!

We are a community of Hebrew Seminary faculty, staff, rabbinical students, lifelong learners, Kabbalists, scholars, spiritual seekers and kind supporters.

The mission of Hebrew Seminary is to train rabbis and Jewish educators to serve all Jewish communities, including the deaf community. Hebrew Seminary has been an inclusive and egalitarian community for the study and practice of Judaism since our founding in 1992.

We hope that within this blog you will discover moments of insight and inspiration, practical and spiritual guidance, as well as a path to further study.

Along the way, let us know your thoughts!

Mindfulness, Kavvanah, and Meditative Focus: Three Roads to Prayer and Daily Living

Sunday, June 30, 2019
2:00 – 3:30 pm
at Hebrew Seminary

How do mindfulness, kavvanah (intention), and meditative focus work together to enhance and strengthen prayer? As we pray, how do these three techniques work together to bring us closer to God?

Living and serving God with kavvanah was routinely emphasized by the ancient rabbis. It continues to be embraced by contemporary rabbis as a way to become closer to God. Moreover, God embraces kavvanah to become closer to each of us as we pray and meditate.

These three powerful instruments are unique, yet at the same time are very similar. We will examine how these techniques can bring us closer to God in prayer and in our everyday lives.

Live life in the Divine present.  Join Hebrew Seminary President Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer, Rabbi Dr. Roberta Glick and rabbinical candidate Alison Brown on June 30th to inspire your practice and your life.

Hebrew Seminary
A RABBINICAL SCHOOL FOR DEAF & HEARING
4435 W. Oakton, Skokie, IL 60076

For more information 847-679-4113
info@hebrewseminary.org

The Healing Power of Psalms


Reciting Psalms to aid in healing is an ancient Jewish tradition and echoes today in shuls, churches, hospitals and homes around the world.

The Psalms lyrically vibrate in communication with our soul.

Learn about the healing power of Psalms from Professor of Kabbalah Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer and Professor of Pastoral Counseling Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Eisenbach. Take home techniques to augment the medical care and love of family and friends as they move along the rough roads of illness, accident and disease.

LEARN WITH US

Sunday, March 31, 2019 @ 2:00 – 3:30pm

Hebrew Seminary

A RABBINICAL SCHOOL FOR DEAF & HEARING
4435 W. Oakton, Skokie, IL 60076

For more information 847-679-4113
info@hebrewseminary.org

ASL interpreted

Refreshments served

Perhaps I am Free: for Shirat HaYam

by Student Rabbi Stacey Zisook Robinson

I have never seen such forever water.
I hear its incessant burbling,
a chant, perhaps to God,
Who has come to us as Fire,
Who has come to us as Smoke.
Who has come to us
at last,
bringing wonder and magic
and freedom,
perhaps.

I hear chatter of freedom,
but my back is striped still
and there is this forever Sea,
murmuring its prayers to
the ragged shore.

Perhaps there will be
freedom.

I wish they’d get this
over with, this mad dash
to this forever Sea
that never stops chattering.
The fire of God rages,
and His smoke smells of
charred wood and honey.
I can taste wind there.
I wonder what freedom
tastes of, and I think
the of the sting
of brine on my
wounds.

Still, I like this sea
this forever Sea,
that has captured the sky
in its mirrored waves.
They tell us
the only way to freedom
is through its
crashing, crushing
beauty.

But I have learned
to sing its song, to walk
between its silvered edges.
I stand at the rim of earth
and air and fire
and water.
It parts for me,
this forever Sea.
a slow and liquid splitting.
and the sea,
forever and endless
and never quiet
is hushed,
waiting, perhaps
for me to begin.
And so I offer a hymn
with timbrel and lyre
and ribbons of fire
and smoke,
and I dance.

And perhaps –
perhaps I am free.

Stacey Zisook Robinson is author of
Dancing in the Palm of God’s Hand and
A Remembrance of Blue

Spring Into Study: Spirituality and Spiritual Direction

We’ve added an exciting new class to our

Spring 2019 semester
February 3 – May 30, 2019

Tuesdays

11:30 – 1:00                                                                    

Rabbi Menachem Cohen               

Spirituality and Spiritual Direction: A Jewish Perspective

This class will give an introduction to Spiritual Direction, alternatively known as Spiritual Guidance or Accompaniment, and introduce students to Jewish contributions and approaches to the field. Anyone who wishes to offer such spiritual guidance must also be doing their own spiritual work, so this class will introduce students to and encourage them to engage in spiritual practices from our tradition. The class will include Jewish liturgy, text (incl. Torah, Talmud, Mussar, Hasidut), and how our calendar is a spiritual guide. Some texts will be read in Hebrew and students taking the class for credit will be asked to do some translation. Multiple modes of learning will be used, for many styles of learners (lecture, story-telling, student presentations, case studies, role plays, and mostly discussion).

Menachem Cohen received smicha from Hebrew Seminary in 2003. He is the Founder of the Mitziut Jewish Community, and since 2006 has worked at The Night Ministry on the streets of Chicago with LGBTQ and/or homeless youth. He is currently finishing his certificate in Spiritual Direction at Loyola University, where he is currently doing his internship running personal growth/spiritual direction groups using role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, with the youth in The Night Ministry programs. He is also a game designer, and partner at AlleyCat Comics. Most important, he is a dad.

 HEBREW SEMINARY

A RABBINICAL SCHOOL FOR DEAF & HEARING

4435 W. Oakton, Skokie, IL 60076

847-679-4113

e-mail: info@hebrewseminary.org • hebrewseminary.org

Spring into Study! 2019 Semester Begins Feb 3rd

Hebrew Seminary’s Spring Semester begins February 3 and continues through May 30, 2019.

Below is our schedule of class offerings. Call for more information regarding our Hebrew classes or if you would like to visit one of these classes. We welcome part-time and auditing students.
Contact Alison Brown at 847/679-4113

Mondays                  

10:00 - 11:30      
Practical Halachah: Shabbat
Rabbi Eisenbach

Tuesdays               

1:15 – 2:45
Weddings & Funerals
Rabbi Davis

For many Jews, the only time they will have a meaningful, personal interaction with a rabbi is at a funeral or wedding.

This course will have both textual and practical components. Students will study some halacha to understand the origin of liberal practice and to be aware of some common requests that come from the world of traditional Judaism. A strong focus will be placed on funerals and weddings. Students will study the interactions of rabbi and families step-by-step including examples from Rabbi Davis’ experience. Online resources and other tools will be studied.

Wednesdays                                                                                                                                  

10:30 -12:30
Modern Jewish History
Rabbi Edwards                        

This class will use the Mendes-Flohr & Reinharz, The Jew in the Modern World (Oxford), Second Edition text book. The class will meet for 13 two-hour sessions. From the Emancipation through today, this course will enable students to understand the broad social, political and religious forces which created contemporary Jewish identities. Particular focus on acculturation and modern religious movements; antisemitism and the Holocaust; Zionism and the birth of the State of Israel; the American Jewish experience.

1:00 - 3:00
Parashat Hashavuah, with Rashi Commentary
Rabbi Rosenbaum 

Jump into this text-based course to enhance your ability to read and interpret biblical narrative. Students will also become comfortable reading Rashi in his biblical commentary to address problematic passages of the biblical text. Rabbi Rosenbaum will introduce other midrashic materials as time permits.

Thursdays  

12:00 – 1:30pm
ASL
Deborah Fink                                 

2:00 – 4:00 
Talmud: Ben Sorer U’Moreh & Intro Gittin
Rabbi Vaisrub

This course begins with a focus on the 8th chapter of Sanhedrin, Ben Sorer U’Moreh which discusses the rabbinic treatment of the biblical “wayward and rebellious son” who is, according to Torah, to be put to death. We will look at the Rabbis’ reframing of this biblical concept as a core model of halachic change, and a way in to the Rabbis’ perspective on the Torah, in general, and problematic commandments, in particular.

Time permitting, Rabbi Vaisrub’s class will begin an introduction to the Laws of Divorce focusing on Gittin 90a/b. Discussion will begin with a history of divorce as it appears in the Hebrew Bible, and continue with the Rabbis’ development of the intricate laws of divorce, including the grounds for divorce as well as the procedures for divorce.

Sundays 

12 noon – 1:30pm                                          
Chassidic Teachings & Meditations
Rabbi Goldhamer

Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer will be teaching and sharing theory and meditations, some in Hebrew and others in English. Students will learn Kabbalah and the early Chasidic masters, their ideas and their meditative activities.

1:30 – 3:00pm 
Zohar – Petachat Eliyahu from the Tikkuney HaZohar (17b)
Rahmiel Hayyim Drizin

A Kavannah of Hanukkah

by Student Rabbi Roberta Glick

There are 2 themes: gratitude and tsheuvah that I want to talk about today with regards to Hanukkah. Hopefully something old and something new for everyone.

We sometimes think of Hanukkah as a “minor” holiday, maybe celebrated to balance against another big holiday in December. And we know Hanukkah is about a war that the Jews won against the Greeks, against assimilation. We rededicated the temple, and the oil for the menorah was only enough for 1 day but lasted 8 days. A miracle! That’s what the rabbis want to stress: the miracle of the light; not the fight.

Hanukkah is not discussed in the Torah. Rather, it’s in the Talmud, our oral law (tractate Shabbat) in a discussion about animal sacrifices. In ancient times, animal sacrifices were numerous and a great variety of types were offered each day but decreasing in number each day. This led to a discussion by the two famous Rabbis in the Talmud and their schools: How to light the Hanukkah candles.

Beit Shammai (who was stricter) said: Just like Sukkot sacrifices, we start with many and go down in number each night, from 8 to one. Good reasoning but Beit Hillel (who was a bit more humble and inclusive, but by no means pluralistic,) said NO. We do it differently. We start with one candle and we INCREASE the number of candles lit each night. And thus we do it as per Beit Hillel. Because Hanukkah is about increasing Light in the world, we increase holiness in the world, not decrease.  מעלין בקודש, ואין מורידין

Hanukkah comes at the darkest time of the year. There are holidays in other faiths in December that also point to bringing light into a dark world. For example, the Indian holiday Diwali, the Christian holidays of solstice and advent, the African holiday of Kawanza, the Muslim holiday of Mawlid un Nabi (birthday of Muhammed).  For Jews, “the light of the Lord is my soul.” The prophet Isaiah says that our job as Jews is to be a “light unto nations”, to bring the moral and ethical teachings of teachings of Torah to the entire world. Light is holiness.  Light is G-d. Light is Torah. Light is soul.

Another place where the Talmud talks about Hanukkah is in reference to the type of candles or oil we use on Hanukkah versus Shabbat, and how they are used on these days. Shabbat is about separation, distinction. We stop the work we do all week and rest.  Heschl describes it as a cathedral in time, not space. It’s a taste of the time of our future redemption, when all is perfect, and nothing needs to be fixed or created. Special preparations are required for Shabbat. Some people go to the mikveh for ritual purification. And only special candles designated just for Shabbat can be used. Once you light them, no other work can be done, and the light of the candles can be used for reading or studying; utilitarian value. Prepared and special for Shabbat.

In contrast, any oil or candles can be used for the Hanukkah menorah; clean dirty, broken, whole, special or not, and not much preparation is necessary.  It’s a “come as you are” party. And once you light them, the mitzvah of Hanukkah is to gaze upon their beauty, their holiness, their light, and not use them for anything else. The Hasidic masters describe the candles as a metaphor for us, for our lives.  Whether we are broken, common, rich, pure, impure; and whether you are prepared or not ready to be holy, you can come and participate and be included in the mitzvah. All types of people, all types of candles and oil. We enter from the place where you are, and each of us may enter from a different place in our lives. But we can all make the leap, or step. We can all participate in bringing holiness into the world, and light into the darkness.

The Hasidic masters were concerned that it is not enough to just do the mitzvah and just follow the law mindlessly. Rather, they were concerned with our internal experience, our religious consciousness, and even the mystical experience: being aware that you are in the Divine Presence when we participate in a mitzvah.  We may say this is Kavanah, the intention, also mean “arrow or direction” we are aiming, and many of us call this mindfulness.  And just as we bring the light into the darkness of the physical world, the Hasidic masters, and in particular Sfat Emet, taught that as we gaze at the candle, we should deeply “look” for a long time, 5 or even 30 minutes, and see how the flame changes, and is constantly moving. Again, like our lives. Perhaps some of you were like me and liked to look at fireplace fires or campfires for a long time like this. The Hasidic masters teach that as we gaze at the candles we need to look “deeply.” It is important to “see” what is not visible to the eye, as well. We need to look deep inside ourselves, and shed light on our own dark spaces, our shortcomings, our resentments, our neediness, our excessive wanting or grasping for materialism, our turning away from the beggar or homeless or sick or elderly, our lashon hora or yetzer hara.  We can shed light on these internal dark spaces, and do t’shuvah. Sfat Emet says that within each of us is an inner point, and inner spark, and we can infuse this point into the entire soul of a person by being joyous through Hallel (praise) and Hodaah (thanksgiving), meriting to be included in the community of Israel.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov says that choshek, darkness, is forgetting; turning away. Light is “seeing”, remembering, memory, the secret, the hidden good, and bringing it forth. Only with the “heart” can one see what is right. Think about how we “see”, how we “look”, for this determines how we “relate” to one another. So as we shed light on our own dark internal spaces, in our lives, in our hearts we can try to bring more light into ourselves, more loving kindness, more generosity, more shalom, more joy, more gratitude into our own hearts, into our own consciousness, and as we open our hearts we can bring these attributes, the attributes of G-d, into the world: “be a light unto nations”.

A final sharing about Hanukkah from my Zohar class.  The Zohar is a beautiful mystical book holding deep wisdom, secrets and meanings to the Torah and everything else.  I see it as a poetic look at life and Torah. For me, poetry is like an impressionistic painting; you get a few evocative words and images, and you fill in the rest, creating an experience. What I learned from my wonderful Zohar teacher, Rachmiel Drizin, is that Hanukkah is really a holiday of gratitude and t’shuvah. On each of the 8 days we are supposed to recite the complete Hallel, songs of praise and thankfulness. And each of the 8 days of Hanukkah are associated with a particular Sefirot, from Kabbalah. These are representations of the attributes of G-d superimposed on man. We are a microcosm of G-d in that we are made in G-d’s image. These Sefirot, middot, attributes include wisdom, loving kindness, truth, balance, beauty, etc. On each day of Hanukkah, we are supposed to instill a sense of gratitude through recitation of Hallel and focus on one of the attributes of G-d, and try to emulate it that day, to practice it in your life, and repair the brokenness. Hanukkah is considered the last chance to get in your “high holiday” T’shuvah, to renew the vows you made on Yom Kippur, about improving your life this year: physically, intellectually, spiritually, with yourself and others, with Chesed and generosity and compassion.  It’s like the “new year resolutions” some of us make.

Here is a really nice conversation piece from Orot. The theme is “The lights we need”. On this Hanukkah, which types of light do we need? Which light do YOU want to bring into your family or the world. Finish this sentence: “Tonight we will consider the light of…”Courage, stillness, comfort, joy, growth”. In closing, may you be blessed with the light of Chesed and compassion in your lives. May you be blessed with eight days of internal light and repair, fixing chaos in your life, and illuminating the dark days of winter and increase light in the world.

Meditation: From the priestly blessing: May G-d shine Divine Light upon you and be loving to you: A Prayer of luminous light and Love to you. Think of a time when you were luminous or you were loved.

Shalom.

Hanukkah and Our Highest Self

My Grandson recently said this about his twin Aunts:

“Whenever I see a tree it always feels deep inside me that I am earth.

And when I am with Beth and Ella it feels like they are earth with me.”

While this haunting call to Oneness comes from the heart of a six year-old, philosopher Ken Wilber also calls us to mindfully live in the light of our Highest Self.

“… you are a genuine co-creator of a reality that every human being henceforth will pass through. Make sure, therefore, that to the extent that you can, always act from the deepest, widest, highest source in you that you can find ; let every word out of you mouth come from the Highest Self you can discern; let every action spring from the deepest Source you can possibly summon. You are laying down Forms that will be stored in that great storage bin in the Kosmos, whence they will one day reach down and mold the future with their own special insistence. Make sure those Forms will be something you can be deeply proud of. You do realize that you are directly co-creating a future World, don’t you? Please, never, never, forget that….”

May you create a reality of light and love everywhere you go.

Chag sameach,

Alison Brown

 

Sing Hallelujah

By Student Rabbi Stacey Robinson

 

Sing praise and

shout hallelujah

as bullets sing their siren song

and death is never far;

and sing praise

while fires rage and

children fall silent

behind barbed wire fences, and

children fall silent

with bellies distended, and

children fall silent

as their homes are devoured,

and they race against monsters and time.

Sing praise, for the monsters are winning.

 

Free the captive.

Feed the hungry.

Give shelter to those in need.

This is my song,

this praises my name –

Be kind.

Work for peace.

Hallelujah!

Hope is an action.

Pray with your feet.

Hallelujah!

Lift your eyes and see God

In the eyes of the other.

Hallelujah!

 

All the earth is holy ground.

The bush burns,

do you not see?

Open your eyes –

there are such wonders!

Open your heart –

there is such love!

Sing hallelujah!

 

This is my bounty.

This the glory.

For this we give thanks.

 

For the richness of life,

And the jagged edges that cut

and draw blood,

And the beauty

In the sound of rain

and silence,

 

We give thanks.

 

For the Creator of eternity

and time,

Who calls to us in darkness

and light,

In our hunger

And our want,

 

We give thanks.

 

For the fullness,

For the stones that bite

And the bedrock upon which we stand,

For the hands that lift us,

And the song that fills us

 

We give thanks.

 

For our breath,

For our bodies

For the grace of  healing,

And the blessing of light,

So that we can taste the sweet,

The sharp,

The weary,

Lonely,

Lovley

Holiness of this day

Sing hallelujah

And give thanks

 

A Kaleidoscope of Angels: for parashat Vayeitzei

 

By Stacey Robinson

Put the stone under your head
and rest; don’t be disturbed
by the kaleidoscope of angels
on their merry ride of
up and down,
between heaven and earth
and there and back again.

They may be lost,
those angels, or at least
Stuck, intractable in their
proscribed tracks,
their lesson a cautionary tale
in thinking heaven is up.

Let your stone,
cold and hard,
remind you that
there is no place God is not,
even in that rock,
and all those hard places
that the angels fear to tread.
God cares not for the ladders,
But stands over you,
And waits for you to notice.

Heaven is now,
not where.
This is the entrance.
This is the glory.

 

Chai Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

 

In the Jewish tradition, the number 18 represents the word “Chai” or Life.

Congregation Bene Shalom and Hebrew Seminary invite you to join us

In an affirmation of life and unity and gratitude

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Beginning at 2:30pm

Chai Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

held at Congregation Bene Shalom

Different clergy leaders from our diverse community will come together to guide us in prayer, song and meditation especially relevant in the face of the recent anti-Semitic killings in Pittsburgh and the terrible assaults on minority communities these past few weeks.

We will gain strength from one another, and also celebrate all that we are grateful for at this time of year.

 

Congregation Bene Shalom
& Hebrew Seminary
4435 Oakton St., Skokie  847/677-3330

Sign Language Interpreted.  For more info, contact info@beneshalom.org.