Fall 2018 Semester Begins September 26th

In Avodah Zara (19a), we learn that one who learns Torah from only one teacher will never see blessing.  At Hebrew Seminary, I had the opportunity to learn from such a diverse group of faculty: not only from across the denominational spectrum, but who had such varied life experiences, and engaged in a wide range of practices.  I also greatly appreciated that each one of those teachers was deeply engaged in text, in thinking about God (and their personal relationships with God), and in the different ways in which they participated in the collective endeavor of klal yisrael.

It was truly a blessing to me to begin to understand that there was no single, monolithic way to be (or to do) Jewish, and what that might mean in my own life and personal practice.  My education at Hebrew Seminary went well beyond the subjects of the classroom, and included a wealth of personal advice.

— Rabbi Dena Bodian,Hebrew Seminary, Smicha 2010

 

Hebrew Seminary Course Descriptions

Fall Semester 2018

September 26 – January 24, 2019

Monday

10:00 – 11:30
Jewish Halachah: Pastoral Counseling

Tuesday

11:00 – 1:00
Rabbi Michael Davis
Advanced Biblical Hebrew

1:15 – 2:45
Rabbi Michael Davis

(History) Beyond the Pale:
Exploration of Cherem Across the Ages

Wednesday

10:30 -12:30
Rabbi Marcey Rosenbaum

(Bible) Parashat Hashavuah, with Rashi Commentary
This class will include practice reading texts aloud, pausing to then translate with a goal towards fluency.

Thursday

12:00 – 1:30pm
Debbie Fink
American Sign Language – multi level

This will be a multi-level class beginning with a four-week review of chapters 1-8 to bring everyone up to speed from the summer break. Page-by-page work will begin with Chapter 9 and include plenty of time for conversational practice.

2:00-4:00
Rabbi Daniel Vaisrub

(Talmud) The Status of the Heresh in Jewish Law
We will begin our inquiry into the status of the heresh (a deaf person) in Jewish law by first laying the groundwork of the fundamental concepts and principles that underlie Jewish law altogether—the notion of the individual as being created b’tzelem elohim (in the image of God), and the resulting kavod habriot (human dignity) ascribed and granted to the individual as a result. We will then look at the notion of halachic obligation and its relationship to these fundamental Jewish concepts. Finally, we will look at the specific case of the heresh, and ask the questions: Who exactly is the heresh? What is the halachic status of the heresh? How does the status of heresh differ from that of those who are blind, etc.? What might the intentions of the Rabbis have been in assigning this status to the heresh? Punitive? Protective? Descriptive? How does the ability to communicate (verbally, in writing, in gesture, etc.) affect the status of the heresh? How does the ability of others to communicate with the heresh affect his/her status? While often grouped with the “shote v’katan,” how is the status of the heresh different? What is the halachic trajectory of the status of the heresh, i.e., how has that status evolved? What does it mean to be “lav bar da’at”? What are the components of da’at? Do we have insights into the reality of the life of the heresh that would change any of the above rabbinic definitions or halachic decisions? If so, what are they? Should the halachic status of the heresh be changed? If so, what are the various approaches we might take to change the halachic status of the heresh? 

Sunday

 12 noon – 1:30pm (begins Oct 14th)
Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer & Linda Clark
Astrology, Kabbalah & Hebrew Commentaries

Jewish astrology includes a spiritual belief in God. To live out this belief and follow the stars requires some flexibility as medieval and early modern Torah commentaries and Kabbalistic texts reveal. In Astrology, Kabbalah & Hebrew Commentaries, Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer will enthusiastically share these often overlooked texts as well as the historic backstory.

Hebrew Seminary students will be taught how to translate mystical Hebrew texts by such scholars as Rashi, Ibn Ezra and the great mystic Nahmanides.

Linda Clark will teach contemporary astrological principles and schools of thought and discuss how the modern perspective compares and contrasts with the Jewish texts.

Ms. Clark has been actively learning Astrology since her youth. She is a member of the American Federation of Astrology, the Magi Society and the International Society for Astrological Research.

Rabbi Goldhamer will provide copies of the Jewish texts assigned for student translation and study.

1:30 – 3:00pm
Rahmeil  Drizin

(Zohar) Petachat Eliyahu from the Tikkuney HaZohar (17b)

Learn about the secrets of the universe in the famous section Petachat Eliyahu from the Tikkuney HaZohar (17b) that is found in the beginning of many Sefardic and Chassidic prayerbooks.

We are told by the Chida that reciting this selection is beneficial for opening one’s heart to successful prayer.

Call Hebrew Seminary at 847/ 679-4113 for more information on these classes.

Summer Semester 2017

HEBREW SEMINARY

Summer Semester 2017

A Purposeful Torah Pause

June 25  –  August 24, 2017

 

Pause with us this summer.
Pause with purpose
to pursue rabbinic ordination or consider it.

 

Rabbi Cantor Rob Jury returns this semester with a practical rabbinics class, Shabbat Liturgy, and Rabbi Daniel Vaisrub is offering a “companion” Talmud class, Ancient & Modern Approaches to Shabbat.

Rabbi Shari Chen is offering a new Practical Rabbinics class: Preparation in Reading & Signing the Torah.  Students will learn how to prepare themselves to read Torah at the Bimah for services.  This will include reading without vowels, translating from Hebrew to English and an introduction to biblical ASL signs.  ASL interpreter Cathy Silvern will instruct the students in key signs for select readings.

The focus of the Torah readings will be Jewish holidays beginning with the High Holidays.  Among the reading will be: Bereshit – Vayeira 22:1; Devarim – Nitzavim 29:9; Devarim – Nitzvin 30:11; Vayikra – Kedoshim 19:1; Vayikra – Emor 23:1.

Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis is offering two new summer courses:

Trope Theory &

the Visualization of Hebrew Grammar through Ancient Hand Signs

You may be familiar with trope as the ancient art of chanting Torah and Haftarah. In fact, there are at least seven different systems of trope within the Eastern European modes alone, the system that is standard in the U.S. Outside of our Ashkenazi tradition there are many other Jewish musical systems, equally varied and ancient.

What unifies all these trope traditions is their grammatical function as a set of syntactical markers. Trope is a highly sophisticated system – much more so than English punctuation. It is an essential tool for unpacking the ancient sacred Hebrew of the Tanakh which is often written in succinct prose or poetry. The commentators through the ages have used trope as a means of interpretation through punctuation.

Chironomy, or hand signals, is an ancient way of indicating the musical turns of chanting. Combined with an understanding of the grammar of trope, this is a way of performing the language of the Torah through hand gestures. 

Jewish Peoplehood in Modern Times – A Study of Zionism(s)

A central challenge that faced Judaism in modernity is how to self-define as a people in an open society. One of the solutions to this challenge has been Zionism in its many forms: cultural, political and religious. “Zionism(s)” exist as systems of thinking and being that are separate from either the Israeli or the American Jewish communities. We will study the context, content and implications of various forms of Zionism as well as their reception.

Our main textbooks with be: “The Zionist Idea” ed. Arthur Hertzberg and “The Jew in the Modern World” eds. Paul Mendes-Flohr and Judah Reinharz.

Also, allow us to share a taste of Fall 2017 when Rabbi Goldhamer will be offering two classes:

Sundays 12:00 – 1:30 pm starting October 15th, 2017
Chassidic and Kabbalistic Literature featuring the Baal Shem Tov and Levi Yitzchak Berditchev and including Sefer Degel Machaneh Ephraim and Kedushat Levi.

Students should be familiar with Hebrew.

Rabbi Goldhamer writes: I look forward to teaching this class because even though both teachers, the Baal Shem Tov or Besht and Levi Yitchak Berditchev, lived several hundred years ago they were very involved in the current politics of their time especially as it affected the Jewish community.  Yes, they were very serious scholars but they were all very serious political commentators.  The Besht invited all people, including a cossack or two, to study with him.  And Hebrew Seminary invites you!

Biblical Commentary
Enrollment open to Hebrew Seminary graduates, thesis students and students who have completed their Hebrew language requirements.

Commentators will include Rashi, Ramban, Kedushat Levi, Degel Ephraim, and Maor VaShemesh.

Students will translate biblical commentary from two schools of exegesis: Nigleh-Revealed and Nistar-Hidden.  Students will see that translated texts from the Nistar school are very similar to one another and translated texts from the Nigleh school are very similar to each other.  Nistar commentaries are full of hidden secrets and include metaphorical, remez and sod interpretations.  Nigleh commentaries s are very straightforward.  None-the-less, Nigleh commentary can be quite tricky at times.  Therefore the students’ ability in the different translation styles will constantly be tested.

Students will use the following texts:

Mikraot Gedolot : Meorei HaChassidut (5 vol.)
hard cover (184362)
Mikraot Gedolot – Hamaor : Torah (medium size – 5 vol.)
hard cover – boxed set (18722)

Hebrew Seminary graduates serve in a variety of roles – as pulpit rabbis, educators, chaplains, in public service and serving those with special needs, 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.  Our ordained Rabbis and Jewish educators support underserved Jewish populations.

Hebrew Seminary has the highest commitment to traditional scholarship. This includes Talmud, Bible, Kabbalah and Hebrew, all taught by an outstanding faculty led by our President, Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer.  Hebrew Seminary is all about learning to hear the voice of God in our texts and in each other.  Our program is intensive and inspiring.

HEBREW SEMINARY
A RABBINICAL SCHOOL FOR DEAF & HEARING

4435 W. Oakton, Skokie, IL 60076
847-679-4113 • fax: 847-677-7945
[email protected]hebrewseminary.org

 

Godcidences & Giving

November 29th is Giving Tuesday, a worldwide holiday that encourages giving back to our communities.  With one voice, non-profits reach out on Giving Tuesday to ask for our time, skills, and dollars to make a difference in other people’s lives.  Giving back to the community is a long-standing Jewish tradition.  Isaiah 32:17 says, “and the work of tzedakah shall bring peace.”

I asked Hebrew Seminary professor, Rabbi Daniel Vaisrub, to share a “Giving Tuesday” teaching with us.  Rabbi Vaisrub agrees that Tzedakah speaks to something greater. 

My favorite teaching on the obligation to support people in our community comes from Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Book of Agriculture, Rules of Gifts to the Poor 10:1:

“We are obligated to be careful with regard to the commandment of tzedaqah to a greater extent than all [other] positive commandments, because tzedaqah is an identifying mark for a righteous person, a descendant of Abraham, our patriarch, as [Genesis 18:19] states: “I have known him, because he commands his children… to perform tzedaqah.”

“The throne of Israel will not be established, nor will the true faith stand except through tzedaqah, as [Isaiah 54:14] states: “You shall be established through righteousness [tzedaqah].”

“And Israel will be redeemed solely through tzedaqah, as [ibid. 1:27] states: “Zion will be redeemed through judgment and those who return to her through charity [tzedaqah].”

Note how Maimonides enumerates [and thus connects] four seemingly disconnected ideas, all through tzedaqah:
1. Personal righteousness
2. Proper governance / political stability
3. True faith proper religious belief
4. National redemption

In this rule, Maimonides is NOT merely teaching us why tzedaqah is important: any one of the reasons he enumerates would more than suffice, so why waste ink and parchment?

Rather, Maimonides teaches us how tzedaqah binds these different aspects of people’s lives together: the personal, the social, the religious, and ultimately the redemptive. In a particular way, acts of tzedaqah, which encompass justice and kindness, create individuals, and communities, and religious movements, and ultimately a nation, capable of actualizing human potential. Tzedaqah is thus the glue that ultimately binds people together, which speaks to its power to transform the world, micro and macro, physical and spiritual.

Rabbi Dr. Goldhamer wants to add that it is a Godcidence that we celebrate Giving Tuesday, during the same week that we read Parshat Toldot, the scriptural reading for this week.  The essence of this parasha is good and evil. Jacob represents good and his twin brother Esau represents evil.  I believe this simplistic understanding misses the point. What is evil?  In Kabbalah, evil is selfishness.  We are all concerned about our own welfare. We are all concerned about how to improve our own lives. We all do things to benefit ourselves. This is considered evil in Kabbalah.

Everyone is created with a desire to receive for oneself alone. There is a difference between receiving for yourself and receiving in order to share. The second form of receiving is considered good in KabbalahKabbalah comes from the root word meaning “to receive.” But Hashem wants us to receive in order to share and do tzedakah. And so, our Kabbalistic tradition teaches us to receive in order to share.

Nothing is wrong with accumulating millions of dollars and becoming wealthy. As a matter of fact, it’s a good thing to accumulate wealth–but we need to accumulate so that we can share what we accumulate. This is the essence of the teaching of this week’s parasha.  We need to receive in order to share.  When we receive and we do tzedakah, we are doing a high mitzvah in Judaism.  This is the essence of this week’s teaching of Toldot and Giving Tuesday.

For Giving Tuesday, Hebrew Seminary is asking that you donate food and/or funds to  Congregation Bene Shalom’s The Brian Glassenberg Food Pantry at Congregation Bene Shalom, 4435 W. Oakton Street Skokie, IL 60076 or call 847/ 677- 3330.

 

Acceptable Norms & A Vision of Oneness

After each and every General Election, and during the intervening years, we need to let our elected officials know what norms or standards we will accept and won’t accept.

We look to our Jewish tradition for these values and boundaries. Remember, we are all connected: “When Adam was first created, he was pure. His purpose was to raise the system of worlds – Assiyah, Yetzirah, and Briah — to their highest root in Atzilut, and ultimately into Adam Kadmon, which serves as a bridge to the infinite Ayn Sof. But instead of drawing the transcendent light of the Ayn Sof into these worlds, Adam chose to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Before disobeying God, Adam and Eve lived in a world where everything was one. All the worlds were one. All the animals, Adam, Eve, God were connected. But after eating from the Tree, Adam and Eve embraced a duality of birth and death, good and evil, light and darkness, happiness and sadness. This disconnected them from the Creator, with the result that the soul of Adam HaRishon was disconnected from the Spiritual world and shattered into many fragments, called individual souls. The Kabbalists call this ‘the breaking of the soul of Adam HaRishon.’ The soul fragmented into 600,00 root souls, which broke down into six billion individual souls.

To succeed in our work, we need to recover our Vision. We need to see again that the 600,00 root souls in the Universe are spiritually connected. We need to see that each of the millions of cells that comprise a root soul has its own mission and service to perform for the Creator and must come into a life all its own.

Each of us has long been a piece in a shattered puzzle that was once a single common soul. Now it is time for correction, tikkun, to regroup, reintegrate the pieces. This is the function of our world in this time, according to teachings of Kabbalah.” — Healing With God’s Love, Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer, PhD, DD, with Peggy Bagley

Become A Channel of God’s Healing Energy Using the Name of God Yah

Hebrew Seminary President Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer’s teacher, Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Dresher taught:

“Your lungs expand and contract, responding to the universe.  Imagine the universe as a vast Being that is alive, and that you are a cell in this body.  And you, the cell, are kept alive by the Ru’ach of the universe.  In Ezekiel 36:26, we read, ‘I will place a holy Ru’ach within you.’”  This Ru’ach is the Spirit of God that every living being inhales, this Ru’ach is our breath; and it is through breathing that we focus on the present and not the past or future.  When we are in the NOW, we are alive, filled with the Breath of God.”

Become A Channel of God’s Healing Energy Using the Name of God Yah
as taught by Rabbi Goldhamer:

  1. Go to your mi’at meekdash and sit in a comfortable chair with your back in the upright position, and your feet planted firmly on the floor. Wear comfortable clothing and loosen up your tie or belt.
  2. Breathe in deeply and gently through your nostrils and count silently 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10: this is the numerical equivalent [Jewish Gematria/numerology] of Yod. As you breathe in, don’t try to visualize God’s breath coming in through your nostrils; instead, visualize with your ko’ach dimyon, imagination, that God’s breath or energy is filling your head area.
  3. Without holding your breath between inhaling and exhaling, exhale through your nostrils silently, counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5: this is the numerical equivalent of Hey. The exhaling should take half as long as the inhaling.  As you breath out, don’t try to visualize God’s breath leaving your nostrils; instead visualize God’s breath or energy flowing from your head into your heart and through your heart into the world.
  4. Repeat this cycle four times, for a total of five times for the entire meditation. When you inhale or exhale, maintain the internal dynamic that you are breathing in the Life Force of God, and that your breath and His breath are becoming One.  Recognize within the depths of your soul that you are becoming one with the Holy Spirit, Ru’ach HaKodesh.  When we breathe in God’s Ru’ach with kavvanah, we create Ru’ach HaKodesh; that is, we become One with the Holy Spirit.

Kabbalah: Find Your Soul Mate!

In joyous anticipation of summer, our April newsletter explores Jewish wedding traditions. This is the first of a series of postings from an interview with Hebrew Seminary President Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer.

Rabbi, you often talk about the soul. Teach us about finding our soul mate.

Christians teach that the soul is established at conception. Judaism teaches that the soul is established when the baby leaves the mother’s womb and takes her first breath. The Hebrew word for breath and for soul are the same.

The Kabbalah teaches that there is a world of souls and everyday thousands and thousands of souls rain down from this world of souls. As soon as one of these souls hits the earth, it breaks up into many pieces of the same soul. Let’s say piece “A” of soul number one enters a newborn boy and two years later piece “B” of the same soul enters a newborn girl. Twenty years later the little boy with the little piece of soul number one meets the little girl who also has a piece of soul number one within her and they fall in love. We say kabbalistically they fell in love because they are of the same soul, they are soul mates. They fell in love because they both share the same soul that originated in the world of souls in heaven. That’s where we get the expression, “a marriage made in heaven.” There are so many possibilities for so many people to get married according to the Kabbalah.