4/15 Class Notes

  1. The legal: Halachah--questions and answers about observancel meta-Halachic discussion on how we get from Torah to where we are today (Tucker)
  2. The spiritual: Aggadah--models for a modern, spiritual observance of Shabbat and Kashrut, presentations and discussion
  3. The practical: Schools and sociology--engaging with stance documents and issues around observance in schools and communities

1. Legal
  • Why is Kosher for Pesach so different from everyday laws of Kashrut: Pesach laws are derived more from the Torah, whereas laws of Kashrut and derived mostly from rabbinic Judaism
  • Teusch: Jews developed rituals around food, thick black lines, set up for Jews to hang out with other Jews, to separate themselves from other peoples. Rabbis back then were living as a small minority and facing rising Christianity. Kashrut prevents assimilation.
  • Halav Yisrael: Jewish milk (also pertains to bread, milk and wine) not touched by a non-Jew from the time it left the cow. This could be because of an inherent distrust of non-Jews, or thinking that the cow could be used for a Pagan ritual (!)
  • It could be easy to interpret someone doing something different than you as criticism. There are many ways to live a good life.
  • Where do I find Halacha? There are a lot of laws in Ch. 21-23 in Exodus, in Leviticus, and chunks of Deuteronomy.
  • The Year of Living Biblically is a book about using laws in the Bible
  • Non-Torah codes: started in the Medieval Times, such as:
  • Mishneh Torah by Maimonides (Rambam), 14-book compilation written in easy Hebrew, 12th-13th century, Israel and Egypt
  • Shulchan Aroch, written by Josef Caro (Sephardi) and Moshe Isserles (Ashkeniazi) written in Tzfat in 16th century (4 volumes)
  • Mishnah Brurah (Clear Teaching) 19th century by Eli Mansoor
  • Klein's A Guide to Jewish Practice

What have you taken out of class today?
Today's class has reaffirmed my commitment to not committing. I like to constantly think and evaluate. Someone recently asked me why I write "G-d" and my answer is that I'm trying it out to see how it feels. I like the idea of trying something out, whether it is only from my rabbi's mouth (not that I have a rabbi), or whether it's something that I gave a lot of thought to and then decided to do it. I guess I'm just into people coming up with their own unique thoughts and ideas, or arriving at the their own decisions, even if those decisions do exactly go along with their community or rabbi.

I think that it's important to remember that the world you know is the world you are born into. I had a striking thought that maybe when people had slaves, they thought that was perfectly normal and OK, which got me to think what are we doing today that we think is perfectly normal and OK, but eventually we will come to abhor and view as inherently wrong? That's why I think there is value in examining our actions, all of them, to evaluate them. Even if it's just something we do because we've always done it, or if we've decided to go along with the flow. It's important to use the brains G...d gave us to think about the things we say and do.

3/25 Class Notes

Whose role is it to repair which world?
Prompt: ideal relationship between a day school and tzedakah and tikkun olam
Barry Holtz reading: Chapter 7: "A World of Justice" from Finding Our Way (on GoogleBooks )

3/18 Class Notes

Linking the Silos by Jack Wertheimer, JTS, meaning that we have all of these Jewish institutions that need to be connected. In this class, we have 7 seemingly disconnected topics, which we will attempt to connect.

Classes so far: Visions, What is Judaism, Why do we do what we do?
  • kind of like the DeLeT lesson plan format
What are the different strands or factors that come into play when we think about the development of Jewish practice or behavior?
  • personal niche and personal meaning
  • family tradition (ancestral heritage)
  • outside world/societal context
  • Halakhah
  • Jewish communal norms/internal social pressure/responsibility-allegiance to the community and/or "Jewish unity"
  • Biblical basis
  • Derived values (what other value do you get from it? Ex: freedom/day off, treating animals kindly)
Tesuch reading:
  • Attitudes, Beliefs and Values Shaping Jewish Practice , from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Tucker Article:
  • Positivists: Purists-if they can't see it, it doesn't exist, play with the cards they've been dealt. The game is the Halakhic system, and the cards are the homosexual issue and the Biblical texts. "My hands are tied"
  • Human interpretation: it's not only our tradition, it's our responsibility. Worlds change, such as women's role in prayer, etc. We keep pushing forward.
  • Halakhah comes into the conversation, but progress should be part of the fold.

  • "Halkhah should have a vote, but not a veto"
  • Positives and negatives of basing what you do on the community or the individual alone.
  • A critique of Halakhah, a sense of other factors that come into play
Responsum on the Sabbath: A Modern Approach to a Living Halachah, by Rabbi Robert Gordis
  • Historical context: in the 40s, when Nazis were on the rise and unemployment was hovering around 25%, Jews stopped observing the Sabbath because they couldn't afford to
  • "More than Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath have kept the Jews"
  • Observing Shabbat vs. sanctification of Shabbat: perhaps there was no distinction. Either people observed the Sabbath or not, it didn't make sense to light candles if you don't do any other Shabbat traditions
  • Wrap up: I'm going to suggest this: traditional Shabbat observance is in the context of the 39 "no's" whereas this reading is suggesting that just because you are not doing "all" of the traditional Shabbat observances, and give modern liberal Jews the opportunity to observe/commemorate/sanctify the Sabbath. If they have the choice between on or off, they choose off, and this article is proposing to take that stigma away.
  • "America is Christian in the way that Israel is Sephardic"
  • Sephardim who are some form of conservative celebrate Shabbat dinner on Friday nights, and then go to soccer games on Saturday
  • However you want to deal with these seven facets of personal practice, you can be fully Jewish. There's no sliding scale of Jewishness. It's not we are on a ladder, and the higher rungs are more observant, we are on our own individual ladders, and getting "higher" is personal
  • Journaling: What about "why do we do the things we do" do I want to take away from this room? I want to take the idea of "what matters to you personally" to every Jew. Reading about Jewish values, it made me realize that Jewish (for me, at least) is not a part of my life, but a lens through which I view the world. I almost think that anyone can be Jewish, or maybe any person trying to be an ethical person living an ethical life, can be Jewish. Take the things that matter to you, look at them through a Jewish lens. For example, I think that all vegans are Jewish b'nefesh.

3/4 Class Notes

Existential visions v. institutional vision
Existential vision: we can think of this as the institutional (education) vision
  • implicit in social
  • "creative" vision: a vision of what is going to be created in school
Lea, Anne and Miriam's stance paper's all include a vision for their students to be happy adults, engaged in a Jewish community, and leading a fulfilling life
  • Interesting food for thought: you are the head of a Jewish day school. Which school alumnus do you highlight this month?

8/27 Class Notes

Enduring Understandings:
Throughout Jewish history Jews have sought to find and develop a relationship with God. This quest is expressed in sacred literature and stories, e.g. the Bible, Aggadah, the Siddur,the Haggadah, piyyutim, and modern poetry.
As moderns we have an uneasy, complicated relationship to God and thus an uneasy relationship to liturgy and prayer. This affects how our students experience tefillah in our classrooms and school.
There is a difference between “talking about” prayer and “praying”.
The words of prayer can help students express something important about themselves: their relationship to God, family, community, self, current events, and history.
Praying is an act of imagination that provides personal, historical, and theological lenses through which we see the world and our relationship to God.

Experiencing prayer:
In a community: Arriving in Israel for the second time, after all of the participants of Jewel (an Aish HaTorah mechinah program for women) had arrived in Jerusalem, we finally gathered for Kabbalat Shabbat. We had the beautiful setting sun outside, and inside we were are perched around this room. We sang songs of praise, and there was an elevated spirit in the room of feeling grateful for having arrived safely finally.
Individually: Asking G-d for the strength to do something. This prayer is so meaningful because, in the end, it's personal will and conviction that are necessary (not physical strength or a miracle). Asking G-d for the strength to do something is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy because it is a mental push that is really needed.
Wishful thinking: I wish that I could place a prayer in the Kotel for my friend's father, who is a wonderful man who has advanced-stage cancer.
What are the contributing factors/triggers? Gratitude, genuine feeling, a long awaited moment, a request during a time of feeling helpless, help for someone else, acceptance
How would I define prayer? A heartfelt expression (silent or spoken) of thanks, praise, and/or request.

9/17 Class Notes

Source of Life, Creator of Light, Shepherd, Maker of Peace, My Rock, Healer, Redeemer, Ancient One, Comforter, Mother, Father, Friend, One

10/1 Class Notes

Prayer, def. A moment of true speaking, carved out time where we can step out of ourselves

10/8 Class Notes

What is a bracha?
Baruch atah Hashem, Elokeinu melech haolam, malbish arumim. Blessed are you Hashem, ruler of the universe, who clothes the naked. Thank you HaShem who provides us with our most basic needs.

10/15 Class Notes

Birkat Hamazon

10/22 Class Notes

Birkat Hamazon
What questions/comments come from the text?
  • What does the text mean to you?
  • Looking at different translations can give you more perspective?

Birkat Hamazon Big Ideas:

11/12 Class Notes
Shema and her brachot

11/19 Class Notes

Amidah: called Shmona-esrei (18) even though there are 19 brachot on Shabbat, and only 7 on weekdays