Thursday eve, April 1, 2021, 4th Day Hol Hamoed Pesah, 20 Nisan 5781, 5th Day of the Omer.
In the days before Pesah I often get dozens of questions about Passover Kashrut from people trying extra hard to observe the strictures around food for the holiday with extra care. I am happy to answer the questions and respect the meticulousness of my questioners about keeping kosher for Passover. But I wonder whether my questioners have given the same attention that they give to proper foods to questions about interpersonal relations, to issues in their work lives, or in matters of local, statewide, and national debate that also might be answered by teachings on Jewish practice.
That is why I am teaching a new class: The Way of Mitzvot, Exploring Jewish Practice.
What is unique about the approach of this class?
This class is about halakhah, Jewish observance and practice, but not in the narrow and limited way many Jews think about it as “the rules that govern the ritual lives of observant Jews”. I will present halakhah quite differently, in a way that I hope you will find illuminating, inspiring, and engaging. I quote from the editor’s introduction to centerpiece of our weekly study, The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judasim for Contemporary Jews.
“The halakhah lives in two different realms.
One is the idealized realm of ritual behavior in which people construct their own invisible temples and then serve God (or attempt to serve God) in those places with all the fervor and attention to detail they can muster. This is the realm of kashrut and Shabbat observance, the realm of marriage and divorce law, the realm of family purity and formal mourning practices—in short, the collective realm of the slightly artificial institutions designed to help us feel the presence of God profoundly and palpably by imposing highly effective contexts in which to do so upon the hours of their days and the years of their lives.”
“The other realm is the arena of human society, where the halakhah flourishes as people devoted to serving God wholly attempt to find holiness in even the most banal aspects of daily life as it is actually lived. This is the realm of how we dress and how we speak, how we relate to our employers and to our employees, how we conduct our social lives and our sexual lives. It is the realm of thoughtful advertising executives wondering what kind of impact the laws that forbid lying should have on their craft, of spiritually sensitive journalists speculating about the degree to which they can report the news without contravening the scriptural prohibition of talebearing, and of ethical, humane physicians attempting to practice a kind of medicine infused with the values of faith. It is the realm of lawyers wondering how exactly the halakhah crosses paths with the techniques of modern jurisprudence, and whether Judaism formally discourages—or perhaps even actually forbids—them to engage in any of those practices.” The Observant Life. Editors, Martin S. Cohen and Michael Katz. Published 2012. Rabbinical Assembly. p. xxvi.
My approach to studying halachah with you is to explore the realm of real people living in the real world. I am not presenting Judaism as only a way of inventing space for God in the world, but also to present our way of life as a way of finding God in the nooks and crannies of our actual lives as we are already living them. This is Torah study that deals with the real world and provides insight into the way we might respond to all sorts of distressing, unexpected-and usually complicated aspects of living in that world. This is a deep exploration of Jewish practice that presumes that the most pious, ethical human being cannot avoid encountering vulgarity, obscenity, impropriety, and boorish behavior. Our central question throughout will be: How can Jewish practice help us to live morally, spiritually, in a compromised and complicated world?
This is a class for Jews and interested non-Jews at any level who are ready to be explore Judaism in new and challenging ways. I expect there to be disagreement and debate but always accompanied by illumination and insight.
See the details and signup below.
The Way of Mitzvot, Jewish Practice: A Virtual Shabbat Afternoon Rabbi’s Shiur (Torah Study Session) Weekly Saturday Afternoons, 4-5pm on Zoom* Starting Shabbat, April 10, 2021 through May 29, 2021. This shi’ur will be extended with sufficient participant interest.
This class is free and open to the community. It is also open to remote participants in other communities. All sessions will be recorded. A donation is welcome to support adult Jewish learning at CBI. Secure Online Electronic Signup. Registrants will receive the zoom link on Friday, April 9th. https://www.signupgenius.com/go/8050545AAAC2DA4F85-cbiadult
Phone Signup: Call the CBI office at 505 266-0155. For questions write to Rabbi Gartenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.