Prayer and Spirituality
Teshuvah, often translated as "repentance," is one of the most startling and central concepts in Jewish life—throughout the year but especially during preparation for the High Holidays. The idea that we can sin, work on ourselves, return to the correct path, and then be forgiven is just as essential as it is revolutionary. If it weren’t for this process, we could be stuck in our ways, never changing, never forgiven, always the sinner.
But what does teshuvah actually entail? What are its goals? What is "acceptable" versus "ideal" teshuvah? How can you demonstrate that you have changed? How much does teshuvah rely on God's grace to be effective? And are there any metaphors that can help us focus on this important internal (and external) work?
This course explores four different perspectives on teshuvah, ranging from classical sources to modern Jewish thought. While it may not provide real answers to these unanswerable questions, the discussions help frame and conceptualise the core issues. Each session is a window into this fundamental question: what does it take for a person to change?
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In this course, we will approach the story we tell at the seder - maggid - through the lens of Song of Songs, the megillah associated with the holiday of Passover. Each year at the seder, we tell a love story - the story of how the relationship between God and Israel began. Many people like to tell and retell the story of how they fell in love - trying to identify a pivotal moment, relating the challenges and obstacles that stood in the way. As we learn together, we will focus on four scenes in rabbinic midrash that aim to identify the pivotal moment when we “fell in love” with God, and God “fell in love” with us. We will look at each of these scenes closely over four sessions, asking what each teaches us about the Exodus story, and the twists and turns of being in a deep relationship.
Please note: This course is available through our brand new Elul Cycle, starting August 20. Learn more and sign up at www.projectzug.org/elul
Join us as we prepare for the High Holidays by exploring the textual roots of this special liturgy. We will delve into the biblical and rabbinic sources of key High Holiday prayers, with an eye toward unlocking meaning and connection to the larger themes of the holidays. Whether you are new to High Holiday liturgy and are looking for a way in or you are looking to deepen your experience with all too familiar prayers, you will come away from these sessions with a more nuanced understanding of our liturgy and new ways of standing to pray.
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Music is the soul's native language: a prayer, a divine ladder upon which we climb between the Earth and the Heavens. But music also reaches horizontally across our social fractures and dogmas and connects us one with the other. Just as it cuts the nonsense away from our hearts, music opens our ears so that we can listen to the subtle nuances and sacred whispers of the world around us. In every moment, music encourages us to ask ourselves: Can we hear the songs that are already being sung by all of creation?
Based on Joey Weisenberg's book (The Torah of Music) and his teaching at communities across the world, this course provides an opportunity to reflect together on the place of music in our Jewish lives—our relationships to God, each other, and ourselves. You'll be encouraged not only to discuss the texts, exploring 3000 years of music history, but also your own experiences of prayer and Jewish music.
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Rabbi Jessica Minnen
For our ancestors, ritual was a sort of spiritual technology. With meaning and intention, ritual accomplished something specific, something almost magical for them. How might we experience ritual in our modern lives with this same sense of meaning, intention, and accomplishment?
At OneTable, Shabbat dinner rituals are our specialty, and we take a DIY approach. We want to empower you to hold tradition in one hand and your own beliefs, experiences, and passions in the other. In order to do that, we welcome you to "The Oldest New Way to Friday," a four-session exploration of Friday night ritual — not only the words, but where they come from, why we say them, and what they are meant to do.
Every week, the Shabbat dinner table gives you an opportunity to take a break and be fully present in your life. Ritual and blessings can make that possible, helping you carve out a moment in your week to connect to yourself and others. We hope this course inspires you to experience ritual in a way that reflects you, not only where you come from but who you just might become, with meaning and intention.
Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels
This course will explore the practice of mindfulness in Jewish sources and thought. It will consider mindfulness as a path of emotional healing, spiritual awareness and liberation from suffering and its role in leading a full and fulfilling Jewish life. Concrete techniques will accompany many of the practices, and participants are encouraged to engage on a practical as well as intellectual level. Texts and questions will address emotional, psychological and intellectual issues, and participants are encouraged to approach the course with intellectual and emotional openness and a willingness to share and experiment.
The Jewish prayerbook is comprised of many prayers composed over the years, ancient words that have been said by Jews across generations and communities. What do these prayers actually mean, and how can we relate to these words in a deeper way?
This course invites participants to look anew at the prayerbook, to investigate the Shabbat and weekday prayers, with an eye toward personal meaning. The course is intended not only for those with a prayer practice, but also for those interested in examining this rich literature from a personal perspective.
During the course, we will a) investigate primary sources (Biblical and rabbinic) that serve as background and inspiration for various prayers, b) form an interpretive methodology to read traditional Jewish prayers, and c) invest ancient prayers with more personal meaning.
We will ask such questions as: Are traditional prayer formulas able to express our own values/ideas of prayer? What do we do when we "disagree" with the prayer's content? How can we interpret the siddur in a grounded and traditional yet creative manner?
Jews often take great comfort in reciting chapters of Tehillim (psalms), but we rarely study them carefully. In these sessions, we will explore the religious world of the book of Psalms.
Through close literary and theological readings of an array of Psalms—reflecting diverse genres, moods, experiences, and emotions—we will deepen our understanding of the texts and the worldviews they express. We'll encounter texts that are theologically profound, spiritually audacious, and literarily breathtaking. Along the way, we'll consider what it means to pray a text as opposed to merely reading or studying it.
Dr. Nira Nechaliel
We customarily mark milestone events and important stages of our lives by holding ceremonies. The ceremony is a condensed and symbolic expression of personal and public ideas and moods and is conducted in festive and elevated spirits.
The ceremony allows both individuals and society to shape time, endowing it with personal, social and cultural significance. It is a way for people to gain a sense of control over time. The ceremonies we choose to hold and the forms these take allow us to express our cultural identity.
Throughout this course, we have chosen to discuss ceremonies that mark the circle of life – birth, coming of age, marriage and mourning. We will observe these ceremonies from a personal, social and cultural perspective.
The learning process will proceed with studying the Jewish origins of each ceremony, their respective structures, which have taken shape over the course of innumerable generations, and contemporary and relevant perspectives and the possibilities for reshaping our life cycle ceremonies.
Food is a powerful force at the center of ritual, community and ethics. This class will explore all of these aspects of food by studying passages on food found across the six Orders of the Talmud. How can the act of eating become a practice of gratitude? Who should receive food as charity, and how much? What rights do field-workers have?
Jumping into the lively debate of Talmud will pave the way for rich discussion to affirm, challenge and transform our own approaches to food.