The Secret of Shabbat: Even if you know it -- you've never heard it like this before!
Midnight in the Field of Sacred Apples; a study of the Hasidic Rebbes, the Zen Masters of Eastern Europe
The Hasidic movement was an astounding revolution in Eastern European Judaism. From its painful and traumatic background and origins, through the development of the Hasidic philosophy by Israel Ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov and his disciple, Dov Baer of Mezritch, we explore profound Hasidic stories and teachings, illuminating their Kabalistic motifs and the unique genius of the Hasidic Masters’ story telling; we return to the origins of informal Jewish education. From the early years of The Baal Shem Tov and the Magid of Mezritch, to the generation of Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, and Shneur Zalman of Ladi, Zusya of Anipol and others, and through the genius of Reb Nachman of Bratzlav, the Kotzker Rebbe, Isaac of Kaliv and others we will trace the development of the Hasidic movement through text study, story telling and the rich world of Hasidic music.
Welcoming the Bride; L’cha Dodi and the feminine side of Judaism
Discover the extraordinary secrets hidden in the Kabbalat Shabbat service. Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, the 16th century mystic of Safed changed our Shabbat liturgy forever by composing L’cha Dodi, this highly coded, mystical masterpiece. Beautiful melodies, hidden meanings, numerical combinations, political aspirations, spiritual instructions all combine to make a startling journey of discovery. There is not one accidental word in this magnificent Kabalistic epic and we will examine some of its treasures. We will also look at the historical and theological background that gave birth to the Safed branch of Kabala, with its heavy Messianic emphasis and its rich poetry. Some basic Kabalistic concepts will be elucidated upon in order to place the hymn in its proper context.
The Passion, the Beauty, the Heartbreak; Israel through music and poetry
Israel, more so than almost any other modern state, reveals its soul and its essence through its poetry and popular song writing. Embark on an inspiring pilgrimage through the beautifully painful landscape of Israel’s creative legacy. Here is an engaging, eye opening exploration of Israel’s history as it unfolds through its greatest poets and songwriters. Haunting poems, enchanting melodies and personal insights combine to illuminate the Israeli genius in brutal honesty, self-criticism, and love of country and of the Hebrew language. The changes in Israeli society, the wars, attitudes towards love and friendship become somehow clearer as the complexity of Israeli life becomes more visceral. From Bialik to Shlonski, from Alterman to Amichai, from Leah Goldberg to Rachel Israel’s poetry unfolds in all its unparalleled beauty; from Argov to Wilensky, from Minkowsky to Zeira, from Mati Caspi to Yoni Rechter, Israel’s songwriting is shown for all of its sophisticated, moving and ever-relevant poignancy. Now, more than ever, Israel needs to be seen for all its beauty, pain, complexity and struggle. This novel approach does just that by touching both mind and soul.
PARDES; Vertical Torah reading
Our Torah was designed to hide and reveal endless meanings that could only surface after careful study. Peer behind the veils that cover the mysteries of our sacred teachings; glimpse the stunning beauty that hides behind the words of our Torah. Like the pearl fishers in the South Pacific, we dive into the pages of Torah to retrieve the jewels hidden in its depth and bring them up to the surface. From the very first chapter of Genesis Bereshit perhaps our most mystical and hidden text, to the story of Cain and Able, to the birth of Moses in the opening chapters of Exodus Sh’mot - we reexamine stories we thought we knew to see what hides underneath the water’s surface, between the reeds of the river. The method of PARDES reveals itself to be not only a magical tool for examining Torah, but, rather, a tool for examining all that is worth while with deep respect and with depth. The origins of the mystical approach are discussed, as well as its historical development over the Millennia. Mainly, though, we read Bible in an astoundingly fresh way.
God, Love, and Violence; Men and religion
What does our holy book have to say about God, about men, about the qualities required for holiness? Is violence antithetical to holiness? Is violence inherent to men and only to men? Why do men seek intimacy with God? We look at Cain and Abel; Abraham and Isaac; we follow the Saga of the tribe of Levi, from their ignoble origins to their exalted status as servants of God; from the story of Dina, Jacob’s daughter, through Moses; from Aaron and his sons, Nadav and Avihu, to Pinchas. We also examine King David and his unique place in our people’s history. We review God’s various names, some of which point directly to God’s violent nature. This is a serious, disturbing and most relevant study, especially in light of the preponderance of hateful violence committed in the name of God all around the world these days.
Vengeance, Deception and Pride; Purim unmasked.
Trace the origins of Purim, its violent endgame and its hidden message as you embark on this contrary study of our happiest of holidays. The story of Purim never once mentions God; the story of Purim takes place in Persia far from the Promised Land, both spiritually and physically; the story of Purim ends with the massacre of 75,000 Persians at the hands of Jews. How and why did this story end up as part of the biblical canon? What are we to make of its apparent lack of religiosity? What are we to make of its manipulative heroes? Is there more to this Megilah than meets the eye? How does the Pagan become acceptable in our strictly theistic religion? What are the roots of the story and what can we uncover in this masquerade?
Labor of Love; A musical journey through the Siddur
Our siddur is a repository of wisdom, beauty, and tradition. It also holds within it problematic affirmations, difficult concepts, paradoxical statements and a host of challenges for the contemporary Jew. The music of the Siddur offers a wonderful path to uncover the meaning, power and majesty of these written words. We will weave our way through the evening and morning prayers of the Shabbat, covering Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Hassidic and contemporary music, while finding out why the music evokes the emotions it evokes, what are the rules for good liturgical music, which music elevates and highlights the prayers and why. A must for all who are interested in synagogue music, whether as congregants, prayer leaders, song leaders or cantors.
The Poetry of the Bible; the Four Chambers of the heart
Whether or not we know it, all Jews are formed and affected by the biblical poetry - it is the very DNA of our souls; it marks us as unique members of a language-smitten tribe within the human world. What foundation, what damage, what inspiration, what fears and what yearnings have the Biblical poems implanted in our soul, as Jews? How does the very language of the Bible, its poetic blood, affect our world view; inform our reactions to the world in which we live? The workshop is divided into four segments, just as the human heart is segmented into four chambers and Jerusalem into four quarters: poems of Personal Loss, poems of yearning, poems that seek to teach and God- Wrestling poems.
For Parents, Teachers and Educators
The Big G; talking about spirituality with children: (A.K.A.: “They never taught me this in Hebrew School.”
Can young children grasp spirituality? Should we be engaging them in conversations about God? An hour-long discussion with parents, teachers, counselors, etc., utilizing beautiful Hasidic stories and teachings, as well as music, to make the ‘G’ topic meaningful for kids of all ages.
For Students, Campers and Youth Groups
The Prince Who Thought He was a Rooster; Keeping Your Inner Truth in the Face of Peer-pressure. (A.K.A.: Don’t be a follower; be a leader.)
Reb Nachman of Bratzlav was the quintessential rebel, the eternal outsider. He maintained his unique individuality throughout his life, serving as one of our greatest teachers and leaders. His stories have a lot to say about maintaining you inner strength and uniqueness, “doing your own thing”, while being a fully participating member of the community, a part of the group.