Temple Isaiah classes for adults exploring Jewish life, history, and practice.

L’shana tova! Happy Jewish New Year!

I’m in the process of putting things in order on this website for the upcoming year. The syllabi will be up soon, but in the meantime, here are descriptions of the classes I’m teaching at Temple Isaiah this year:

Exploring Judaism
This course is a year-long exploration of the history, beliefs, traditions, and practices of the Jewish people. “Exploring Judaism” will be interesting and meaningful whether you are becoming an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah, you are just beginning to explore Jewish studies, you are considering choosing Judaism, you are in an interfaith relationship, or you are simply looking for a deeper and more mature understanding of Jewish history and tradition. Students are encouraged to expand their Jewish literacy by taking this course in conjunction with Beginning Hebrew.

9:00-10:00am Sept. 29, 2013 – Apr. 27, 2014 (23 sessions)
Tuition: $100/members; $250/non-members for the year

If you would like to sign up for 1 or more blocks of Exploring Judaism (instead of registering for the whole year), we welcome you to do so. Tuition is $30 per block for members; $65 per block for non-members.

  • Jewish Calendar / Holidays (i.e. Jewish “public time”): 9/29, 10/6, 10/13, 10/20, 10/27, 11/3, 2013
  • Jewish Lifecycle & Home (i.e. Jewish “private time”): 11/10, 11/17, 11/24, 12/8, 12/15, 2013
  • Jewish Text & History: 1/5, 1/12, 1/26, 2/2, 2/9, 2/23, 2014
  • Jewish Thought, Prayer, and Music: 3/2, 3/9, 3/23, 4/6, 4/13, 4/27, 2014


Jewish Ethics 
Fall 2013 – 10:10-11:10am, Sundays Sept 29-Dec 15, 2013 (except 12/1) – 11 sessions
Money & The Mensch: A Jewish Ethics of Personal Finance

The Jewish tradition offers rich resources for making ethical decisions about money.  Judaism does not regard wealth itself as good or bad – the question is, what do we do with it? And how do we deal with the lack of it?  In this class, we will first learn a little about Jewish ethics in general and then proceed to look at texts that can inform our decisions about tzedakah [charity], consumption, savings, and investment.

Winter-Spring 2014 – 10:10-11:10am, Sundays Jan 5 – Apr 27, 2014 (except 1/19, 2/16, 3/16, 3/30, 4/20) – 12 sessions

Pirkei Avot: Wisdom from the Early Sages

Sometime before the year 200 of the common era, the rabbis assembled a collection of sayings about living the good life and included it in the Mishnah. Those sayings have come down to us in the text “Pirkei Avot,” which may be translated, “Verses of the Fathers” or simply “Fundamentals.” This semester we’ll read from this collection of proverbs and short tales and ponder together what it means to be a mensch.

$50/members; $125/non-members
Required textbook (available for purchase the first day of class, or you can purchase on your own): Pirkei Avot: A Modern Commentary on Jewish Ethics by Leonard Kravitz and Kerry M. Olitzky

To register for any of these classes, and for more information, look at the Temple Isaiah Adult Education website.


Todah Rabbah!

Thank You - Danke

(Photo credit: AlicePopkorn)

“Todah Rabbah” means “thank you very much!”  Thank you for a great year of study, for good questions, for fun discussions, for your curiosity over the past months of study.

Exploring Judaism will be back in the fall of 2013. The best way to find information about it is to follow the news at the Temple Isaiah website.

Have a great summer!

– Rabbi Adar

Eldridge Street Synagogue Klezmer Parade, 10/12

Eldridge Street Synagogue Klezmer Parade (Photo credit: Barbara L. Hanson)

Just a reminder that we have NO CLASS this Sunday.  Our class will resume on April 14.

The topic on April 14 will be “Body & Spirit:  Music and Movement in the Services.” We’ll talk about the service music and about the movements you see some people doing in services.   Bring questions! What have you seen or heard in services, and wondered about?

See you April 14! In the meantime I invite you to read and leave questions or comments over on my blog Coffee Shop Rabbi.

— Rabbi Adar

Score of the Lekha Dodi song (prayer for the w...

Lekha Dodi- Welcoming Shabbat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Officially, we began a new part of the class last week, but I think that Daylight Savings confused many of you. Instead of beginning a new series on prayer, we talked about Israel.

This coming Sunday morning we’ll talk about the Friday evening service: why we do it at all, and what it means.  Here are  questions to think about beforehand:

— What’s your favorite prayer in the service?

— Is there any part of the service you find uncomfortable or embarrassing?

— Have you ever had an experience in synagogue that particularly moved you?

We’ll talk.  See you Sunday.

— Rabbi Adar

Last week we looked at the history of Judaism in America, and the way the movements developed here and in Europe. If you missed that class, send me an email and I’ll be glad to send you the handout.

This coming week (tomorrow morning) we are going to spend some time on my least-favorite subject, anti-Semitism. It’s a very important topic, not only as history but in order to defend ourselves and others against history repeating itself. I hope you’ll be able to join us.

— Rabbi Adar

Rabbinic Judaism

page du Talmud Source : scanner illustration l...

A Page of Talmud (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Sunday we took a quick look at Rabbinic Judaism. We talked about the 2nd Temple Period, with its ferment of disagreement in the Jewish community.  The rabbis were one group within many in Judaism of the period: there were also Sadducees, Essenes, early Christians, followers of John the Baptist, Zealots, and others. Most of those groups ceased to exist during or soon after the wars with Rome, and Rabbinic Judaism eventually became the dominant form of Judaism, as it is today.

We learned about the Mishnah, a collection of discussions among the rabbis who were attempting to flesh out what exactly it means to live a life of Torah:  what does it mean, to “keep Shabbat?” How large is the “corner of the field?” Rabbi Judah ha Nasi closed the Mishnah in 200 CE, and it was “frozen” at that point.

Discussions continued, and we call the record of those discussions “Gemara.”  In the rabbinic academies of Eretz Israel, Mishnah and Gemara were collected into the Jerusalem Talmud.  In the Babylonian academies, they collected Mishnah and their Gemara into the Babylonian Talmud.  A generation of rabbis called the Sevoraim (Aramaic for “reasoners”) redacted the Babylonian Talmud into the form we have today.

Our handouts this week:  Rabbinic Literature and Rabbinic Timeline.  We also did a brief text study on Peah, the corners of the field. (If you would like a copy of that text study, please contact me directly.)

Next week:  medieval Judaism and the Codes.  Yes, I know we are going fast!  Jewish history is vast!

— Rabbi Adar



Torah (Photo credit: Lawrie Cate)

This past week I had the pleasure of seeing some “old” students return and some new additions to the class. Welcome back, everyone!

We talked about Tanakh (Torah + Prophets + Writings = Ta-Na-KH) and about the differences between a Jewish and a Christian Bible. We talked a very little bit about the origins of the Bible, and we talked about Midrash, which are (roughly) explanations and explications of the biblical text.  I gave you two handouts:  Tanach Directory and Bible Vocabulary.  I also supplied a time line for the period; if you want a another copy of that, see me.

Next week, we’re going to look at Rabbinic literature and history, roughly the period between 70 and 700 CE.  We’ll learn about Mishnah, Gemara, and Talmud, and about what happened to the Jews after the Temple was destroyed.

See you Sunday!

— Rabbi Adar