אף אתה עשה אזניך כאפרכסת וקנה לך לב מבין לשמוע את דברי מטמאים ואת דברי מטהרים את דברי אוסרין ואת דברי מתירין את דברי פוסלין ואת דברי מכשירין.
Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya taught… make your ears like a funnel and acquire for yourself an understanding heart to hear both the statements of those who render objects ritually impure and the statements of those who render them pure; the statements of those who prohibit actions and the statements of those who permit them; the statements of those who deem items invalid and the statements of those who deem them valid.
Learning, teaching, and education are fundamental to how I view my role as a rabbi. I’m particularly curious about what our classical texts have to say about education. In the piece of Talmud above, you can see just how important learning is to our rabbis – we are meant to attune our ears and hearts to learn from all – even those who speak the exact opposite of one another.
My Rabbinic Thesis – Stuff Him Like an Ox and Fill Him with Torah: Visions of Education and Identity in the Babylonian Talmud (available January 2018) – researches the ideas of teaching and learning embedded within the Babylonian Talmud.
One of my favourite areas of focus is studying halakhic literature as applied to contemporary situations. In this area, I researched and wrote a well-received teshuvah with one of my rabbinic classmates – Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch: The Halakhot of Ethical Egg Eating. We answered the question: Do Jewish law and ethics provide any guidance that should inform our consumption of eggs? This project was conducted as part of a Halakhic Decision Making class, under the instruction of Dr. Alyssa Gray.
Here’s a sampling of recent teachings that I have facilitated, including study resources I created. Be sure to take a look at each introduction to get a sense of the audience and focus.
Below them, you can find a list of topics on which I am readily available to teach and lead study.
The Tanakh and Talmud teach two fascinatingly different ideas when it comes to anger: on the one hand, anger is something to be strenuously avoided. One the other hand, there are instances when it is not only understood, but demanded!
This text study explores that tension and encourages learners to consider how our classical texts might inform an understanding of human emotion today.
This study is from a shiur (class) that I first delivered at the JCC of the East Bay’s Shavuot Tikkun in 2016. It was designed for a large audience primarily of adult learners who may or may not have prior experience studying primary Hebrew/Aramaic texts, but is easily adapted for smaller groups and chevruta study. The accompanying discussion questions prompt comprehension, analysis, and personal reflection.
“You cannot run from your past, but maybe you would run farther if you carried your past with you, as long as you can control it, and I think that that is really what we want to understand — we want to understand what it means to have a greater repertoire of behavior.”
This Torah study was for a weekly Shabbat morning Torah study class of adult learners. It explores how our ancestors may have experienced inherited trauma – and how that might colour our perspective of their characters in the Torah.
This study includes frontal teaching, group discussion and small chevruta learning, with a particular focus on introducing learners to classical mefarshim (Medieval Bible Commentators).
The accompanying discussion questions are primarily designed to prompt comprehension, analysis, and personal reflection.
How important is the idea of teshuvah (commonly translated as “repentance”) in Judaism? Just how far are our rabbis willing to go to make teshuvah available to people? Is there any prohibited behaviour that is beyond the pale, or is teshvuah always available?
This study is from a shiur that I facilitated on Shabbat Shuvah for a group of young Jewish professionals at a congregation in Upstate New York. It was designed for a small group of learners to engage in both chevruta study, as well as group discussion.
I am available to teach and lead study on the following topics as well as others with consultation, for groups of adult, elementary, high school, and university learners. If you’re interested in learning together, get in touch with me!
- The Talmud & Education
- Progressive approaches to Halakhah (Jewish Law)
- Judaism & Mindfulness
- Judaism & Human Emotions
- Jewish Food Ethics / Vegetarianism
- Speech Ethics
- Human Relationships & Chesed / Kindness
- Jewish History and Philosophy – Ancient, Medieval, Modern
- European Jewish History and Culture
- Israeli Politics, History, and Culture
- Liberal Religious Zionism
- Parashat HaShavua (weekly Torah portion)
- Rabbinic Thought (Talmud, Mishnah, Midrash, Halakhah)
I am also available to serve as a Tour Guide and Educator in Europe and Israel, with a particular focus on Jewish History in Poland, Lithuania, The Czech Republic, Germany, and France.