Torah — our ongoing story — and Jewish learning in general, is central to our life as a community. Our learning answers questions and enables questioning, and instills an abiding sense of pleasure in Jewish thought and practice. We strive to develop the basic knowledge and skills needed for ongoing religious practice, cultural engagement, and ethical action. Ideally, learners of all ages and backgrounds will understand what Judaism means for them, identify strongly as Jews, and have the cultural fluency needed for active engagement in Jewish life and community. -- Kolot Chayeinu Values Statement
From Rabbi Ellen Lippmann:
During our Jewish prayer services, just before we sing the Shema, we also sing or read two prayers that give thanks for the gifts of the natural world and the gift of Torah. Lately, I have been speaking about the gift of Torah as God’s way of urging us to use our minds, engage the intellect. It’s so Jewish, isn’t it, yet as so many of us have been exploring various Jewish and other spiritual paths, we sometimes need the reminder of the gift of using our good minds as well as waking our hearts and souls. So this year, here are some things I and others are exploring or have begun:
1)Torah study: One of the first things that Kolot did when it began was engage in study of the weekly Torah portion and we continued to do so for many years, most often after services, from about 1 to 2 pm. This year, we are trying something new: Arthur Strimling and I are talking Torah on Shabbat mornings at 9 am. And rather than focus solely on how any of us respond to the Torah’s words, we are reading the commentaries of Aviva Zornberg (http://www.avivahzornberg.com/) as well, and stretching to understand their brilliance. We began this past Shabbat as Torah began again with “In the beginning…” and we explored the process of creation, human and divine. Seven of us started, and we look forward to more. By the way, a group of members is hanging onto the 1 to 2 pm slot and have begun reading past the Torah, into the rest of the Tanakh; you can join them as they start with the book of Joshua. And note that each time a Kolot member offers a d’var Torah during services, there is Torah learning going on, in the preparation and the presentation.
2)An author series: We are talking to the Community Bookstore about arranging for an author series, specifics yet to be determined. This is not a book club, but a chance to hear from authors and to get them to sign the books you buy. Send me the authors you want to hear from, ideally with some connection to us: Jews, Park Slope, Brooklyn, et al. We’ll let you know as soon as details are set. Exciting!
3)Adult bnai mitzvah: As I hope you are already aware, there is a lively adult bnai mitzvah class going on this year, starting with Hebrew learning but starting on October 25 adding on Jewish study of prayer, Torah, calendar, et al. If you have some Hebrew you are welcome to join us on October 25, but let me know if you plan to do so, so I can send you details.
4) Learn At Home Do you wish you could learn more about Judaism and how it intersects with your life, but it is hard to get to a class and sitting at a classroom table is not what you want to do on a hard-won free evening? Have you wished, as I sometimes have, that you could be part of a group that would allow you room to talk about the issues that matter in your life AND that you could find time to learn more Judaism? Do you ever wonder if there is a prayer that really fits a situation in your life? Are you a Kolot-nik who wants to be introduced to Talmud and to understand how it works, where and when it began, what is in it that can be helpful or interesting for you? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, we may have a group for you! This winter and spring, we plan to bring you some home-based learning: good, thoughtful, serious (but fun!) Jewish learning that meets in the comfort of your or friends' living rooms and offers the camaraderie that you desire along with the teaching. We are collecting names now, and the Mamash and Talmud groups will begin in February. The prayer-writing group will begin in January. Go HERE for more details.
6) Writing Personal Prayer: This January, Trisha Arlin, will teach a three or four week class in writing your own personal prayer. Trisha has presented many of her prayers and kavannot (intentions) at Kolot over the last few years and her work has been published online at Ritualwell.org and Opensiddur.org and her blog, triganza.blogspot.com.
5)CLP Parents’ Learning: We hope to arrange a way to offer monthly learning to our school parents at 5 pm on Monday afternoons, an hour before pick-up, on topics that you choose or approve. We’ll let you know.
7) Your choice: Just today two people approached me with an idea to begin a mussar group (see more here: http://www.mussarinstitute.org/). We’ll try to get it going and recruit others. Someone else has offered to teach Yiddish at Kolot. I have been wanting to get a Talmud study group going. Interested? Say so! Or let me know other things you want to learn. We’ll want at least 5 people strongly committed to an idea to get it off the ground. So reach out!
I was so excited on Shabbat morning to be engaged in regular Torah study again at Kolot. And I look forward to getting these various ideas and any of yours off the ground. Some may wait to next year. That is good too, to have a vision of learning taking off and moving forward into the future.
Our prayer about the gift of Torah, mentioned above, is called by its first two words, Ahavah Rabbah: A great love, meaning the love God had for us to give us this amazing gift of Torah to read, learn, struggle with, and confront. Our translation reads, “Our fount, our loving parent, caring one, be merciful with us, and place into our hearts ability to understand, to see, to hear, to learn, to teach, to keep, to do, and to uphold with love all that we study of your Torah.”
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann
We are eager to hear what you want to learn. Please send an email to email@example.com and let us know.
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