I will go to every street
In every corner
Every market and court and
Alley and garden
And the ruins of your walls
Every little stone
I will collect and keep
~ By Lea Goldberg
As I prepare to leave Jerusalem the words of Lea Goldberg come to mind. I have completed this year’s studies at the Shalom Hartman Institute for my second year. With over 150 rabbis, cantors and educators of all denominations from North America and Israel we have engaged in intensive learning.
The Shalom Hartman Institute is a center of transformative thinking and teaching that addresses the major challenges facing the Jewish people and elevates the quality of Jewish life in Israel and around the world. The Institute is a leader in highly sophisticated, idea-based Jewish education and hence commits itself to the growth and continual revitalization of the Jewish people through this kind of teaching to Jewish leaders.
This year the rabbinic Torah study seminar focused on Dilemmas of Faith: G-d and Spirituality in the Modern World.
Each morning starting at 8:30 we’d enter the modern and beautiful Shalom Hartman Beit Ha-Midrash, the lecture hall, and we’d leave the Institute in the early evening, only to return by 8:00 p.m. for further lectures. The very top scholars of both Israel and North America teach at the Shalom Hartman Institute. To share with you something of a typical day, it is as follows.
Imagine entering an enormous library with tables and chairs.
At 8:30 a.m. one of the scholars begins his or her lecture on a particular facet of the issue of faith. It could be from a Talmudic, poetic, post Holocaust, Biblical, philosophical, mystical or hassidic perspective. After the first half hour of lecture, we begin in small groups of 2-3, called chevruta, from the word ‘friend’ to study the material for two hours. After the chevruta study, the lecturer returns and gives a two hour lecture on the material we have examined.
After the lecture, we have small group discussions about material presented. Lunch is provided. After lunch we study in our electives. The first week I studied with a professor Biti Roi on "Reading Hassidut in our time: Bretzlav, Chabad and S’fat Emet.” The material was in both Hebrew and English. Like the morning, we would have part of the lecture, then study with a study partner the material, then return to the remainder of the presentation. The second week, I studied with Noam Zion on the topic: "Competing Biblical faiths: faith in Economics, War and Politics.”
The program included a tiyul, or field trip. I chose a tour of Tel Aviv called: "Shifting Identities in a Multi Identity Society.” We met with leaders who are providing relevant programming for specific groups. For young Israeli professionals who are not religious, there was an artistically vibrant place, called The Place (haMakom) where 20,000 individuals come each week to take classes in film, photography, theatre and music. Another vital program called Fishka, does outreach programming for Russian Israelis and by offering support on finding work, housing and ways to navigate Israeli society. By targeting what is needed, they are hitting their mark.
In the political arena, in small groups we met with members of the Knesset who generously gave of their time to explain current political topics such as how the Arab Spring affects Israel, the tension regarding the ultra-religious to take their turn in serving in the Army, the growth of the ultra-religious and their actually insisting women sit in the back of the bus, despite Israeli law.
I can sum it up by saying: Torah by day, Politics by night. For many of the 150 plus rabbis, cantors, and educators, the Shalom Hartman Institute is the Garden of Eden where we are nourished through intensive learning given by the very best scholars this century has to offer.
Invigorated, filled up, and inspired with Torah and commitment to Israel, I look forward to seeing you all and teaching what I have gained.
The Israeli Zelda wrote:
"There are those who think that if a person is spiritual, then their faith, as it were sits in a box. They don’t understand that every single day, the believer must renew his/her faith.”
With blessings to you all,