Jewish Spirituality



Journeys in Jewish Spirituality*

Faculty: Rabbi Howard Addison (Profile)

*This course is appropriate as a point of departure for students in the D.Min. in Jewish Spirituality program. 

Description:  Premise: … it is our duty to revitalize the spirit of God …and gain respect for Torah ... We must take whatever is good from any source where we find it... We shall infuse the living creative spirit that knows our generation and is capable of influencing it, toward the love of all things holy …  -- (Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (d. 1935) Chief Rabbi of Pre-State Israel).  
 
For those who would offer Jewish Leadership, in any of its Spiritual, Religious or Social forms, Rav Kook’s challenge remains as compelling today as when it was first sounded. Like those he was addressing in his time, ours is the task of influencing those whom we serve towards love of the Holy and the realization that all situations and encounters can reveal that which is “beloved of God.”
 
As the point of embarkation on the D.Min. Program in Jewish Spirituality, this course has three goals:
  • To  further acquaint you, the student, with past and current sources and themes in Jewish Spirituality
  • To stimulate reflection upon the state of your own spiritual journey as well as the vistas and perspectives that the readings and exercises might open for you
  • To help  clarify, both cognitively and affectively, how your own spiritual leadership, including your doctoral project, should embody the knowledge, insight and experience gained along your continuing Jewish Spiritual Journey 
Required Reading:
  • Katz, Steven T. Jewish Ideas and Concepts. New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1977.  (Written from a masculine perspective more common to its time, this text does provide an informed, accessible overview of the classical sources on a variety of Jewish Spiritual themes (with citations). This more traditional, patriarchal orientation will be challenged and complemented by contemporary works on these same topics in the online selections, including essays, poems, videos and podcasts by members of the GTF Jewish Spirituality Faculty.)
  • Required readings and exercises for the various weeks, as well as supplemental selections, will be available online.

Online Registration Form

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Afterlife and Eschatology in Judaism and World Religions

Faculty: Reb Simcha Raphael (Profile)

Description: This course shall weave together an exploration of teachings on death and immortality in Judaism, and other great traditions of the world. As historians of religion we shall trace the evolution of Jewish ideas on dying and the deathbed, and the postmortem survival of the soul from earliest roots in Biblical tradition through to the contemporary era. Traversing continents and traveling through time we shall encounter an ever-changing panorama of Jewish texts – Torah, Apocryphal literature, Talmud, medieval Midrash, Kabbalah and Hasidism - documenting how scholars and sages of the past reflected upon their own encounters with human mortality. At the same time, within the varied cultural environments in which Jewish life evolved we also find teachings on death and immortality. We shall investigate these death traditions – of ancient Egypt; the ancient Near East; the Greco-Roman world; early and medieval Christianity; Islamic civilization; and medieval Tibet - exploring the inter-relationship between these traditions and Jewish belief and practice. 

We shall endeavor to discover how these varied traditions illuminate our perspective on Jewish views of death, dying and the afterlife. Throughout the course, class presentations will be augmented with visual images of death practices from religious art or archaeological and anthropological evidence, to help students appreciate the diversity of death rituals and beliefs.
 
Required Reading:
Recommended Reading:

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Chapters of the Heart: The Power and Perils of Spiritual Autobiography

Faculty: Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell (Profile)

Description: Autobiography and memoir can be rich resources for sharing one’s journey towards, through, or away from a faith tradition or community. These forms also can serve as a powerful prism through which to view classical Jewish texts. In this course, we will meet a range of Jewish writers and thinkers who have used their own life stories to illuminate Torah and construct a meaningful personal engagement with Jewish textual tradition, while creating an entry point for others’ spiritual exploration. We will explore how, as teachers and guides living in a memoir-obsessed culture, exploring our own stories can enhance our spiritual journeys and open spiritual paths for others. 

Required Reading:

Online Registration Form

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Contemporary Psychological Approaches to Bereavement

Faculty: Reb Simcha Raphael (Profile)

Description: Death is an inevitable dimension of life, often laden with deep and confusing human emotions. Yet by encountering the reality of death with humility, honesty and integrity, it is possible to develop a much deeper appreciation of the meaning of life itself.
 
This course will explore contemporary psychological approaches to death, dying, and bereavement from a spiritual perspective. Through a variety of learning modalities including lecture, discussion, videos, journal writing, meditation and other self-awareness exercises, this course will focus on four inter-related areas:
 
1) Personal Grief Journey
2) The Psychology of Death and Bereavement
3) Specific Skills in Ministering to the Dying and Bereaved, and;
4) Human Mortality, Life After Death and Questions of "Ultimate Concern"
 
Through this course students will be given the opportunity to clarify their own psychological perspectives on dealing with dying, death and philosophical views of afterlife and immortality.
Required Reading:
Recommended Reading:

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Death, Burial and Mourning in the Hebrew Bible

Faculty: Reb Simcha Raphael (Profile)

Description: Within the Hebrew Bible are to be found a variety of teachings and perspectives on death and dying, burial and mourning, and views of afterlife and immortality. This course shall investigate a tapestry of Biblical texts on death and dying with a dual perspective -- looking historically at how death was understood in the Ancient Near East of the 1st and 2nd millennia BCE, and looking with a contemporary lens at what we can learn from ancient Hebrew and Israelite civilization for responding to the reality of death today. The intention of this course will be to help students harvest from Biblical tradition philosophical wisdom and practical guidelines for dealing with all facets of the human encounter with death in our times. 

Required Reading:

Online Registration Form

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Eco-Judaism: The Theology & Practice of Jewish Responses to Ecological Crises, Past & Present

Faculty: Rabbi Arthur Waskow (Profile)

Description: This course will cover three areas of focus with a practicum included. Part 1: "The dance of control and community" will cover the present ecological crisis and analogous crises in Jewish history;  socio-ecological analysis; Eisenberg's Ecology of Eden; the emergence of Rabbinic Judaism; Zalman S-S theory of new paradigms; the relationship of human history to evolutionary history through which eco-systems emerge; Martin Buber, I and Thou; Teilhard de Chardin (The Phenomenon of Man); Evan Eisenberg (The Ecology of Eden); and evolution as "Divine unfolding," among other related topics.  Part 2: "Responding to the crisis will cover new forms of community" will cover topics such as cultural ecology and Adam/adamah inerwovenness; new paradigms of Judaism? (Schachter-Shalomi, Waskow); sexual ethics, work ethics, the nature of Shabbat; Earth-oriented strands of Jewish teaching, and related topics. Part 3: "Life-practice in an eco-Jewish life-path for our day" will cover eco-Kashrut; re-energizing earth and intergenerational aspects of life-cycle markers; renewing Shabbat and other prayer-liturgy and "Prayer as if the Earth really mattered"; re-weaving Torah as intellect with earth-experience; eco-Zionism; advocacy for policy change and forms of Jewish organizing for eco-Judaism, among other related topics. Part 4: Practicum.  Each student is required not only to read, etc., but also to prepare a hands-on project in creating actual events for congregations, etc. (e. g. eco-centered celebration of festivals, Shabbat Noach, Shabbat B'Har, Brit Milah, B'nei Mitzvah, etc.).
 
Required Reading:
 
Part 2: (A complete list of required readings is available in the course syllabus.)
Part 3: Websites (Jewcology, Shalom Center, etc.)

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End-of-Life Counseling and Hospice Care

Faculty: Reb Simcha Raphael (Profile)

Description: An in-depth exploration of Jewish perspectives on dying and the deathbed, and issues related to end-of-life and hospice care. Among the issues to be explored in this course included a pastoral psychology of dying; Jewish approaches to hospice; biomedical and traditional halachic perspectives around physician assisted death; ethical wills; living wills, etc. Students will be encouraged to integrate pastoral case studies with their learning process.
 
Required Reading:
Recommended Reading:

Online Registration Form

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Feminist Transformations of Judaism: A Twenty-first Century Perspective

Faculty: Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell (Profile)

Description:  In this course, students will read primary works of contemporary Jewish feminist theology and explore how these theories and philosophies have challenged and influenced contemporary Jewish practice, liturgy, and ritual. We will also pay attention to the role of feminists and LGBT individuals and culture in the transformation of Judaism and Jewish practice. 

Required Reading:

Online Registration Form

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Jewish Rituals of Death and Dying

Faculty: Reb Simcha Raphael (Profile)

Description: Judaism has an extensive set of rituals and practices to guide people through the vast array of experiences which emerge in dealing with dying and death, funeral and burial and mourning and memorialization. This course shall provide an in-depth exploration of Judaism's rituals of death and dying. The course will combine the study of traditional halachic views on death and burial and mourning, with modern psychological perspectives on the human encounter with death and loss. Through textual study, lecture, journal exercises, and personal exploration, this course will assist students in forming their own understanding of Judaism's system for dealing with all facets of the encounter with death.
 
Required Reading:
Recommended Reading:

Online Registration Form

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Jewish Views of the Afterlife I: Immortality and Eschatology in Biblical and Rabbinic Tradition

Faculty: Reb Simcha Raphael (Profile)

Description: Teachings on life after death are found in religious traditions throughout the world. Yet often, many are unaware of the vast legacy of Judaism's teachings on the afterlife journey of the soul. This course shall investigate teachings on life after death and post-mortem as found in the earliest layers of Jewish texts. We shall examine the development of a notion of individual immortality as found int he Hebrew Bible, texts of the Apocrypha and in Rabbinic literature. In particular, we shall look at the tension between the notion of individual survival as opposed to collective eschatology -- the end-of-time destiny in the collective of the Israelite people. Students are encouraged to use the texts explored in this course to help develop their own contemporary philosophy of death and the afterlife.
 
Required Reading:

Online Registration Form

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Jewish Views of the Afterlife II: Mythic and Mystical Teachings on the Post-Mortem Journey of the Soul

Faculty: Reb Simcha Raphael (Profile)

Description: This course is a continuation of Jewish Views of the Afterlife I and investigates diverse textual traditions of Judaism's teachings on the afterlife journey of the soul. We explore the various stages and phases of the post-mortem journey of the soul, in particular the medieval Midrash, Kabbalah and Hasidism. We also begin to explore the practical applications of teachings on the afterlife journey of the soul in pastoral work with the dying and bereaved. Students are encouraged to use the texts explored in this course to help develop their own contemporary philosophy of death and the afterlife.
 
Required Reading:

Online Registration Form

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Prayer as if the Earth Really Matters

Faculty: Rabbi Arthur Waskow (Profile)

Description:  More and more often, religious communities are bringing their prayer and practice to bear on a profound religious and spiritual question: radical dangers posed by the climate crisis to the web of human of more-than-human life forms of Planet Earth. There are two aspects of what is beginning to happen in relating prayer to the present crisis of our planet. One is exploring how Earth-awareness can enter more deeply into our formal prayer services. The other is exploring how public action intended to affect public and corporate policy toward the Earth can become prayerful. This course will deal with two main themes of "Earth-awareness in formal prayer" and "Making public advocacy actions prayerful.".
 
Required Reading:

Online Registration Form

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The Psalms and Jewish Spirituality

Faculty: Dr. Herbert Levine (Profile)

The Book of Psalms, the prayer book of ancient Israel, continues to be foundational to Jewish spirituality.  This e-tutorial will focus on how the Psalms can work for individuals in the context of spiritual counseling and daily spiritual practice.  

Required Texts
  • Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary
  • Edward Feld, Joy, Despair and Hope: Reading Psalms
  • Miriyam Glazer, The Psalms of the Jewish Liturgy
  • Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Psalms in a Translation for Praying

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Spiritual Guidance, Sexuality and the Divine Erotic

Faculty: Dr. Karen Lee Erlichman (Profile)

Description:  In this course we will explore issues related the practice of spiritual direction, embodied spirituality, sexuality and the Divine Erotic. Topics will include healing from sexual trauma, sexual and gender identity, erotic transference and countertransference, spiritual leadership and sexual ethics. Using Jewish, multi-faith, multicultural and feminist sacred texts, this course will deepen awareness, skills and resources needed to address issues of sexuality and eroticism that are directly related to the practice of spiritual direction, and are also relevant to pastoral care, ministry and clinical practice. 

Required Reading: To Be Announced

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The Spirituality of the Twelve Steps

Faculty: Dr. Herbert Levine (Profile)

Description:  This course is designed to prepare clergy and spiritual directors to grow in their understanding of the spiritual concepts underlying 12-Step recovery programs, which have been a major force for spiritual renewal around the world. The readings will be drawn from a variety of faith and philosophical traditions, but each student may choose to examine one in more detail.
 
Required Reading:
Recommended Reading:

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Tending the Divine Spark: A Contemporary Approach to Supervision

Faculty: Dr. Karen Lee Erlichman (Profile)

Description: This course provides students with an innovative new paradigm for supervision. While tailored for spiritual directors, this model of supervision is also relevant for chaplains, therapists, pastoral counselors and clergy as well as those in other healing ministries. Case examples as well as students’ own personal experience will be an integral part of this course. 

Required Reading: To Be Announced

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