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S&M Bet Midrash

The SVARA/Mishkan Bet Midrash

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The S&M Team: Jaré Akchin, Mary Otts, R’ Lizzi Heydemann, and R’ Benay Lappe

In January 2013, SVARA and Mishkan teamed up to create the most happening Jewish learning experience in Chicago–the SVARA and Mishkan (S&M) Bet Midrash. Now kicking off our second year of collaboration, the popular Tuesday-night Bet Midrash is open to absolute beginners and experienced learners. The learning is rigorous, yet the bet midrash environment is warm and supportive. Students are strongly encouraged to bring their real-life experiences to bear on the text and to share openly in a Queer-positive space. Our learning will focus on skill-building (learning how to learn), the radical nature of the Jewish tradition, and the cultivation of Talmud study as a spiritual practice.

This weekly bet midrash program is for both learners who have just gotten their Alef-Bet down as well as  those who have years of Talmud experience. It’s for anyone who wants to figure out how Judaism fits into their life or wants to try out Talmud as a  spiritual practice. Or maybe you just want to see what all the buzz is about! Three six-week sessions are offered over the course of the academic year. Students may drop in or out of each session, but are required to commit to all of the classes of that particular session.

Each class begins with chevruta (paired) learning in the bet midrash, followed by shiur (lecture and discussion). Don’t have a chevruta at your skill level? No worries! We have many diverse learners and are happy to help pair you up with a partner. While all texts are studied in the original Hebrew/Aramaic from the Vilna Shas, no prior text experience is necessary. The requirements for the class are your ability to merely sound out (without comprehension) the alef bet, your text and dictionaries, and your willingness to work hard. No translations will be used and students will be asked not to consult translations outside of class.

Chazarah from SVARA on Vimeo.

The S&M Bet Midrash has been so successful that your SVARA and Mishkan team is offering TWO NIGHTS to learn! The texts and format will be exactly the same–so you needn’t worry that you’re missing something!

Our WINTER 2015 Session begins:

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

OR

Thursday, January 29th, 2015


Both nights will continue for 6 weeks and students are asked to commit to ALL 6 NIGHTS. To ensure a great learning environment, space will be limited to 32 per night, so sign up ASAP to secure your spot (and your chevruta’s)! If you’re a new student, fill out the application so we can start learning with you. If you are a veteran, let us know you’d like to attend here.

Course Requirements

As always, the requirements of the bet midrash are the ability to sound out (without comprehension) the alef bet, and the willingness and patience to work through the text in the original Hebrew/Aramaic. No translations will be used and students will be asked not to consult translations outside of class. This will be a mixed-level bet midrash of absolute beginners to experienced learners. The more advanced learners will have the chance to go beyond the Gemara into Rashi, codes, and medieval commentaries. Each session will be divided between chevruta (paired) learning and shiur (discussion).

All students must attend CRASH, Rabbi Lappe’s introductory talk before joining us in the Bet Midrash. Find out more information about CRASH here.

Attendance

This is a six-week term. While unforeseen circumstances do arise, please plan to be at all six sessions. Each session builds on the work of the previous week, and students who miss a session will find it extremely difficult to catch up and participate fully. We are also trying to create an intimate community of learners, and consistency is important in developing such a community. If you are not down for this sort of commitment – that’s ok – just let us know!

Food

You are welcome to eat during class. We will take a snack break mid-way through class. Stay tuned for opportunities to volunteer to provide snacks.

Books

At the first session, students will be provided with a bound volume of the tractate of Talmud we will be learning at a cost of $15. Please bring this $15 (cash or a check made out to SVARA) to the first class. If you have your own unvocalized, unpunctuated, untranslated volume of the Vilna Shas or cannot afford the $15, please be in touch with Mary (mary@svara.org).

There are two mandatory dictionaries necessary for doing the work of this bet midrash:

  1. A “Jastrow”—Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature, by Marcus Jastrow; and
  2. A “Frank”—Practical Talmud Dictionary, by Yitzhak Frank

These are great dictionaries for any and all future Talmud study (with Rabbi Lappe or elsewhere). Students are required to each have their own Jastrow and their own Frank. [Please, no sharing!] We recommend ordering these books through Rosenblum’s in Skokie (Simply let Micha know you are learning with Rabbi Lappe and he’ll help you find the right books). If you are unable, for financial reasons, to purchase a dictionary at this time, please send us a confidential email so that other arrangements can be made. Extra copies of these dictionaries will no longer be available for borrow if you have not made prior arrangements.

Chevruta

Bet midrash learning relies heavily on chevruta (partner) study. We’ll match you with a chevruta based on past text experience and Hebrew skill level. No worries about matching someone exactly! Chevruta pairing and study is an art, not a science, so there may be some adjusting once classes begin. If you would like to be paired with a certain person whom you know is also taking the class, please feel free to let us know that as well.

Fragrance-Free Zone

Due to the severe chemical sensitivities of several members of our community, including Rabbi Lappe, please be exceedingly careful not to wear any scented products to bet midrash, including perfume, after-shave, hand lotion, moisturizer, etc.

 

Send in your application to study with the S&M Bet Midrash here.

We’re so looking forward to learning with you!

 

For more information, contact SVARA at info@svara.org, or check out our Facebook page.