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Dr. Beth Samuels High School Program: Classes

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Course descriptions reflect Summer 2016 (2017 course descriptions forthcoming)

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
9-9:45 Daf Yomi Daf Yomi Daf Yomi Daf Yomi Daf Yomi
Nach Yomi Nach Yomi Nach Yomi Nach Yomi Nach Yomi
 9:45-10 Break  Break Break Break Break
10-12:30  Talmud I & II Talmud I & II
Talmud I & II Talmud I & II
Talmud I & II
12:30-1:30 Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
 1:30-3:30 Tanakh Visualizing
Jewish Texts
Tanakh Rabbinics Tanakh
 3:30-4 Mincha Mincha Mincha
4-5:30 Sports Halakhah
Sports Halakhah
5:30-6:30 Dinner Dinner Dinner
6:30-8:30 Dvar Torah
Dvar Torah

Course Descriptions

Daf Yomi: Tractate Makkot
Ms. Bieler-Hoch
What do flying camels, deadly dates and x-ray vision have in common? They are all found in Tractate Makkot! Tractate Makkot discusses the laws of false testimony, who is eligible to flee to a city of refuge and finally the parameters in which beit din may administer lashes to a transgressor. In this fast-paced class, we will study one page a day and conclude with a siyyum celebration at the end of the summer.

Nach Yomi: Trei Asar                    
Mr. KeismanThough often marginalized as “the minor prophets,” the books of Trei Asar engage in some of the major theological, philosophical, and sociological questions of what it means to be a Jew. We will complete the books of Hoshea, Haggai, Zecharia, and Amos with a focus on understanding difficult literary devices, placing the literature of Nach in its historical context, and on finding and articulating the universal truths hidden in the works of Nach. The summer will conclude with a siyum.

Talmud I & II: Tractate Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1             
Ms. Gedwiser & R. Blaustein
The first chapter of Avodah Zarah focuses on the governing of relationships between Jews and non-Jews. Through the discussions regarding ancient religious practices, the Sages examine many ideas that remain relevant in the 21st century. How does one sustain business and personal relationships with non-Jews while upholding a strong sense of Jewish identity? May one support a non-Jew in his/her idol worship while maintaining the belief that such practices are forbidden? How does one decide what elements of the prevailing culture to embrace and which to approach more cautiously? We will learn how the Talmud and later commentaries contended with these questions as well as explore their contemporary implications.

Tanakh I: Crime and Punishment
R. AbelmanThis class will investigate the way that the Chumash thinks about the problem of crime and how to control it.  We will look at several key texts in Shemot, Vayikra and Devarim that address the problem of crime and try to understand the philosophy behind its punishment policies.  In addition, we will look at the rabbinic interpretations of these texts to see how the rabbis built their understanding of crime and punishment, and to understand how and why it might differ from the peshat.

Tanakh II: Adolescence in Tanakh                                                                 
Ms. Hoffman
Does the Tanakh devote special attention as a stage in biblical stories and laws, or is there simply a binary distinction of Adult vs. Child? Are there any insights that can stem from thinking of this unique intermediate stage of our development when we read Tanakh? In this class we will read texts from the Tanakh through the prism of teenagers in order to better understand real-life situations experienced by adolescents. We will focus on biblical texts and the commentators that relate directly to them, in addition to modern midrashim. At the conclusion of the course, we will write our own midrashim applying the themes discussed in class. 

Rabbinics I: How Are Babies Born? And Other Rabbinic Answers to Vayikra‘s Great Questions
Ms. Rosenthal
We often think of Midrash Aggadah as a complicating force, taking seemingly straightforward Torah texts and transforming them into abstract, mythical narratives. However, Vayikra Rabbah points to an opposite instinct, creating lively and relevant discussions from esoteric biblical passages. Questions this class will consider include: How do women hold their babies in during pregnancy? Where exactly does tzara’at, leprosy, come from? What’s so great about Moshe anyway? In exploring these questions, we will better understand how the rabbis read difficult texts– and how they might teach us to do the same.

Rabbinics II: Speaking Freely? Imagining an Ideal Beit Midrash
Ms. Amsellem
Does an ideal beit midrash have high standards of admission, or an open door policy? Should students speak freely or choose their words with care? How important is etiquette? What is the best way to deal with difficult colleagues? Many of the narratives in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds describe the joys, frustrations, dangers, and intrigues of daily life in the Beit Midrash. What can we learn from these stories to help us today to create the best possible learning environment?

Visualizing Jewish Texts
Ms. Schneck
What role does art play in grappling with Jewish texts and ideas? How have painting, sculpture, and stained glass been used to gain a deeper understanding of stories in Tanakh and our role as Jews? And what lies behind the halakhic and philosophical debate of image making?  We will explore these issues through visiting some of the most vibrant institutions of culture in Manhattan, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Halakhah I & II: Whose Body Is It, Anyway?
R. Skydell & R. Reifman
Our Sages teach us that our bodies are gifts from God to be protected and cared for.   But practically speaking, how much does halakhah restrict how we treat our bodies?  May one smoke?  Get a nose job?  Forgo life-saving treatment?  We will address these and other issues through an in-depth analysis of the relevant halakhic sources.

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