Previous learning series are summarized below.
April 2024: Berechia and the 42-Letter Name of God with Rabbi Steven Moss
Wednesdays April 3, 10, 17, 2024
Rabbi Aharon Berechiah and the theurgical usage of the 42-letter and 72- letter names of God for the sick and dying has been an important topic throughout the Chevrah Kadisha literature, and particularly ritual manuals. In this class, Rabbi Moss will first give a background presentation on Rabbi Berechiah and his well-known and well-used book Maavar Yabok. The class will then study the origins and usage of these two most holy names of God as presented in the kabbalistic tradition with a focus on their theurgic powers for the sick and dying.
Recording of April 3 Session
Recording of April 10 Session
Recording of April 17 Session
February 2024: Cemetery Jewesses of Eastern Europe with Annabel Cohen
Mondays February 19, 26, 2024
In this two-session class, Kohenet Annabel Cohen, Yiddishist and PhD student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, focused on the cemeteries of Eastern Europe as sites of spiritual activities led by female ritualists — zogerins (prayer leaders and shamanesses), shprekherins (exorcists), klogerins (professional mourners and feldmesterins (cemetery and grave measurers).
Recording of February 19 Session
Recording of February 26 Session
January 2024: Ravens, Stones, and Soil: Listening and Learning from the Natural World – with Sarah Chandler
Tuesdays January 9, 16, 23, 2024
Throughout the Hebrew Bible, each generation responds to plagues, natural disasters, and the destination of burial in different ways. This course was a survey of how death and burial define and are defined by our relationship to the earth.
Week 1: Is dust a blessing or a curse? Soil and rocks as holy
Week 2: Death and destruction by “natural” phenomenon in Tanach
Week 3: Where do we bury? Planned and unplanned burials
Recording of January 9 Session
Recording of January 16 Session
Recording of January 23 Session
December 2023: Out of My Depths – with Rabbi Richard Address
Mondays December 4, 11, 2023
In these most challenging times, so many seek a sense of personal and spiritual foundation. In these two sessions we examined a series of four values, drawn from tradition, and unpack how they can create a personal and spiritual foundation for moving forward in our lives. We invited you to join in this discussion as these values and texts speak to where so many of us are at this moment in our life’s journey.
November 2023: The Dying Process, Medical Aid in Dying, and Life After Death – with Rabbi Elliot Dorff
Thursdays November 2, 9, 16, 2023
- Week 1: The Dying Process: Varying definitions of death in American and Jewish law. Organ transplantation. Donating one’s body to science.
- Week 2: Medical Aid in Dying: Varying laws in the secular legal jurisdictions that allow for it. Jewish responses to aid in dying.
- Week 3: Life after Death: Varying Jewish sources on life after death.
October 2023: Taharah in Israel Now – with Elissa Felder
Thursday October 26, 2023
Core Connects sent 4 women to Israel to help perform taharot for those who have died during the recent events in Gaza. This session discussed what they experienced, and other aspects of the Chevrah Kadisha world in Israel right now.
October 2023: Chevrah Kadisha in Israel and ZAKA – with Dr. Yakir Englander
Thursday October 19, 2023
Dr. Englander spoke about his work with the Chevra Kadisha in Israel and ZAKA (the organization that handles bodies after disasters). He was accompanied by a member of ZAKA who shared intimate stories about their work during this challenging and frightening time.
October 2023 and March 2024: Zohar and Chevrah Kadisha Work – with Beth Huppin
Thursdays March 14, 21, 2024
Rav Metivta: In this section of the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon and his companions take a journey to olam haba (The World that is Coming) to learn the fate of the generation that died in the desert. Of them, the Mishna states that “the generation of the desert has no share in the world that is coming…” (Sanhedrin 10:3). The Zohar can’t imagine this fate for the generation that witnessed so many miracles and received the Torah at Sinai. And, indeed, in their journey they learn that this generation’s fate is not as dire as the Mishna states. We’ll examine some short pieces in this lengthy section of Zohar. The first week was dedicated to a general introduction and their entry into olam haba. The second week we learned about the place of women in their vision of olam haba.
Recording of March 14 session
Recording of March 21 session
Thursday October 12, 2023
The High Priest: We prepare people for burial by dressing them like the Kohen Gadol. We even refer to them as the Kohen Gadol as we dress them. What can we learn regarding this imagery from the Zohar’s vision of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur?
September 2023: Blood and Life – with Rabbi Ebn Leader
Tuesdays September 19 and 26, 2023
In the practice of Taharah, dealing with blood is a regular occurrence. Sometimes we wash it off, sometimes we bury it with the met/ah, and there are unique situations when we leave it on the body. In this class we explored the ways blood functioned in ritual and as a symbol, and the connection between the mythic understanding of blood and the halachic texts that address how we treat blood.
We discussed the distinctions between the three categories of blood that are relevant to the practice of Taharah: Blood that exited the body before death, blood that exited the body after death, and blood whose leaving the body is the cause of death. The latter category is known in halakhic literature as “dam hanefesh” the blood of self, or life. To understand this better we also began looking into the connection made in the texts between blood and the self and reflect on the connection between these ideas and practices, and the decisions we make during Taharah.
August 2023: Smachot – with Rabbi Stuart Kelman
August 22, 29, September 5, 12, 2023