In-depth understandings from SWGA topics:

  1. Sukkot- King Solomon, Book of Kohelet, This too shall pass/Gam zeh yaavor, fragility of life/impermanence, “hevel havalim”, Solomon’s ring story, 4 species, What is a Sukkah?, Fall/Harvest, Ushpizin, Simchat Torah (beginning of new Torah reading cycle)

  2. Ve-ahavta le-re’acha/Brother’s keeper, Bereishit (parsha and book), Torah as teacher of moral lessons (not a history book), Cain and Abel story, Hillel Torah on one foot story, the word ahavah (love), what are the limits of love and responsibilities to others, Are we our brother’s keeper?

  3. Hachnasat Orechim/hospitality- story of Abraham, concept of hesed, welcoming guests, Talmudic discussion of responsibilities of guests and hosts, Kiddushin 81 #5- Plimo story (when hospitality really matters). Basic idea of the Talmud-- what is it?

  4. Hesed/Gevurah- Stories of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. Basic understanding of the sefirot and their structure. What is kabbalah? What is the difference between the concepts of love and judgement? What does it mean to approach the world from each of these points of view? Abraham as hesed, Isaac as gevurah. Genesis Rabbah 12:15. Law vs. Mercy. When is mercy called for -- when is strictness called for?

  5. Hakarat hatov and ethical eating (Thanksgiving)- What makes a secular or religious holiday? What does it mean to celebrate thanksgiving as Jews (reconstructionists idea of Judaism as a civilization and  living in two civilizations). What is gratitude? Idea of blessings. Prayer Modeh ani/Modah ani. Rebbe Nachman quote on being thankful. What is Kashrut? What does it mean to be conscious of what we eat? Idea of Eco-Kashrut and the 5 concepts involved in Shtiebel’s eco-kosher certification.

  6. Emet/Truth- Parshiot Toldot and va-yeshev -- Story of Jacob fooling Esau. Is it ever ok to lie? Talmud discussion of dancing before a bride (ketubot 17a)- lie to save her feelings. Shabbat 55a, “The seal of God is truth”. Numbers 30:3 “One shall not break one’s word”. What are the aseret hedibbrot- ten commandments. 20:13 “not bear false witness” commandment. Sukkot 46b (lying to your child not ok). Brachot 4a: on saying “i don’t know” rather than lying. Jacob as “truth” in the sefirot. Why is the man who lied to his brother (Jacob) eventually associated with “truth”?  

  7. Hannukah- The “real” story of Hanukkah. How the rabbis may have added to the story of the miracle. Assimilation. Hanukkah  vs. Christmas. Talmud discussion on candles between Hillel and Shammai. Hanukkah songs: Ocho Candalas, Maoz Tzur.

  8. Ometz Lev- Exodus story, parshat be-shalach/ crossing of the sea, Nachshon ben Aminadav, freedom/herut, Genesis Rabbah 84:5- courage as facing our fears, story of the spies in Shlach lecha- their perception created their fear. Is fear ever necessary- if so, when? (to keep one from actual danger). Emunah - faith, asiyah- action. Song: Kol HaOlam Kulo - All the World is a Narrow Bridge, but the main thing is not to be afraid- Nachman of Bratslav.

  9. Shmirat HaTeva- Concept of Bal Tashchit from Torah, T’u Bishvat. Concept of 4 New Years of Jewish calendar. Story of Honi and the Carob tree. Story of Honi and the flood. Mitzvah of not chopping down trees and protecting nature during war time. Nachman of Bratslav crying trees story. 4 worlds of Kabbalah.

  10. Chukim and Mishpatim-- Know the difference between a chok and a mishpat (supra-rational and rational mitzvot), with at least 2 examples of each. Chok: shatnez or red hefer, mishpat: no gossiping, not stealing etc… Know the debate on whether this applies to kashrut or not. Shmirat HaLashon- not gossiping- this is a mishpat- Know some of the strict prohibitions on speaking about other people. Know about halacha. Develop an understanding of your own family culture around Jewish law.

  11. Purim- Know the story of Esther. Know the word “pur” (lot). Know chag purim song.

  12. Nedivut/Generosity- Basic points of parshat VaYakhel (what was the mishkan, how it was built with free will gifts - generosity- are gifts from the heart and gifts not from the heart equally valid?), Genesis 24:5- Rebecca feeding the camels, Eliezer finding wife for Isaac. Word Korban (sacrifice) as being from the Hebrew root karov (coming close). Tzedakah- 4 Rabbinic levels of tzedakah (pirkei avot 5:15), Maimonides’ levels of tzedakah (also who was Maimonides). Quote from Yehudi HaKadosh who says we can train ourselves to be generous- do you believe that we can train ourselves to be generous?

  13. Hishtadlut/Hat’madah (persistence)- What is the eish or ner tamid? Parshat Tzav and the daily practice of the priests in the Temple/Mishkan. Idea of good deeds and prayer replacing sacrifice in the Temple. How do we re-create the daily practice of Temple sacrifice with these actions? “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; Genius will not; Education will not; Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”- Calvin Coolidge.   -, Avot de-Rebbe Nathan quote about Rabbi Akiva and the dripping water. Know about Akiva in general- who he was, roughly when he lived, why he is famous.

  14. Passover-