EMBODYING JEWISH ETHICS:
AN APPLIED STUDY OF PIRKEI AVOT
What is this course?
What are core values of Jewish Ethics and how to embody them in our everyday lives?
This course seeks to engage the students experientially with perhaps the oldest source of Jewish Ethics. The Talmudic tractate "Avot," also known as “Pirkei Avot” or Chapters of the Fathers, is named for the early generations of rabbinic sages whose wisdom is included in this short compilation of teachings.
By connecting to Pirkei Avot, we enter the world of “Mussar”, or Jewish Ethics. Although it emerges from an ancient context, this compilation of practical Jewish Ethics, have so much to teach us today about the fundamentals about relating to God, to ourselves and to others from a place of wisdom, responsibility and care.
The aim of learning Pirkei Avot is threefold: first, to discover or rediscover one of the masterpieces of Jewish Ethics from its textual sources; second, to deepen our reflection and understanding of core Jewish values; and third, to be able to take these teachings into our daily life.
Each class will move from text study to practice, and will include a short hitbonenut meditation (self-inquiry), and a short writing exercise to help participants set goals for concretely embodying these teachings in their everyday lives.
Students will be invited from the first session to match with a spiritual chavruta with whom they will share their practice throughout the course. The course will comprise six classes, following the six chapters of the Pirkei Avot, through which we will examine both the thematic evolution, and the core values threaded throughout the text.
Topics covered include:
The values that sustain the world
The importance of self-examination and humility
The balance between Torah learning and silence
The meaning of tradition and of embodying wisdom
Practical advice for living an ethical life
The centrality of relationships with teachers, students and peers
The course combines text study (all texts provided in Hebrew and English), guided practice and a forum for group processing and ongoing support.
How does it work?
The course consists of 6 classes, of 75 minutes each, which participants can participate in live, or watch later at their own convenience.
Sessions consist of close study of texts and by guided practice.
Each session includes:
1) A live, interactive class, in which Dr. Mira Neshama leads a 75 minutes study and meditation session. Sessions include a close reading of Jewish texts in their original, clearly translated and explained, together with relevant background information and discussion.
These sessions can be watched live for a direct interaction with the teacher, or watched at your convenience.
2) A printable handout of excerpts from Pirkei Avot, provided in full translation with introductory comments and guiding questions.
3) A guided practice, informed by the study session and offered with clear instructions by Mira, provided in both audio and video format.
4) An open channel to the teacher and other AJS course participants, to process the journey through the teachings and practices of each class.
The course begins on Wednesday, June 16, and ends on Wednesday, July 21.
The live Zoom sessions will take place every Wednesday.
The live zoom sessions begin at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern / 6pm UK / 8pm Israel.
Video recordings of each class will be shared for participants to watch at their own convenience.
The Six Sessions
Session 1 - The World and the Self
The first chapter reveals the core values upon which the world is built, as well as the core value we should embody, while highlighting the importance of self-care.
Session 2 - Causality and Care
The second Chapter displays the law of causes et consequences, invites us to pay attention to details, and introduces the importance of humility and the ethical value of Torah learning.
Session 3 - Wisdom and Virtue
The third chapter invites us to consider our beginning and ends, and puts into balance wisdom and actions, wisdom and virtue, freedom and conditioning, and reminds us of the value of tradition.
Session 4 - Who is Strong?
The fourth chapter helps us redefine wisdom, strength and wealth from a perspective that doesn’t depend on external conditions, and invites us, again, to find wisdom in true humility.
Session 5 - Magic Numbers
The fifth chapter displays the various symbolic meanings of respectively the numbers ten, seven and four according to the Jewish tradition, and reminds us of the importance of justice and love.
Session 6 - Bread, Torah, and God’s glory
The sixth chapter reminds us of the significance of Torah learning and invites us to taste the pleasure of simple austerity of a spiritual way of life, before closing with glorifying the Divine.
"Working with Mira is truly a deep breath. She has helped me find spaciousness both in myself and in my relationship to Judaism. Each time we met, she met me where I was at. Together, we asked big questions, explored prayer and ritual, and shared stories and insights that I have been able to incorporate into my life daily. Mira has helped me strengthen and deepen my connection and commitment to myself, my practice, and my spirituality."
- Naomi Davis
"I always find it a treat and blessing to sit with and learn from Mira. She has a quality of equanimity (menuchat HaNefesh) which fills her lessons, and for me, it enhances my learning and meditation. Not to mention her smile and warmth! It is unusual for me to leave without a new thought or idea which is beneficial to my life."
- Judah Rosen
"Mira is a gem of a teacher and scholar as well as a sweet human being! She skilfully weaves deep scholarship and understanding of Torah and the Jewish mystical tradition with a personal depth of experience in meditation practice and theory. Mira is a true shining light in the field of Jewish mindfulness."
- Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell, Director of Camp Ramah in Canada and former Director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training