What is this course?
The Chasidic movement started by the Ba'al Shem Tov (R' Yisroel ben Eliezer) in the mid-1700's harnessed the powerful ideas of Kabbalah to create a spiritual and psychological revolution in that has changed the lives of millions of people.
In this course, taught by Rabbi Daniel Silverstein, we will study ideas, practical wisdom and exercises that can help us to live with more joy, presence and self-awareness.
The course consists of two, six-class instalments.
In this second instalment, we will explore the texts and practices of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim (the grandson of the Ba'al Shem Tov), Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (the great-grandson of the Ba'al Shem Tov) and the radical Polish schools of Peshischa and Izhbitz. Each of these has been selected to maximise our exposure the to transformative spiritual treasures of Chasidism. There are two classes on each of these:
1) The Degel Machaneh Ephraim grew up in the Ba'al Shem Tov's home and offers us both direct access to his grandfather's ideas and his own uniquely sensitive lens on how to bring these teachings and practices into our lives. His teachings span the gamut from simple, heart-opening parables to complex kabbalistic homilies to detailed practice instructions.
2) Rebbe Nachman of Breslov founded a once-tiny movement that has overcome significant opposition to become an influential force throughout the Jewish world. The psychological insight, poetic beauty and spiritual power of his teachings have touched many seekers. His key themes include our power and responsibility to shape ourselves, our thoughts and relationships, the struggle to be joyful, the practice of praying in our own words (Hitbodedut) and maintaining resilience and equanimity throughout the challenges of life.
3) The radical Polish schools of Peshischa and Izhbitz brought crucial voices to Chasidism that emphasised the search for personal integrity, authenticity, personal connection with the Divine, and genuine humility. We will explore how these schools developed in the context of a movement that was increasingly superficial and hierarchical, and how Masters such as Rebbe Simcha Bunim of Peshischa, Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rebbe Mordechai Yosef Leiner (the Mei HaShiloach) fought against the prevailing norms to create an important path for those wary of the limitations of institutionalized religion.
These great teachers will transform how we approach everyday activities such as speaking with others, eating and drinking, studying, singing, working, studying and praying. They will also provide invaluable tools and techniques for increased insight, self-awareness and healing.
All texts are provided with clear line-by-line translations, and no prior knowledge or experience with the subject matter is necessary.
How does it work?
This instalment of Revolutionary Chasidic Ideas and Practices is a six-class journey. The classes are recorded (audio and video) and participants can watch or listen to the recordings of the classes at any time they like. Each two-class module focuses on a different Master or School, with its own approach to our inner work, and includes:
1) Two recorded classes exploring the background, teachings and practices of each Master and School, providing context, close reading, critical analysis and ideas for application in our day-to-day lives. Each class is 1 hour long and participants are invited to watch or listen to the recordings at their own convenience.
2) Handouts which outline the historical, intellectual and spiritual context and background of the module's Chasidic Master.
3) Chasidic teachings providing a broad and deep perspective of each Master's unique areas of focus, key ideas and practices, provided in full translation with introductory comments and guiding questions.
4) Clear and down-to-earth instructions for that module’s spiritual practice, based on the teachings of the module's Chasidic Master.
5) An ongoing online conversation about the sources and the practices. Here you can ask anything you like, share whatever thoughts and ideas are arising for you, and receive feedback from Rabbi Daniel and, if you choose, from other participants as well.
Testimonials (this course was taught at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies)
"An incredible introduction to Chasidut. I loved that the class and R' Daniel created a warm and inclusive atmosphere. I learnt so much about a topic I previously knew nothing about. Practices and teachings that will shape my life." (Maya)
"Very clear progression of material on difficult topics. A huge amount of information given over with perspective and relevance to self development." (Aviva)
"Wonderful combination of history, text and practice. Spiritual and exciting." (Jake)
"Wow, I did not know much on Chasidut and now I find myself referring to these concepts in all my Jewish conversations. I have used info from this class outside Pardes the most." (Rachmiel)
"Rabbi Daniel loves his subject matter and it shows!" (Emma)