What is this course?
The Shemoneh Esrei or Amidah is the central Jewish prayer, recited three times a day and even more on Shabbat and holidays. Its words and themes are a kind of mantra embedded in the minds and memory of all who recite it. And for these very reasons, many people struggle to experience the Shemoneh Esrei as something beyond a ritual formality. Its repetitive nature and archaic language make it hard to engage in the Shemoneh Esrei as a prayerful, devotional practice.
This online course with Rabbi Ami Silver unpacks the words, themes and structure of this prayer to uncover its contemplative, experiential core. The Shemoneh Esrei was composed by Sages and Prophets to provide a pathway to the Divine that could be accessed throughout the generations - transcending the limitations of exile, loss and seeming disconnect from God. It is a visionary journey and devotional practice of turning to God in a personal and intimate way.
Together we will excavate the text of the Shemoneh Esrei to encounter its multiple layers of meaning - the choice of words, hidden Biblical references and underpinnings of this prayer, as well as its Kabbalistic interpretations.
The course is geared toward accessing the Shemoneh Esrei as the dynamic, experiential practice that it is. To that end, participants will gain a multi-faceted understanding of the layers of meaning in the Shemoneh Esrei, including:
A grasp of the full scope of this prayer from beginning to end - What do these words mean? Why do we pray about these things in particular? Why does one blessing follow the other?
An understanding of the emotional-spiritual core at the heart of each of the blessings
Practical guidance for engaging with this prayer in a way that is spiritually enlivening and personally relevant
The course combines text study (all texts provided in Hebrew and English), guided practice and a forum for group processing and ongoing support. The content is appropriate for advanced students and novices, although a familiarity with the Shemoneh Esrei and Hebrew language will be valuable.
How does it work?
The course consists of ten weekly, online sessions, of approximately 1.25 hours. Sessions will be offered live on Sundays over Zoom, and will also be recorded and shared (in video and audio) so participants can watch or listen at their own leisure.
Sessions will consist of close study of texts and will be accompanied by guided practice. Throughout the duration of the course, Rabbi Ami will also moderate a discussion group in which participants can share experiences, ask questions, and receive ongoing support in a community of learners and practitioners.
Each session includes:
1) Live, Interactive Online Instruction. Each week, Rav Ami will lead a 1.25 hour study session over Zoom. Sessions include a close reading of Jewish texts in their original, clearly translated and explained, together with relevant background information and discussion.
Live sessions will be held over Zoom on Sunday nights at 9pm Israel time / 7pm UK Time / 2pm Eastern US Time / 11AM Pacific US Time. Sessions can be joined live and/or listened to or watched at your convenience. Audio and video recordings will be shared each week for participants to use at their own convenience.
2) A printable handout of relevant texts from Biblical, Rabbinic, Kaballistic and Chassidic sources, provided in full translation with introductory comments and guiding questions.
3) A guided practice, informed by the study session and offered with clear instruction by Rabbi Ami, provided in both audio and video format.
4) An ongoing WhatsApp discussion group in which participants can share thoughts and experiences, ask questions and receive support in their ongoing practice.
The course begins on Sunday, July 5 2020, and continues through September 6 2020.
Live sessions will be held over Zoom on Sunday nights at 9pm Israel time / 7pm UK Time / 2pm Eastern US Time / 11AM Pacific US Time.
Sessions can be joined live and/or listened to or watched at your convenience.
Audio and video recordings will be shared each week for participants to use at their own convenience.
The Ten Sessions
1) July 5 - Avot and Gevurot: From Beginning to End
2) July 12 - Kedusha: The Story of Us and God
3) July 19 - Kabbalistic Prayer: Re-Creation
4) July 26 - Da’at, Teshuva and Selicha: Back to the Garden
5) August 2 - Geulah and Refuah: Healing and Redemption
6) August 9 - Rain and Ingathering: Homecoming
7) August 16 - Restoring Justice: Envisioning a Divine World
8) August 23 - Hoda’ah: Living Gratitude
9) August 30 - Sim Shalom: Seeking the Face of Peace
10) September 6 - Bringing It All Home: Prayer and Transformation
This course showed me why "אין קדושה בלי הכנה" - There is no holiness (sacred spark) without preparation (focused intention). This year, R' Ami's eye and heart-opening teachings accompanied me from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur and into Sukkot. It is no coincidence that I had one of the most enriching high holiday seasons of recent memory.
- Karin Fleisch
I do a lot of Jewish education and community work in Germany and France, and in the run-up to the high holidays I was very busy with practical preparations. Taking Rabbi Ami Silver's course was a gift to myself, a framework to let me focus on my own process and inner preparations. It was a fulfilling experience. Old texts were made fresh and deepened with Ami's sensitive readings, he reminded us how powerful and relevant they were, and how they could be guides for the places we needed to work on. For me, it really enriched the high holiday season.
- Josh Weiner
I've had the privilege to learn with Rav Ami in several different settings, both in person and online. Learning with Rav Ami Silver provides the ongoing nourishment that both my mind and heart seek for sound well being… Rav Ami's style of teaching naturally opens my heart, especially cultivating the courage to move along uncharted areas within my own inner emotional landscape… Learning with Rav Ami quenches my soul's thirst to engage with text that brings me closer to the Divine Presence within me and around me. He offers a comprehensive well balanced experience of understanding text as a means to inform one's own spiritual contemplative practice - and with the additional treat of his warm smile, soft voice and passionate presence.
- Yiscah Smith, spiritual activist, educator, mentor and meditation guide
Rabbi Ami is the kind of teacher who can make you forget you're in a "class." Nothing feels formal or formulaic; rather Ami shares his incredible depth of knowledge with a care and gentleness that feels like you're engaged in an in-depth conversation, soul to soul. He creates a space that is built of acceptance, curiosity, and devotion to the Jewish spiritual path. After learning with him for over a year in various contexts, I can honestly say that if he's teaching it, no matter what it is, it's worthwhile to sign up because it is sure to fill you with inspiration and meaning.
- Ariel Hendelman