What is this course?
Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, sometimes referred to as the Rav, was the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel. The Rav earned a towering reputation as a scholar, thinker, legal authority, kabbalist and poet. Many today see him as a modern day prophet, a visionary whose spiritual and redemptive teachings speak to the individual, the people of Israel and all of humanity.
Rav Kook addresses the spiritual meaning of freedom in his introduction to his commentary on the Pesach Haggadah. He writes, "What is characteristic of freedom is the exalted spirit whereby a person or a people is able to be faithful to its inner essence, to the spiritual image of G!d in its midst. This fidelity allows one to feel that one’s life is purposeful and worthwhile."
He also teaches that "When we forget the individual soul, when we stop paying attention to the inner life of a person, everything becomes confusing and unclear" (Shmoneh Kavtzim 8:213).
This online course, taught by Yiscah Smith, will explore the spiritual practice of cultivating mindfulness to our inner selves, which will then birth the consciousness of remaining faithful to that sense of deeper being.
We shall gather together eight “illuminating sparks” that will guide us as we move along the path to discover aspects of our true essence – the image of the Divine in Whom we have been created and Who continues to dwell within us. Indeed, this allows us to experience individual and personal spiritual redemption.
How does it work?
The course consists of eight weekly, online sessions, of approximately 1.25 hours. Sessions will be conducted live on Mondays over Zoom and will also be recorded so participants can watch and listen at their own leisure. Each class includes two essential components:
1) Close study and interactive discussion of Rav Kook’s teachings that address the weekly theme, the weekly illuminating spark. Participant engagement through questioning and offering insights is encouraged and valued as a key component of the text study.
2) The text study will be followed by a guided meditative practice focusing on the particular theme studied that week.
Each participant will receive a printable source sheet in the original Hebrew with English translation. This will be emailed each week prior to the class with the zoom link. The source sheet will also be provided in the zoom chat.
Following each class, each participant will receive the YouTube link to the video recording.
Throughout the duration of the course, Yiscah will moderate a WhatsApp ongoing discussion group, allowing participants a platform to share thoughts and experiences, to ask questions and to receive support in their ongoing practice.
The course begins on Monday, 13th July and continues through Monday, 31th August.
Except for the first session, the live zoom sessions begin at 9:00am Pacific / 12:00 noon Eastern / 5:00pm UK / 7:00pm Israel.
THE FIRST SESSION BEGINS ON MONDAY, 13th July, at 10:30am Pacific / 1:30pm Eastern, 6:30pm UK / 8:30pm Israel.
The Eight Sessions - The Eight Illuminating Sparks
1 – Redemption - Geulah
2 – Body & Soul – Goof & Nefesh
3 – Secluded Contemplation – Hitbodedut V’hitbonenut
4 – The Sixth Sense – Choosh Sheeshee
5 – The Search For Self – Chipoos Atzmi
6 – Dreaming - Chalom
7 – Mysticisim – Misteekah
8 – Intellect & Emotion – Sechel V’regesh
Yiscah’s creative and evocative ways of bringing spirituality into Judaism through sacred Torah texts has rekindled my relationship with my Jewishness and to my authentic self. Yiscah’s gentle, yet meticulous, approach to understanding the complexities of ancient texts, together with her interpretations of more contemporary Jewish luminaries such as Rav Kook and the Piaseczner Rabbe, has unlocked a deep desire within me to reclaim and rediscover my ancestral lineage, with a newly acquired sense of passion and determination. Yiscah infuses her teaching with kindness and faith, as she invites us to experience the awe and wonderment of spiritual Torah. With my deepest admiration and appreciation to her.
- Helaine Sheias, Ph.D., Mussar Facilitator and Yoga Therapist, Sonoma County CA
I have taken classes with Yiscah Smith at the Fuchsberg Conservative Yeshiva and online, and found her teaching nothing short of transformative. She possesses a rare ability to connect the spiritual essence of Judaism with our daily lived experience. Her choice of texts - Rabbi Avraham Kook, the Piaseczner Rebbe, Viktor Frankl, enhanced by meditative practice - are both modern and timeless. Studying with Yiscah has helped me center my spiritual practice while deepening my engagement with the Jewish tradition.
- Lane Igoudin, M.A., Ph.D., Professor of English and Linguistics, Los Angeles City College
Through Yiscah's classes, teachings and ultimately her presence, a space has opened up inside of me to delve deeper into my spiritual practice. This safe space that I experience as an individual, but that grows amongst the participants and with Yiscah herself has allowed me to enter into yearnings of my identity and soul that I deemed I had possibly lost forever. Sometimes tumultuous, sometimes serene and everything in between, I have been able to grow as a spiritual person in daily dedication and begin sketching a map for future encounters with the divine within.
- Gabrielle Girau Pieck - Jewish Educator and Theologian, Basel Switzerland
Yiscah’s presence in a room, whether in person or on zoom, lights up the whole space. The way in which she reads a text out loud in Hebrew and then translates it into English, with ongoing commentary, has helped me gain a greater understanding of these exquisite texts. I have been studying with Yiscah for the last two years; I have never left a class without achieving new insights into both the text and my own view of the world. Yiscah is a master teacher, interpreter, and spiritual guide. I can't wait to keep studying and learning from and with her. I highly recommend any class she would teach.
- Tamy Cohen Jacobs, M.A., Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies Fellow 2018-2020, Jerusalem