Zusia: The Bet Midrash

Come join us for transformative, communal learning that is inclusive, non-dogmatic, and opens doorways in both the mind and the heart.

Zusia is serious but playful study and is for all learners who are interested in examining the multi-faceted nature of Torah and Jewish culture. 

Each course is taught by an instructor with specialized knowledge and a passion for expressive and deep thought. Our bet midrash, literally “house of learning,” takes place at Or Shalom Synagogue in East Vancouver. On a given night, more than one circle of study runs at once, to give a true sense of a school buzzing with activity and discussion. At the beginning and end of each class, students from all courses join together for meditation or singing. 

REGISTRATION FOR 2019-20 COURSES NOW OPEN!

2019-20 Courses

This year, the first Zusia courses begin November 2019 with the final offerings ending in June 2020. Please see each course description for details on suggested prerequisites or any required materials. Special course fee rates for Or Shalom members; see course descriptions for details. Registration closes one week prior to the beginning of the first class. Download the full course catalogue (includes instructor bios).

Did you know? You’ll receive a charitable donation receipt for course fees.

The Way of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Join us for this in-depth ten-class course on the thought and practices of Hasidic master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810). Rebbe Nachman’s teachings are widely admired for their psychological insight, down to earth practicality, and leaps of poetic and visionary brilliance. We will look at the overall shape of his thought and his approach to Torah, prayer, mitzvot, and d’veykus (union with the Divine). We will also take a close look at some of his most commonly quoted and taught torahs (teachings).

Instructor: Matthew Gindin
Prerequisites: None
Dates: Tuesdays, Nov. 12 to Feb. 4
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: Members, $150; Non-members, $245
Registration is still open. Course fee will be pro-rated from the date when you join. Please contact the office manager before registering to ensure you are charged the correct fee.

Exploring Midrash Through Theatre

This course has been cancelled.
It is said that Torah is black fire on white fire. The white fire is the spaces between words, the unrecorded conversations, the hidden intentions. Playing there is doing Midrash – understanding the text by expanding upon it.We will use the skills of Bibliodrama to create our own understanding and Midrash. You will be introduced to a simple set of theatre skills and we will reveal voices in the week’s parsha – and perhaps in ourselves. No theatre experience is required – and nobody is compelled to participate beyond listening and learning. Come play.

Instructor: Avi Dolgin
Prerequisites: None
Dates: Tuesdays, Nov. 12 to Dec.10
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: Members, $75; Non-members, $122.50

Haftarah

The Haftarah is written in a mindfully melodic notation system to fully express the descriptive narratives of the prophets. Learn how to chant the beautiful trope cantillation of the Haftarah. The class will feature two tracks: those who will be working on Haftarah trope as applied to Hebrew text (basic Hebrew required) and those who will be working on Haftarah trope as applied to English translation. Come join us as we step joyfully into the ancient practice of singing the Torah.

Instructor: Harriet Frost
Prerequisites: Basic Hebrew for Hebrew track of course, none for English track
Dates: Tuesdays, Jan. 7 to Feb. 4
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: Members, $0; Non-members, $122.50

Of Kings and Prophets: A Journey into the Book of Samuel

The two Books of Samuel in the Hebrew Bible tell the story of the first Kings of Israel (Saul and David) and the creation of the often adversarial relationship between the prophets and the leaders of Israel. These books are literary and dramatic masterpieces packed with intrigue and psychological insight as well as sometimes surprising political views and ethical and theological conundrums. We will focus on these books as works of literature as well as plumbing their spiritual and ethical depths.

Instructor: Matthew Gindin
Prerequisites: None
Dates: Tuesdays, Feb. 11 to April 14
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: Members, $120; Non-members, $196

Hasidic Texts on Spiritual Practice

In the second half of the 20th Century, Jewish spiritual seekers began to find satisfaction in Hindu and Buddhist practices, satisfaction they could not, by and large, derive from the antiseptic and intellectualized Judaism of post-Holocaust North America. But beginning in the 1970s and into our century, Neo-Hassidism has re-introduced the wealth of authentic Jewish teachings on mindfulness, silence, idiosyncratic personal prayer, song, joy, ecstatic dance, and other practices that engage the body and uplift spirit. We will immerse in texts from this realm of Judaism, the sphere that balances head with heart and mind with spirit.All texts will be offered in the original (whether Hebrew,Aramaic,or Yiddish) and in translation.

Instructor: Rabbi Hannah Dresner
Prerequisites: None
Dates: Tuesdays, Feb. 11 to March 3
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: Members, $60; Non-members, $98

The Jewish Book of the Dead

We will explore the rich world of Jewish views of the afterlife .Although modernist Jews in the 20th century attempted to leave behind these traditions, Judaism in fact contains a complex group of teachings about the soul’s journey after death, reincarnation, spiritual realms, shared soul roots, spiritual guides, and more. As well as touring views of the afterlife as they evolved and developed historically, we will look at Jewish customs around palliative care, death, and mourning, and (as time allows) compare Jewish teachings on the afterlife with global reports of near-death experiences (NDEs) and teachings from other faith communities.

Instructor: Matthew Gindin
Prerequisites: None
Dates: Tuesdays, April 28 to June 16
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: Members, $120; Non-members, $196

Inside the Black Box: The Mystery of Tefillin

Placing Tefillin on our arm and on our head is one of the most intriguing practices in Judaism. We will examine the spiritual intentions and textual sources of this practice, as well as the physical attributes of tefillin. We will look inside the black boxes, examine how tefillin are made and note the differences and similarities between the head and arm tefillin. We will consider various mystical writings that explain the significance of tefillin. The only “requirements” of this exploration are imagination and curiosity.

Instructor: Rabbi Hillel Goelman
Prerequisites: None
Dates: Tuesdays,April 28 to May 19
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: Members, $60; Non-members, $98

Spirit Buddies in the Talmud

The Talmud contains many stories of the very intense relationships between study partners. Today we would describe these as learning in chevrutah, in partnership. But for the rabbinic sages, they were much, much more than that. We will explore the stories of some of these spirit buddies, learn about the richness and the dangers of their relationships and the wisdom that results, even with someone who opposes them at every opportunity. The power of a machloket/a dispute.

Instructor: Rabbi Susan Shamash
Prerequisites: None
Dates: Tuesdays, May 26 to June 16
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Cost: Members, $60; Non-members, $98

 

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