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Wednesday Evenings: 8:00 - 9:00 PM

Course Dates:
    October 14,21, 28
    November 4, 11, 18, 25
    December 2, 9, 16, 23, 30

Fee: $50 - Full Semester - Includes textbook
               (limited scholarships available)
       $7 - per class

Location: Chabad JEC - 6 Whitefield Rd, Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977

To register / more info:(845) 356-6686 / rabbi@chabadjec.org

The Book of Genesis is the blueprint of creation, full of insight about the nature of existence, while our early ancestors and their inspiring stories serve as paradigms for living with purpose. The way we face the journey of life depends on our perception of the world — our ability to rise up to discern a deeper reality, and recognize our role within the big picture.

COURSE OUTLINE

Bereishit: One Torah, Many Meanings
What do you say to a friend who recommends that you read a book that you’ve already read? How do you respond when you’re invited to go to a movie that you’ve already seen? Most of the time we’ll respond: “Thanks, I’ve read that one” or “No thanks, I’ve seen it already”. It’s rare for any of us to read a book or see a film more than once, no matter how much we liked it. Yet there’s one book, The Torah, which we read and study over and over again, each time learning new, profound, and important lessons. And each year we’re excited on such a deep level to begin studying it from the beginning, once again. That’s because the Torah is such an amazingly, uniquely complex and multi-layered book. On a simple level, it contains the story of the Jewish People—beginning with the Creation of heaven and earth and concluding at the end of our nation’s forty year Journey in the desert. But in addition to being the story of our people, embedded in the Torah’s verses are 613 specific commandments; all of the roots of every Jewish law and custom ever followed by ancient and contemporary Jews alike; eternal moral instructions; practical guidance for living a happy and fulfilled life in the 21st century; and deep, mystical secrets related to Creation and the afterlife. The question is: How is it possible for any one book to contain all of these layers of meaning at once? In this week’s Torah Studies class we’ll be studying the core Code in which the Torah is written—a Code that enables just one book to contain such a universe of meanings.

Noach: The Silver Lining
When was the last time that you enjoyed losing something valuable or important? How many times have you jumped with joy from being in pain? Would you pay someone just to make your life miserable? The answers to these questions, from any reasonably well-balanced person at least, are entirely negative. Yet with the passage of time we often realize that the bad stuff was an absolutely necessary prerequisite for the good things that followed. We lost something only to have it replaced by something so much better; we realized that the gain really did come from the pain; and we wish that we could now pay that teacher or coach who helped us to excel by making our lives so miserable. In this week’s Torah Studies class we’ll be looking at the most universally painful experience in human history—the destruction of virtually the entire human race during the great flood —and by examining its long-term effect we will see how even this was a manifestation of Hashem’s unending goodness and kindness.

Lech Lecha: The Virtue of Selflessness
What’s your opinion of a man who wins the super-lottery and spends every last penny on himself? If you won the lottery, would you give any of your winnings to your parents, family, friends or to charity? What do you think of a scientist who is so enamored with “pure research” that he sees no need to share his discoveries with others, discoveries that could save lives? What is your opinion of a wife and mother who withholds all real affection from her husband and children and only praises them when they make her look good in public or otherwise fulfill her narcissistic longings? How do you feel about a great Torah scholar who refuses to teach, and is contemptuous of everyone who is not on his intellectual or spiritual level? In all of these cases, the assumption is that when a person has been given a great gift— be it material, physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual— then it is only natural to assume that as a normal human being he or she will want to share those gifts with others. But why make the assumption that it is only human and natural to share, to give, to be generous? Why not assume that human beings are programmed to be selfish, and that we should act on our deepest, most natural self-centered desires? In this week’s parsha we’ll review the life of Avraham avinu, discover the root and source of human generosity, and gain insights into who Hashem is, what He wants of us, and why He sent us into this world.

Vayeira: Breaking the Bondage of Our Limitations
How many times have you tried the same thing over and over again, only to come up short every time? How many things are there in life that you would like to do, but feel that you are not capable of, or trained for? Is it possible for you to run twice as fast, or twice as far as you can today? Do you find it impossible to exercise complete self-control in certain situations? Can you master a page of Talmud? If so, can you master a volume of Talmud? Can you learn to read, write and speak fluently in Hebrew? Would you like to do any of these things? The fact is that most people’s lives are defined by how they perceive their limitations. This perception somtimes comes from irrational insecurity, but in some cases it also results from trial and error. In other words, I conclude that “I can’t do that”, because I have tried and failed in this and similar situations many, many times, so I’ll pass on trying again. In today’s Torah Studies class we will take a very different approach to these questions about the limits to our abilities. We will ask this: True, you have limitations, but how would it be possible for you to transcend them? What would it take for you to make a quantum leap beyond the borders of what you think or even know you can do today? In today’s Torah studies class we’ll discuss this all-important topic of transcending our limits, a key theme of Chassidic thought.

Chayei Sarah: The Best Defense
What would you do if you were presented with a great business opportunity that required you to go back on your verbal, non-binding commitments to your other clients? If your teenage son or daughter was exceptionally physically attractive, how would you advise them to use or ignore their physicality when dealing with others who are clearly attracted to them on a purely physical basis? If a successful but recently-layed off friend expressed doubts to you about his capability of earning a living and supporting his family, what would you say to him? Life is always presenting us with challenging opportunities and with challenges that can become opportunities if we let them, and one thing is certain: Walking away from or ignoring our opportunities or our challenges because of our ego, our fears, or our doubts is never the answer. In this week’s class we’ll be studying a woman who seemed to have it all. Our matriarch Sarah was a world-class beauty and a woman who truly believed in Hashem. Yet at the same time the Torah presents us with flaws in her physical perfection and hints of her doubts in G‑d. In this week’s Torah Studies class we will see how Sarah’s strategy for dealing with her challenges and her opportunities can and should be our own: To meet them head on, with the assurance that the best defense is always a great offense that is aimed at proactively bringing goodness and G‑dliness into the world.

Toldot: Do You Believe in Miracles?
Do you ever feel bound by the laws of nature that prevent you from doing the things that you would like to do with your life? Do you feel constrained by your lack of certain natural abilities, by your looks, or even by fact that you are still too young or now too old to achieve certain goals? Do you think that it is possible that the natural laws of the universe that are holding you back can or should be set aside temporarily for your benefit, or for the benefit of any person or group? In other words: Do you believe in miracles? In today’s Torah Studies class we’ll be discussing the topic of not just transcending your limitations, but transcending nature itself. We’ll be studying the story of Avraham and Sarah, who became parents for the first time when he was 100 years of age and she was 90 years of age, a conception and birth that completely transcended the biological laws that confined the ages of childbearing then, and confine it now. “Very nice,” you might say. “But what does that have to do with me?” In today’s class we’ll learn how the miraculous conception and birth of Isaac—a miracle that happened more than 3,000 years ago— has everything to do with each and every one of us today.

Vayeitzei: The House of the G‑d of Yaakov
Who in your mind has greater merit: A person who keeps kosher because he’s studied all the laws and reasons in the Torah, Mishnah, Gemara, Kabbalah and Chassidut and is personally satisfied that kashrut is both logically consistent and spiritually uplifting? Or is the more meritorious person the one who has never learned a day in his life but keeps kosher just because he’s a Jew and Hashem wants Jews to keep kosher? According to the Torah’s point of view there is no question at all. Not because one way or the other is preferable, but because paradoxically they are both necessary. In today’s Torah Studies class we will be learning about the need to find the right balance between the joy that comes from the fulfillment of intellectual exploration, and the need for humility and surrender to HaShem’s Will. We will find this balance by studying Yaakov’s connection to the Third Temple and the Messianic era, a time when the joys of ongoing personal fulfillment and the humility that comes from being constantly aware of G‑d’s Presence will be one— complete and everlasting.

Vayishlach: A Woman of the World
Wwhat is your visual image of a woman who you would like to have as a daughter-in-law? How does she dress? Is her appearance designed to attract the greatest amount of attention and the greatest number of men, or is her presentation of self conservative, refined, and modest? If you are a woman, what do you see in your mind’s eye when you envision a woman who will be your best friend, someone who you can really count on in times of trouble and need? What kind of clothing does she wear? Does she appear to be the kind of woman who dreams about being a runway model or a CEO? Or does your imaginary new best friend someone who wants to occupy herself with making a peaceful, spiritual home for her family? In this week’s Torah portion we provided with details about the early life of Dinah, daughter of Leah and Yaakov.. From all outward appearances Dinah was not the kind of woman who anyone would want as a daughter-in-law or as a best friend. But in today’s Torah studies class we will look deeper into Dinah’s life and motivations, and discover once again that in the Torah, appearances can be completely deceiving.

Vayeishev: Two Links in an Eternal Chain
When you imagine yourself being alone with your parents, how many people are in the room? Are there three separate individuals, each with his and her personal longings, aspirations, personalities and desires? Or are there hundreds of people in the room? Are your ancestors ever in the room along with you and your parents? Are Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Yosef, Moshe, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah in the room with the three of you? Are your unborn descendents into the distant future in the room with you? Most importantly: Is G‑d in the room? In this week’s parsha we learn about the unique relationship that existed between Yaakov and his son Yosef, a relationship that we should all attempt to emulate. We will see that Yosef and Yaakov interacted with and respected each other as distinct individuals, yet at the same time they always saw one another as links in an eternal Jewish chain. Moreover, whenever they were together, and even when they were just thinking about each other, they knew and felt in the deepest way that Hashem was right there with them both.

Mikeitz: Sweetening Our Dreams
How important are your dreams to you? When you wake up in the middle of the night do you ever record your dreams? Have you ever asked anyone to help you interpret your dreams, and what have you learned about yourself from the interpretations? What are the realistic dreams of your life? What are your more unrealistic daydreams about? What do you think the relationship is between the dreams you dream at night, the kind of life that you might realistically “dream about” having, and your passing “daydreams” where you imagine yourself doing something that you don’t expect you ever will do? In this week’s Torah Studies class we’ll be exploring the very interesting topic of our dreams. We will focus on Yosef as the Torah’s preeminent interpreter of dreams, and see how this particular power of his is intimately linked to all of his other virtues, to his mission and purpose in life, and to his being a role model who we might think we can only dream about following.

Vayigash: Depth Perception
How often do we judge people and events only by what we see at first glance? Where and from whom can we learn to see things more deeply? How can we perceive life from many different perspectives simultaneously, so we can come closer to the whole truth of whatever and whoever we are considering? In this week’s Torah Studies class we will examine the confrontation between Yosef and his brothers, and his revealing himself to them. We will analyze this story from many dimensions, not only to see the event through many different lenses, but to also see how the outcomes of that confrontation, some into the distant future, can be predicted from the Torah’s narrative. Through the multi-layered lens of Chassidut we will then be able to perceive events and people in our everyday lives from many different perspectives. This will enable us to deal with life more effectively, deeply and compassionately. Through the wisdom of the Chassidic masters we will be able to confront our challenges more directly and make the best of our opportunities in a much more purposeful and G‑dly way.

Vayechi: The Leading Edge
Have you ever been in a position where you had to motivate and provide direction to a group of people? What were some of the resistances that you had to overcome in others and in yourself in order to lead effectively? What will make you into a great leader? Will it be the kind of person who you are, or will it be the things that you say and do that will produce the most long-lasting, effective results for the group that you will lead? Does every great leader need an abundance of intellect, compassion, vision, charisma, charm, or great oratory skills? Most importantly, how and where in Torah does HaShem define the qualities of a leader? In this week’s class we’ll be exploring the issue of leadership by studying Yaakov’s final blessings to his children. We will see why Yaakov chose to withhold the promise of Kingship from the tribe of Reuven his first-born, and give it instead perpetually to descendents of the House of Yehuda. By examining the relative qualities and shortcomings of both Reuven and Yehuda, we will be able to gain valuable, usable insights into the qualities of true leadership that each of us can apply at all times, in all places, and for all people.