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The Power of the Words We Say: Exploring Themes of the Mahzor

  • Harvard Hillel 52 Mount Auburn Street Cambridge, MA, 02138 United States (map)

Join Hadar in Cambridge/Somerville for a weekly beit midrash in preparation for the high holidays. Each session will include delicious kosher dinner, community building, and learning with a different member of the Hadar faculty.

Cost per person is $5 per session or $15 for all four classes. Register here.

August 15: R. Shai Held
Why Don't People Change? (and How We Could)

Contemporary culture gives us a lot of mixed messages. On the one hand, we're told that free will is an illusion, and that we're conditioned by countless circumstances beyond our control. On the other hand, we're told that human beings are malleable, and that even our brains our "plastic." A mature spirituality recognizes, first, that it's extremely hard to change who we are, and second, that we're nevertheless obligated to work on doing just that. With the help of Rabbinic, Chassidic, and Mussar texts in conversation with modern psychology and, we'll explore both obstacles and opportunities for change and personal growth.

August 22: R. Avi Strausberg
Magnetic Verses of Zikhronot (Remembrances):  Selective Memory for the Win

The Musaf Service of Rosh HaShanah is defined by the insertions of Malkhuyot (Kingship), Zikhronot (Remembrances), and Shofarot (Blasts of the Shofar) into the Amidah.  In this session, we’ll take an in-depth look at the compilation of verses that make up Zikhronot. We’ll ask ourselves what are we looking to remember, what are we hoping to forget, and just who is doing the remembering anyway.  After we dig deep into the rabbis’ choice of verses and try to understand their selection, we’ll get a chance to compose our own Zikhronot.

August 29: Dena Weiss
In Hiding or In Plain Sight? An Alternative Model of Repentance

The Yom Kippur liturgy is centered around confession and acknowledgement of sin. But, what if we have been doing it all wrong? What if the proper way to repent and engage with our sins is to conceal, rather than reveal them? In this class we'll approach teshuvah through this counter-intuitive lens and see what we can uncover about our best selves when we cover up our worst transgressions.

September 5: R. Tali Adler
Sacrifice: What It Is, What It Could Be, And Why It Matters

Akeidat Yitzhak, the Torah reading for the second day of Rosh HaShanah, is usually seen as the ultimate Jewish model of personal sacrifice. But is willingness to die for God really the epitome of sacrifice? In this session we will explore a midrash that questions Akeidat Yitzhak's role as the central model of personal sacrifice, and offers a story about Rachel our Matriarch as an alternative. We will use the midrash to explore questions such as: What does sacrifice look like? What role should it play in our religious lives? And what might our High Holidays look like with a different model of religious sacrifice at the center?

Earlier Event: July 29
Transgender Rights Cavassing Day
Later Event: August 21
Elul Meditation Practice