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Lo ba-Shamaim Hi:Text in a Modern Age

Sefirat HaOmer 2003

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Learn About the Scholars

The second annual Sefirah Study, Lo Beshamayim Hi: Text in a Modern Age Michael Chernick, David Aaron, Marc Bregman, and Dvora Weisberg was a great success with over 120 participants and a number of HUC-JIR faculty and students participating.

This year’s Sefirah Study, “Lo ba-Shamaim Hi:Text in a Modern Age,” explored a variety of contemporary interpretational methods. Just as, “It is not in heaven,” meant one thing in its original biblical context and something quite different in its rabbinic framework, so our textual tradition generates new meanings as it is subjected to innovative interpretation. These interpretations emerge from the latest methods of reading developing in the scholarly world. You will have an opportunity to practice these textual methods, consider how they shed a new light on our texts, and express your opinion about the methods’ significance for yourself and the Reform Jewish community.

We welcomed back Michael Chernick (New York) as our coordinating scholar. Michael was joined by three other HUC-JIR faculty: David Aaron (Cincinnati), Marc Bregman (Jerusalem) and Dvora Weisberg (Los Angeles). David, Marc and Dvora each taught for two weeks. On Monday of their first week, the scholars introduced their essential questions with text and commentary. During the second week, Michael engaged in a dialogue with the featured scholar. Throughout the program, participants shared thoughts and questions through an email discussion.

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Learn about the Program

Unit Scholar
Intro Michael Chernick's "There are Seventy Facets to the Torah"
1. Marc Bregman's "How to 'Take' Traditional Jewish Texts"
2. Dvora Weisberg's "The Daughters of Rav Nahman: Approaches to Gittin 45a"
3. David Aaron's "Envisioning a Liberal Judaism and its Ethics of Reading"
Michael Chernick's "The Word Endures Forever:”
Final Thoughts on our Sefirah Study"

Sefirah Study began with a special introduction by Michael Chernick. Our three scholars taught for two weeks each, and, at the end of the program, Michael provided a concluding Siyyum. Materials are available via email or download from the course's website.

We encourage you to sign-up with a chevruta, a spouse or partner, existing study groups, staff of your school or congregation, local colleagues and/or clergy.

We encourage you to set aside a fixed time(for example, 30-60 minutes twice a week), in order to study the texts. Each of the three has two parts.

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Scholars' Bios

Rabbi Michael L. Chernick: (click for faculty page on HUC - JIR's website)

Michael Chernick is the Deutsch Family Professor of Jewish Jurisprudence and Social Justice at HUC - JIR/ New York. Rabbi Chernick is an Orthodox rabbi who received his ordination from Yeshiva University's Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and his doctorate from the Bernard Revel Graduate School. He has also spent many summers teaching in the Judaic studies program he founded at Yahel and Lotan, two young Reform kibbutzim in the Aravah. This year (2002) he devised and led the second Israel Kallah (2002) program sponsored by the Union and HUC.

His field of specialization is Talmudic literature and Jewish law on which he has written and lectured extensively. Most recently Rabbi Chernick published Hermeneutical Studies: Gezerah Shavah (Habermann Institute: Lod) and Essential Papers on the Talmud (New York University Press, 1995). (Click to see the book at Amazon.com.).

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Rabbi David Aaron: (click for faculty page on HUC - JIR's website)

David H. Aaron has been a Professor of Bible and History of Interpretation at the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, since the Fall of 1998. He earned a doctorate from the department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University (1991); he holds Rabbinic Ordination from HUC-JIR (Cincinnati '83). As a graduate student he held fellowships at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Medieval Hebrew Literature) and also spent time at the University of Tübingen (Jewish Literature of the Hellenistic Era). Prior to coming to HUC-JIR, Aaron taught Bible and Rabbinic Literature in the Religion Department of Wellesley College (1991-98) and Biblical Studies at Boston's Hebrew College (1987-91).

Dr. Aaron publishes in the areas of biblical and rabbinic (aggadic) liberature. His first book, Biblical Ambiguities: Metaphor, Semantics and Divine Imagery (Brill 2001) merges contemporary semantic theory with biblical exegesis, especially regarding metaphorical imagery in the Hebrew Bible. A second book, Etched in Stone: The Struggle for the Authentic Decalogue, is nearing completion. He has also published articles on imagery of the divine in Rabbinic Literature, as well as on the origins of the concept, L'shon HaQodesh, in Judaism's Holy Language (Approaches to Ancient Judaism 16 (1999) 49-107).

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Dr. Marc Bregman: (click for faculty page on HUC - JIR's website)

Marc Bregman was born and raised in St. Louis. He received his BA from the University of California at Berkeley in Judaic Studies in 1968, his MA from the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles in 1971 and his PhD from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1991. Since 1978, he has been teaching at the Jerusalem campus of the Hebrew Union College, He has also taught Biblical Interpretation and Ancient Jewish Thought at The Hebrew University and the Seminary for Judaic Studies in Jerusalem and at the Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheba, Israel. During 1993, he was Visiting Professor in Judaic Studies at Yale University. During 1996, Bregman served as the Stroum Professor of Jewish Studies and Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Prof. Bregman has published academic research and belles lettres in Hebrew and English on a wide variety of topics in both scholarly and popular journals, including an "Introduction" and "Thematic Commentary" to a novelistic retelling of the famous talmudic legend of The Four Who Entered Paradise (Northvale NJ and London: Jason Aronson, 1995). His forthcoming book, The Sign of the Serpent and the Plague of Blood explores the evolution of the Tanhuma-Yelammedenu genre of midrashic literature.

Dr. Dvora Weisberg: (click for faculty page on HUC - JIR's website)

Dvora Weisberg is Assistant Professor of Rabbinics and Director of the Beit Midrash at HUC - JIR/ Los Angeles. Before coming to HUC-JIR, Dr. Weisberg taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the College of William and Mary and the University of Pittsburgh. She also has extensive experience in the field of adult education and has taught at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations' summer Kallah for many years.

Dr. Weisberg was raised in San Francisco. She received her B.A. summa cum laude from Brandeis University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Her undergraduate thesis, for which she was awarded highest honors in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, was entitled "Can the Demands of Jewish Feminists Be Met Within the Halakhic System?" She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Talmud and Rabbinic Literature from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Dr. Weisberg's doctoral dissertation dealt with the evolution of religious and intellectual concerns in the Babylonian Talmud. Her publications include "Levirate Marriage and Halitzah in the Mishnah" and "Men Imagining Women Imagining God: Gender Issues in Classical Midrash." She is currently working on a book about the evolution of levirate marriage in ancient Judaism.

Dr. Weisberg is married to Rabbi Neal Scheindlin and is the mother of Micah and Noah Scheindlin.

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