The Legends and Lessons class is geared towards understanding our history and how it informs our learning. The class meets on Monday nights at 8:00 in the JCC Board Room. (There is no class on February 6, Rav Yissocher Frand will be speaking at BIAV at 7:30. All are encouraged to attend that lecture)
The class focuses on an influential character in Jewish history, whose anniversary of passing (yahrtzeit) falls within the coming week. We first discuss the person’s biography, including his or her upbringing and their relationship with the broader communities. Afterwards, we learn something they wrote about Judaism and/or Torah.
March 20: Nechama Leibovitz (5th Nisan)
March 13: Rav Yitzchak Elchanan (21st Adar) & The Aruch Hashulchan (22nd of Adar)
March 6 Reb Moshe (13 of Adar)
Learn about the life of one of the greatest Halachick decisors in Jewish history. The only parallel greatness was his love for others. Hear the stories of his influence onto the 20th century American Jewish community. And learn a lesson about Purim!
February 19: The Shach (25th Shvat) & The Taz (1st of Adar)
Hear about the fascinating overlap of lives and pursuits of the older Taz and the young ambitious Shach. They each published one of the first commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch in the SAME year! Publishing subsequent responses to each other’s claims -in sometimes harsh terms- led to much speculation as to their relationship. Learn what purportedly happened when they actually met each other after each of them were forced to escape the Chmelnicki massacres.
February 12: Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgensztern, the “Kotzker Rebbe”” (Yarzheit: 22nd of Shvat)
Learn about the Kotzker Rebbe’s radical shift away from traditional Chassidus, and his fusion of it with more focus on sharp, intellectual Talmudic thought. Discover what might have happened to cause his solitude existence of the last 20 years of his life
January 30: Rabbi Yehuda (Aryeh) Leib, the “Sfas Emes”” (Yarzheit: 5th of Shvat)
Learn about the Sfas Emes’ difficult upbringing- losing his father and mother before he was 9. See how he reluctantly inherited a new Chassidic sect from his grandfather and turned it into dozens of thousands of followers.
January 23: Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch” (Yarzheit: 27th of Tevet)
Learn about Rav Hirsch’s unwavering commitment to tradition while still maintaining a cultural commonality within the secular culture. Many of his efforts continue to this day, as we maintain our own strict religious values within a secular environment.
January 16: Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, “The Rambam/Maimonides” (Yarzheit: 20th of Tevet)
Learn about the Rambam’s unbelievable influence over Jewry up through today. See how he did so much with so little- running away from Spanish persecution, working day and night to support himself as a respected doctor. Learn what he considers ‘the greatest moral perspective’.
January 9: Rabbi Yaakov Kranz, “The Dubno Maggid” (Yarzheit: 10th of Tevet)
Learn about the Maggid’s unique style of blending deep thought with relate-able parables. Hear how even within his dramatic life encounters he used stories to explain his behaviors to others. Learn how he discusses this week’s parsha!
January 2: Rabbi Natan “Reb Nosson” Sternhartz of Breslov (Yarzheit: 10th of Tevet)
Larn about the life of sacrifice that Reb Nosson endured in order to follow, learn from and spread the words of his teacher, Reb Nachman. Learn a little of the Torah he taught, in discussing the difference between Shabbat, Yom Tov, and a weekday.
December 19: Rav Yitzchok Hutner (Yahrzeit: 20th of Kislev)
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Hear the blended life of Rav Hutner- from Chassid to Litvak, befriending Chabad, Modern Orthodox and Zionists along the way! Learn of piece of deep thought in his “Pachad Yitzchack” lecture on Channuka.
December 12: Rabbi Dov Ber “The Maggid” of Mezeritch, (Yahrzeit: 19th of Kislev)
Learn about the main pupil of the Baal Shem tov, the man responsible for all streams of Chassidut today. Understand how he took the lifestyle of the Baal Shem Tov and made it into a movement.
November 28: Rabbi Shmuel Eidels, “The MaHarsha” (Yahrzeit: 5th of Kislev)
Learn about the child genius who did not want to get married in order to study. Only with the proposed financial support of his future mother in law was he able to do both. In appreciation, he aded her name- Eidel- to his.
November 14: Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, “Reb Shlomo” (Yahrzeit: 16th of Cheshvan, 11/17/16)
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Learn about the colorful, boundary-pushing life and ideas of Reb Shlomo! His musical influence continues today, although controversy surrounds his legacy.
November 7: Rabbeinu Asher (ben Yechiel), “The Rosh” (Yahrzeit: 9th of Cheshvan, 11/10/16)
Learn the fascinating life story of Rav Asher ben Yechiel, The “Rosh”. After fleeing persecution, he went from the Ashkenazic land of Germany to the Sephardic land of Spain- and his influential legacy reflects that unique blend of cultures.
October 31: Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef (Yahrzeit: 3rd of Cheshvan, 11/4/16)
Listen to the impressive memory of Rav Ovadiah and how his influence was felt from an early age. Understand the controversies you’ve heard about, and how they affected his legacy and political following until today.
October 10: Rabbi Akiva (ben Yosef), “Rebbe Akiva” (Yahrzeit: 9th of Tishrei, 10/11/16)
Learn about the famous Rabbi Akiva through the stories of his life in the Talmud itself! Learn about his optimishm for difficult situations and the devotion of his beloved wife, Rachel.
September 26: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan HaKohen, The “Chofetz Chaim” (Yahrzeit: 24th of Elul, 9/27/16)
Come hear about the revolutionary figure who lived only 80 years ago! Learn about his interesting family structure (he was his own uncle!) and his social activism. Then prepare for the High Holidays with his original work on appropriate speech. AND- Is this really his picture?
September 19: Rabbi Yehudah Loew, The “MaHaRaL” (Yahrzeit: 18th of Elul, 9/21/16)
16th century talmudist and mystic, the Maharal is known for his brilliance of Jewish and secular knowledge. His personal life is rather unique, providing a valuable lesson: It’s never too late to keep developing. Come learn about his friends in high places and his closely held educational philosophy. And what’s the deal with that Golam story????
September 12: Rabbi Yosef Hayyim, The “Ben Ish Chai” (Yahrtzeit: 13th of Elul, 9/16/16)
Considered as the foremost Torah leader for Sephardic Jewry of the 19th century, the Ben Ish Chai was known for his brilliance in Jewish law and kabbala. His book on Jewish law is studied daily even today by Jews across the world. Learn about what is was like for a 26 year old to assume his father’s post after he passed away prematurely. Learn from which Biblical character he believed he was reincarnated… !!!