Touching Heaven and Touching Earth: A Journey through the Jewish Textual Tradition
Learning together is a distinctive feature of Jewish text study, as it states in the Talmud “Is My word not like fire?” (Jer. 23:29) “Just as a fire does not ignite by one stick alone, but rather in a pile of kindling, so too Torah is not retained or understood properly by those who study by themselves“ and “Just as iron sharpens iron, those who study together sharpen one another” (Ta’anit 7a). Our primary sources often state ideas that seem to contradict one another, and like a puzzle, we study them to reconcile their apparent differences.
The Jewish textual tradition advises us to learn texts that “engage the heart” and not just the intellect (Avodah Zara 19a). During this series, a diverse range of texts will be presented so you can locate those that touch your heart. Questions and discussions triggered by primary Jewish sources from the literary genre of rabbinic midrashim and the Chasidic masters (18th-19th centuries) will include:
- What does the Talmud mean when it discusses issues around honoring parents? At times, we may feel that our aging parents are making unreasonable demands on us, yet we feel obliged to care for them (Kiddushin 31b).
- How do we understand the sexual tension of the Sages’ who lusted for wisdom as much as sex and their fascinating descriptions and fantasies about this? What can we learn from them to deal with sexual conflict (Eruvin 54b)?
- What can we learn from the Chassidic masters’ tales that inform our contemporary lives as we penetrate the spiritual depths of Reb Nachman’s parables and those of others?
These are some of the topics we will be discussing during this course led by Dr. Ken Firestone.
The program will be held on Thursdays in February 1, 8, 15, and 22 at 7:30 pm at Temple Beth El. The program is FREE and open to the public.
Please R.S.V.P. for the program by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call the temple office at 717-581-7891.
About Dr. Ken Firestone
Ken grew up in Lancaster. During his college years, he joined academic researchers in Israel studying the left-wing kibbutz movements’ application of utopian theories to child rearing. He returned to Israel to study modern Zionist thought at the University of Tel Aviv his junior year and extended his time there to study biblical archeology and work at the kotel in Jerusalem and Tel Arad in the Negev desert under the auspices of his undergraduate school, George Washington University.
Following his undergraduate studies, he pursued his growing interest in Jewish mysticism, living with the Chabad Chasidim in Brooklyn for two years while its yeshiva. After receiving his MSW in psychiatric social work, and working as a psychotherapist at the Jewish Social Service Agency in Washington, he became the Director of Young Leadership for the Jewish Federation of Washington prior to moving back to Lancaster to raise his growing family and join his family business until he sold it in the late 1990’s.
Since then, he received a Masters degree studying the “Rabbi as Educator” curriculum through the Reconstuctionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia and went on to earn a doctorate in Jewish Studies at Spertus College in Chicago, where his doctoral dissertation focused on the application of adult learning theories to the traditional Jewish interactive learning methodology. He has worked as a Jewish educator throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
Interested in cross-cultural identity, humanitarian relief and economic development, he has spent the past eight years teaching Maasai in Kenya, which led to co-founding a safari company near the Serengeti, owned by a Tanzanian. He is also helping with refugee resettlement in Lancaster, teaching English.