Catering to the most inquiring minds, courses at Amudim provide a strong basis in Tanach, Talmud and Halacha, while addressing big existential questions and evolving approaches to issues such as the existence of God, Torah mi-Sinai, the problems of suffering and evil, Torah and secular knowledge, gender and sexuality, Judaism’s encounter with modern values and ethics, Judaism and politics, the environment, art and design, multiculturalism and technology.
Click a course type to see the different classes offered to our students.
Three Easy Steps to Selecting a Class at Amudim
Notice that each day is divided into "course types". For instance, a halacha class is before lunch.
Go to the top of the page and select a Course Type. For this example, find a Halacha course.
Find a class within the course type that interests you and fill your schedule. It's that easy.
Amudim and Yesodot
AMUDIM AND YESODOT
This early morning methods class will introduce you to the interactive, interdisciplinary and New Approach to Learning employed at Amudim. In other words, this class will teach you “how we learn” at Amudim. By looking at case studies in Gemara, Tanach and Jewish philosophical and historical texts, you will develop the skills of discernment and analysis necessary for other classes at Amudim and for lifelong engagement with Torah.
Morning Seder Tanach
Twice a week, mornings will be devoted to learning Tanach in depth. Tanach classes at Amudim will focus on skill-building by introducing us to various lexicons, grammars, concordances, and other tools that open up a world of independent study. Study of Tanach at Amudim may involve reading passages within their Near Eastern contexts and using “versions” (Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, Peshitta, Samaritan, other Targumim) together with the Masoretic text, as a useful tool for reconstructing some of the earliest interpretations and understandings of the Tanach. In addition to skill-building, Tanach classes will provide endless opportunities for discussion of values and ideology.
Tanach at the Bible Land’s Museum
One particularly exciting Tanach class will be held each Wednesday, off-campus, at the Bible Lands Museum. Tanach will come to life as we stand right in front of the actual objects described in the text, giving us new perspective and fodder for analyzing it. Items on display may spark deep discussion, for example, about the nature of idol-worship and its distinction from authentic worship of God, as relayed in the Torah. The opportunities for learning in this way are not only exciting but endless.
Morning Seder Gemara
Twice a week, morning seder is devoted to learning Gemara in depth. Under the guidance of faculty and along with a Chavruta or small group, you will work to develop the skills to independently approach the text of the Gemara and commentaries, with special emphasis on asking critical questions about the text and the ideas being presented. You will be trained to read and analyze Gemara and mefarshim, identify the characteristics of a sugya, understand how a sugya is structured and the fundamental literary, conceptual and halachic issues that are derived from it. Encouraged to use all tools at your disposal to fully understand the Talmudic text and concepts, your study of commentaries of Rishonim and Achronim will be complemented by modern academic and philosophical approaches, as well as personal analysis, intuition and reflection. You will be guided to reconstruct the Gemara, ascertain how the Gemara draws from sources, identify who was involved in redacting and editing different girsaot, and learn to recognize differing modes of “writing Gemara” and approaches to sources between the Bavli and Yerushalmi as well as situate the texts within Christian, Roman, Greek and Sassanian culture. Along the way, we will deepen discussions through philosophical reflection.
Gemara for Thinkers
The true genius of the sages lies in the methodologies they employed in the Talmud. Looking at specific sugyot, i.e. sections of the Talmud united by a theme, we will plunge into the text of the gemara, and from there proceed to the commentaries of the Rishonim, all the while uncovering the wisdom beneath the surface. Together, we will take part in a creative process, putting our individual stamp on each sevara as we develop advanced critical thinking skills. Proficiency in Aramaic is not necessary.
How We Got Here
Halacha is a dymanic process which unfolds over time. In this course, we will examine the halachic process by tracing the history of halachot such as stam yeinam, pruzbul and Kisui Rosh, from their origins in biblical and ancient sources to iterations of the halacha in texts of achronim and rabbis today. Looking at these case studies, we will come to understand how halacha evolves and discern the roots of the halachot which permeate our own lives.
Halacha is TAKING OVER My Life!
My pantry is filled with pasta. Halacha says I must get rid of it before Pesach. I could live without pasta for a week, but getting rid of all that pasta is such a shame! I can sell it, you say? But it is still in my house. What gives? This course addresses some of the inevitable tensions that arise between human needs and divine commands and how halacha responds to a changing world. How do we resolve the very real needs of human beings to sustain their families and run society when doing so would seem to run contrary to halacha? How much room do we make within our community for those who do not maintain a halachic lifestyle? Which factors are taken into consideration by poskim when they render a halachic decision?
Halacha for Now
Technology, copyright and privacy laws, gun-control, same-sex marriage—the world changes every minute and scenarios unimaginable by the rabbis of the Talmud or Shulchan Aruch arise all the time. In this class, we will examine how halacha keeps pace with modern society, addressing both practical aspects of living life as a contemporary Jew (eg. downloading music or forwarding emails without permission, texting on Shabbat, reading WikiLeaks, redeeming kidnapped IDF soldiers etc) and Judaism’s encounter with new sets of values that emerge over time. Together, we will look at the most relevant, fascinating and controversial questions of living a Torah life in the 21st century.
R. Soloveitchik’s “Halachic Man” describes halacha as the lens through which the Jew ideally views everything in life. In this class, we will look at the particulars of living a halachic life as a woman, examining the halachic dimensions of mitzvot aseh shehazman grama, Talmud Torah, dress, Kol Isha, Yichud, women’s role in the community and more.
In and Out of the Ghetto
What does it mean to be a Jew? Do Jews comprise a distinct entity, separate from other peoples and discernibly quantifiable? If not, what does “Jewish” mean? This course endeavors to understand Jewish identity and peoplehood by studying several themes that characterize the Jewish experience throughout history, primarily in medieval and modern times. Looking at the themes of Jewish migration, ethnic identity, belief, membership, persecution, adjustment, leadership, denominationalism, gender, and homeland—all of which significantly impacted and continue to impact Jewish identity, we will come to understand Jews’ complex negotiations between continuity and change and discern the origins of some of the most complex and heated debates over the nature of Jewish identity that persist to this day.
Medieval Jewish History
In this class, we will examine how the major themes of the contemporary Jewish experience can be traced back to the ideas, institutions, practices, and controversies of the Middle Ages—a time of remarkable Jewish creativity amidst severe persecution. By assessing a wide-range of medieval texts, we will learn that, at a time when Jews traveled and settled the globe, the medieval Jewish experience became so varied that we may even speak of Jewries in the plural. We will also learn about the origins of the Diaspora and aspects of it that continue to this day, such as the encounter between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors, the emergence of the distinct identities of Ashkanazim and Sephardim, and the efforts to formulate a sophisticated idea of Judaism that would answer the difficult questions of the age.
Modern Jewish History
Who is a Jew? As this course will show, during the tumultuous period of modern Jewish history, this became a very difficult question to answer. As European nations modernized, the ghetto walls began to crumble and the boundaries between the Jewish and non-Jewish world were blurred, Jews were forced to engage with questions that would revolutionize every aspect of Jewish life and identity. The emergence of the Zionist movement, the overwhelming tragedy of the Shoah, and the subsequent birth of the State of Israel forced Jews to live and contend with a changing and often hostile world and define themselves within it. Covering the seventeenth to twentieth centuries, this course will examine the ideologies that emerged from Jews’ wrestling with modernity and the major events that render the modern period a time which witnessed some of the highest and lowest points in the history of the Jewish people.
History of Zionism
In this class, we will examine what is one of the most significant phenomena in modern Jewish history and philosophy, from the emergence of Zionist ideology and literature through the establishment of the State of Israel to the crisis of current-day Israel and the questions posed by post-Zionism. In examining the religious significance of Medinat Yisrael, this course will explore some of the most important ideas in religious Zionism, seek their roots in classical Jewish sources and trace their development from the nineteenth century to the present. In this course, we will discover the different approaches of the great thinkers such as R. Kook and R. Soloveitchik and will learn how contemporary thinkers deal with changing circumstances and new challenges facing The State of Israel.
How the Holocaust…
This course differs from traditional courses on the particulars of the Shoah by aiming to answer the broad question “how could the Holocaust have happened?” We will address questions such as: Why Germany and why at that particular point in history? How were Hitler and the Nazi party able to galvanize the German people and gain support? To what extent was the Jewish community able to see “the writing on the wall” and why did many Jews remain in Germany? Why did Jews not receive more aid from the international community? What makes the Holocaust unique in the history of genocide?
A midrash class at Amudim gets to the heart of what a midrash is and what it seeks to accomplish. This class trains you to identify the problem in a pasuk that generated the midrash, compare versions of a particular midrash, trace a certain midrashic tradition, ascertain how the problems in one version may be resolved in another, describe the exegetical techniques used by the midrashist and, perhaps above all, discern the core message of the midrash.
Jew versus Jew
This class is about great philosophical battles between Jews about Judaism throughout history. Through an examination of the foundational writings of great Jewish movements, we will aim to understand the philosophies behind the debates between Pharisees and Sadducees, Karaites and Rabbinites, Maimonideans and Anti-Maimonideans, Hassidim and Mitnagedim, Reform and Orthodoxy and Zionists and Anti-Zionists.
Great Ideas in Jewish Philosophy
This is a text-based Jewish philosophy course covering issues such as the existence of God, revelation, free will, theodicy, faith versus reason, the problem of evil and Jewish ethics.
Philosophy is a cornerstone of any faith, and Judaism is no exception. Many terms that are used colloquially, such as “The World to Come” or “The Soul” are difficult to comprehend, especially in a world invested in empirical study. Taking on topics such as Dualism, the idea of an afterlife, Divine Providence, and other fundamentals, we will study both the works of the great Jewish philosophers as well non-Jewish contributors to the field. You will leave with a firmer understanding of the philosophical issues, as well as a strong foundation in logical thinking.
Philosophy of R. Kook
Examining the writings and ideas of one of the most important Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, this course allows us to investigate R. Kook’s deep spiritual, philosophical and psychological insights, as well as his ideas of Zionism and science.
History of Zionism:
This course examines what is one of the most significant phenomena in modern Jewish history and philosophy, from the emergence of Zionist ideology and literature through the establishment of the State of Israel to the crisis of current-day Israel and the questions posed by post-Zionism. In examining the religious significance of Medinat Yisrael, this course explores some of the most important ideas in religious Zionism, seeks their roots in classical Jewish sources and tracks their development from the nineteenth century to the present. In this course, students discover the different approaches of the great thinkers such as R. Kook and R. Soloveitchik, and will learn how contemporary thinkers deal with changing circumstances and new challenges facing The State of Israel.
In this class, we examine the history and theology of Hasidut, in general, beginning with the pietistic movements and mystical traditions that had roots in prior traditions but were re-borne out of crisis during the 18th century, and of specific Hassidic streams. We will enter the world of the Ba’al Shem Tov, Maggid of Mezrich, R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Kotzker Rebbe, the Seer of Lublin and others, uncovering the complex values and beliefs of Hasidut when it comes to prayer, contemplation, the role of the Tzaddik, dveykut, asceticism, joy and God, as they are conveyed in tales and Hasidic scholasticism. We will also examine the impact of the Holocaust on Hassidut and look at a permutation of Hasidut in modern day America.
R. Soloveitchik’s “Halachic Man” describes halacha as the lens through which the Jew ideally views everything in life. In this class, we will look at the particulars of living a halachic life as a woman, examining the halachic dimensions of mitzvot aseh shehazman grama, Talmud Torah, dress, Kol Isha, Yichud, partnership and women’s minyanim and more.
The [Not Always] Secret Lives of Jewish Women
Surveying a wide range of halakhic, midrashic and folkloric Jewish literature, this course examines the role and inner worlds of Jewish women throughout history (in the home, on the education front, synagogue, economically) and during times of crisis.
Body, Beauty, Gender and Dress
What does it mean to be beautiful and who determines it? What or who determines how people dress? In this class, we will consider the historical, psychological, social, political and halakhic ramifications of beauty and dress. We will place special emphasis on analyzing dress restrictions in halacha, facilitating your understanding of what the halacha aspires to, and encouraging you to effectively articulate your own stance on Jewish women’s dress practices and personal approach to dress.
Tackling the formidable challenge of increasing Jewish literacy amongst Modern Orthodox, Jewishly-educated students, many of whom are yearning to crystallize their own thoughts and elevate their level of facility, enabling them to discuss Jewish ideas and values in a highly developed way, from a position of erudition and sophistication, this course will familiarize and allow us to gain fluency in such topics as Jewish denominationalism (understanding the views and beliefs of Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and other forms of Judaism), methodological approaches towards limmud ha-Torah (some examples include Tosafist pilpul, Brisker method/lumdus, Gush school, innovations of Rashi, Nechama Leibowitz and others), history and methods of the halakhic process, gender and Judaism, history of anti-semitism and the Middle East conflict.
These sessions will be devoted to detailed examination of the history of The State of Israel and the Middle East Conflict. We will address fundamental contentious issues such as Colonization and the “Occupation,” The Refugee Problem, instigation of the Six Day War, Palestinian Nationalism and the very phenomenon of Israel advocacy (its merits and pitfalls), providing you with an understanding profound enough to withstand and fluently interact with the sea of opinions, beliefs, judgments, assumptions and platitudes about Israel that you will encounter on campus and beyond. codec
Electives include these and any other courses listed above.
The Akedah through the Ages
In this class, we will examine Jewish (and occasionally Christian and Muslim) portrayals of the biblical narrative of the Binding of Isaac from antiquity to the modern period, analyzing Talmudic, midrashic and later exegetical sources, addressing the philosophical and ethical conundrums associated with the narrative and emphasizing the interplay between gender, sonship, and sacrifice within Jewish culture and inter-religious polemics.
Sacrifice in Jewish History and Culture
Focusing on the development of the idea of sacrifice in the Jewish cultural consciousness, this course will trace the idea from its biblical roots to the ways in which notions of sacrifice continue to inform Jewish identity. The works of Marcel Mauss, Victor Turner, René Girard, and Susan Mizruchi will set down theoretical frameworks for assessing the meaning and function of sacrifice within Jewish culture. Midrashim on Cain and Abel, the Binding of Isaac, Temple offerings, the prophetic critique of sacrifice and rabbinic texts on sacrifice and martyrdom will form the basis of analyses of biblical and ancient views of sacrifice. Medieval and modern sources will include the martyrdom narratives of medieval Ashkenaz, texts on circumcision and children’s education, the Yeven Mezulah chronicle of Nathan of Hanover, various Holocaust and post-Holocaust writings and Israeli literature.
Martyrdom from Maccabees to the Middle Ages
Exploring discourses of noble death in Jewish (and occasionally Christian) texts from antiquity through the Middle Ages, this course allows us to consider the centrality of martyrdom to processes of self-definition and community formation within religious culture.
Learn to research, organize and deliver your own shiur.
Cover ground to gain broad-reaching familiarity in the Sefer of your choice.
An open and frank discussion of halachic, social and ideological issues facing Jewish students on the college campus.
Shiur by a Peer
As a follow-up to the Build-A-Shiur Workshop, this is where one student displays her shiur-giving prowess.