• April 19, 2024
  • 11 5784, Nisan
  • פרשת מצרע

Tour of the Beit Midrash

Tour of the Beit Midrash

Walking into a Beit Midrash (study hall) can be both invigorating and overwhelming. The desire to learn can be so great yet a student may not know where to start. Join Rabbi David Sedley as he tours the shelves that line the walls, exploring a different sefer (and its author) each week. His goal? That at the end of the day you’ll have a deeper familiarity with this special space allowing you to grow in your learning.

January 2, 2024 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Tour of the Beit Midrash: 01 Tanach
Class description

The Tanach, the Hebrew bible, is one of the most fundamental books of any Jewish home or library. It contains the Five Books of Moses, received at Sinai, and the books of Prophets and Writings, written through Divine revelation.
But who wrote the text that we have today in our books? How do we know our text is accurate? When were the vowels, the punctuation, the notes, the ketiv u’keri and the chapters added to this work?
In this class we look at the history of the Tanach and see what the Talmud and later rabbis say about it.

January 9, 2024 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Tour of the Beit Midrash: Mishnah
Class description

In this class we look at the origins of the mishna, the proto-mishna on which it was based, and discuss when it was compiled and whether it was written down.

January 16, 2024 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Tour of the Beit Midrash: Yerushalmi
Class description

The Jerusalem Talmud, or Talmud of the Land of Israel, was completed earlier than the Babylonian Talmud, in the Galilee region of Israel.

In this class, we look at the text, its origins and commentaries, as well as when it ended and why. There is also a mention of the forged Yerushalmi on Kodshim.

January 23, 2024 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Tour of the Beit Midrash: Babylonian Talmud
Class description

The Babylonian Talmud is a foundational text of Orthodox Judaism. Yet we know very little about when it was actually compiled or by whom.
This class focuses on the history of the writing and printing of the Babylonian Talmud, and discusses some of the commentaries on the page.

January 30, 2024 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Tour of the Beit Midrash: Hilchot Rav Alfasi
Class description

Hilchot Rav Alfasi, or the Rif as it is more commonly known, is one of the most important and influential books, yet not as well known as some of the others on this list. It does not usually appear as a standalone book, but is included in the back of the standard edition of the Vilna Shas.

Yitzchak Alfasi lived at the junction of the Geonim and the Rishonim. His work is a digest of the Talmud, giving a summary of the arguments and the final halacha. He lived in north Africa and moved to Spain, bridging those two geographical worlds.

Rif was praised by his contemporaries and those who came after him, and his work is one of the main pillars of modern halacha.

In this lesson we also look at the major commentaries on the Rif.

February 6, 2024 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Tour of the Beit Midrash: Mishne Torah: Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon)
Class description

Rambam’s Mishne Torah is perhaps the most influential and important halachic work. His organization of the entire corpus of halacha is unparalleled.

In his introduction, Rambam says that he wrote this work as a summation of all the Oral Law.

In this class, we look at the phenomenal work that is Mishne Torah, some of the major commentators on it, and a partial biography of Rambam.

February 13, 2024 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Tour of the Beit Midrash: Guide for the Perplexed (Moreh Nevuchim)
Class description

Rambam/Maimonides deserves (at least) two classes, because he had such a profound impact on Judaism over the past several hundred years.
Last week we spoke about his halachic book, Mishne Torah. This week, we will look at another essential book in the Beit Midrash — Guide for the Perplexed (or Moreh Nevuchim in Hebrew). It is Rambam’s philosophy book, where he attempts to answer all the questions not included in his halachic work.
We will also discuss the several Maimonidean controversies which began in Rambam’s lifetime and continued long afterwards. Some of these were due to what he wrote in Guide for the Perplexed, but some rabbis also objected to things Rambam wrote in Mishne Torah.
We will look at three controversial issues in Rambam’s writings: His opinion that the path to love and fear G-d is through studying science, his view that G-d does not have a body, and his idea of what happens after Mashiach comes.

February 20, 2024 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Tour of the Beit Midrash: Arba’ah Turim (Rabbeinu Yaacov ben Asher)
Class description
February 27, 2024 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Tour of the Beit Midrash: Shulhan Aruch (Yosef Karo)
Class description

Shulhan Aruch is one of the most important books in the Beit Midrash. Written by Rav Yosef Karo with glosses from Rav Moshe Isserles, it has become the basic text of modern halacha.
In this class, we look at how the Expulsion from Spain led to the need for halacha books.

We look at some of the major influences on Rav Yosef Karo — Shlomo Molcho and Yaakov Beirav — and their messianic hopes.

We discuss the reasons for writing first Beit Yosef, and then Shulhan Aruch (initially intended as a short summary of Beit Yosef).

We mention the major commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch, and touch briefly on Maggid Meisharim — a book of Torah that Rav Yosef Karo learned from an angel.

The shiur ends with a quick overview of Rav Moshe Isserles and his contribution to halacha.

March 12, 2024 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Tour of the Beit Midrash: Ein Yaacov
Class description

Ein Yaacov is a book written by Yaacov ibn Haviv and completed by his son Levi ibn Haviv. It contains the aggadic sections of the Talmud — the stories, parables and metaphors of the rabbis, the non-halachic parts.

The ibn Havivs were exiled first from Spain and then from Portugal, eventually making their way to Salonica, where Yaacov passed away before completing his work, and then to Jerusalem, where Levi became the chief rabbi.

While in Jerusalem, Levi ibn Haviv became embroiled in a dispute with Yaacov Berav about the renewal of the original semicha, which would have enabled the establishment of a Sanhedrin.

In this class we look at the book, the people and the history, and show how it was all connected to the belief in the imminent arrival of the Messiah in the aftermath of the Expulsion from Spain.

March 19, 2024 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Tour of the Beit Midrash: Arizal, Chaim Vital and Etz Chaim
Class description

Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, known as the Arizal, gave the world a new form of kabbalistic wisdom, most famously encapsulated in the book “Etz Chaim” which was compiled by Rabbi Chaim Vital. According to Rabbi Vital, the Arizal’s kabbalah superseded previous forms of spiritual wisdom.

In this class we look at the lives of the Arizal, Chaim Vital and Moshe Cordovero and trace the history of kaballah. We will learn an idea from Etz Chaim and see how it led to fundamental disputes about the nature of G-d, and was the main theological split between Rav Sheur Zalman Liadi and the Vilna Gaon.

Rabbi David Sedley lives in Jerusalem with his wife and six children. He was born and raised in New Zealand before making Aliya in 1992. He left Israel temporarily (for eight years) to serve as a communal Rabbi in Scotland and England and returned to Israel in 2004. He has translated Rabbeinu Yonah's commentary on Pirkei Avos and is the co-author of Sefiros: Spiritual Refinement Through Counting the Omer (both Judaica Press). Over the years Rabbi Sedley has worked as a journalist, a translator, a video director and in online reputation management. He also writes a weekly Torah blog on the Times of Israel.