Registration is now open for…
Calendar and Cosmos: Time, Space and Place as Sacred Dimensions in Judaism at Congregation Eitz Chayim in Cambridge. Class begins February 8, 2017, meets Wednesdays, 7-9:00 p.m.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) The cycles of time—daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and so on—define and structure all human experience. In Judaism they are the central matrix of religious meaning. Our course will trace the origin of these cycles in nature as well as in biblical, rabbinic, and medieval texts, and will explore the rituals and experiences by which Jews give rhythm and purpose to their personal and communal lives.
We will cover how the Jewish calendar works, and how it came to assume its current form. But our main concern is philosophical, reflective, and value-oriented: what message does the calendar convey by its cycles and regularities, and in what ways do its rhythms liberate us, confine us, give structure, definition and direction to our lives. We will explore time as physical reality, social convention, and sacred tapestry, and examine calendar controversies in Jewish history, such as the Qumran solar calendar versus the Pharisaic-Rabbinic lunar-based calendar. Finally, we will touch upon contemporary concerns regarding the impact of technology on our perceptions of time, and the role Judaism might play in restoring balance to overscheduled lives.
Sacred places are sites which effect personal transformation and communal cohesion; as loci of human-divine encounter, they inspire emotions of awe and fear as well as love and security. We will define the categories of “sacred space” and “sacred place”, and will set out the phenomenology of each within Judaism. Ranging over the biblical, rabbinic, medieval, and modern periods, we will explore a variety of sacred domains: holy mountains such as Sinai and Zion, Holy Land, Jerusalem, tabernacle and Temple. We shall examine the desert motif in the Bible, the transition from Temple to synagogue in rabbinic Judaism, and the notion of text study as conceptual sacred space. The geographical imagination of the Zohar will be discussed, as well as the hasidic idea of the Zaddik as sacred center. Our discussions will be informed by comparative studies in religion and anthropology.
Finally, we will explore the intersections of sacred time and sacred space as they combine to create the arena for the flourishing of a rich and vibrant spiritual community.
Me’ah Select is a ten week in-depth exploration of a specific theme, text, personality or slice of Jewish history. Our talented faculty, known for their scholarship and dynamic approach to adult learning, bring their classes to life through the study of literature, history, art, and original texts and source material.+ More... - Less...