Ancient Wisdom for today

Posted Thursday, Dec 11th, 2008
The Westender

Ancient Wisdom for today

Brisbane to Join Worldwide Debut of Advanced Talmudic Study Program
The study of Talmud is high on the list of skills, most adults say ruefully, that you either got as a young yeshiva student, or not at all.

Not so, say developers of a successful Talmud study program for adults that is gaining popularity in Jewish communities worldwide.

MyShiur: Advanced Learning Initiative Talmud course set to begin its second semester this November, is training adults to parse the words of the medieval commentators, and split hairs over dense Aramaic text, in the tradition of the European yeshivas of centuries past.

The series, a division of the Jewish Learning Initiative’s adult education program, brings Talmud “to the next level,” says local instructor Chanoch Sufrin, where adult learners are reenacting the traditional study of Talmud at 30 locations worldwide, and growing fast.

“It is the yeshiva-style, in presentation, technique, and formula, that makes this program so revolutionary,” explains Sufrin, a JLI director and instructor in Brisbane. Sufrin, who taught last year’s course to a small group of students plans to teach a larger crowd starting at the end of the month.

According to Sufrin, “Talmud” is becoming the new buzzword, as tantalizing as “Kabbalah” and mysticism were several years ago. In response to rising interest, a number of learning tools, including a translated Talmud and MP3 audio classes, were recently developed for those who wish to delve into the 2,000 year old arguments.

“The difference between these tools and the MyShiur course is like night and day,” insists Sufrin in authoritative Talmudic fashion. “Those options are cold and dry and read more like a novel than a relevant text.” And that’s not how the study of this ancient codification should be, he says. “The study of Talmud is alive; it is a passionate discussion that remains applicable to this day.”    

That passion captivated last year’s 280 participants and has attracted several hundred more for the upcoming course. Aside from learning the subject material, MyShiur seeks to train its students to think like veteran Talmud scholars. The curriculum, which can be simultaneously invigorating and maddening, teaches basic skills in an attempt to set students up for a lifetime of independent study.

Rabbi Moshe Lieberman authored the first syllabus and taught it to a diverse audience in Newton, Massachusetts. “Our goal was to enable students to become part of the Talmudic dialogue,” he says. “Throughout the course, the students realized that the conversation begun 2,000 years ago in ancient Babylonia and Jerusalem is significant in their own lives today.” 

Mark Canter studied Talmud in high school, and hadn’t perused a tome since. For him, “this course was initially difficult to follow,” but quickly became “fascinating and manageable.” Canter, a businessman in California, has already signed up for the next course, because, he says, “it was the best class ever given.” 

Whether it is their first time or their 50th, when students around the world snap open their Talmudic texts come November, they will discover the intertwined debates of Tractate Pesachim. Between discussions of the laws of Passover and the intricacies of proper speech, the students will gain something intangible and eternal: the mastery and confidence of their heritage.

Members of the media are invited to interview local course facilitators in advance. Interviews with national facilitators and course creators can also be arranged, upon request. To arrange an interview, to visit an upcoming class, or for further information, please contact Chanoch H Sufrin, [email protected], 07 3342 6326.

The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) is the adult education arm of Chabad-Lubavitch. JLI’s classes and programs are offered at over 300 locations (including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, USA and Venezuela). The JLI’s classes have been attended by nearly 75,000 people since its creation in 1998.

Every course offered by JLI is synchronized, so that lessons are offered concurrently in all locations. This unique feature has helped to create a true global learning community.

Please visit for up-to-date information about myShiur.

JLI courses are presented in Brisbane under the auspices of the Jewish Educational Institute - Chabad Brisbane.
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