Midrash Shabbat: An Adult Learning Experience

Midrash Shabbat is a “Light Lunch and Learn” program that takes place immediately after shacharit morning services one Shabbat each month. It is a great opportunity to get a taste of a broad range of Jewish educational topics.

Speakers include our own Rabbi Rosenthal along with various biblical scholars and educators from the San Diego Jewish Community. The speakers provide an interactive discussion on a topic of their choice. Click here to see the current schedule of topics.

Midrash Shabbat is funded in part by the Religious Life Committee, the Aaron S. Gold Institute of Adult Jewish Studies, and patrons like you. If you would like to sponsor a future Midrash Shabbat, please contact the office by calling 619 697-6001 or email tifereth@tiferethisrael.com.

Midrash Shabbat: the monthly Shabbat service YOU should attend …

Over the past few years in my role as Religious Life VP, I have often asked the question, “How can we make Shabbat morning services more interesting, especially to members who don’t normally attend?” But I failed to see the forest through the trees. Our Midrash Shabbat program, a monthly “Lite Lunch and Learn” following services, has been going on regularly for nearly two years now. This highly successful program is well attended by a core group of 40-50 regulars. If you have never experienced it, you really don’t know what you’re missing. Because of the relaxed, friendly atmosphere after a light lunch with a little sip of Israeli wine (a Midrash Shabbat tradition), I think it’s one of the best ways to increase your Jewish education. Whether you grew up in a very traditional Jewish home or are longing for a little more Jewish identity, there is always something fun and interesting to learn at Midrash Shabbat.

The origin of midrash is the Talmud, which represents a comprehensive compilation of the Oral Law. The word “midrash” has both a formal and evolved meaning. In his book, Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People and Its History, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin explains that midrash comes from two flavors of rabbinic literature, midrash halakha, which derives laws from the biblical text, and midrash agadah, which derives the sermonic implications from it, often in the form of ethnic and folkloric stories. The more familiar, or evolved meaning of midrash, which is sometimes abbreviated as drash, comes from the sermonic kind, typically in the form of stories that help us “understand what new idea or nuance the Bible wished to convey” in certain confusing, superfluous, contradictory, or even hypocritical verses. For instance, one might ask, “Why did Eve eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge when God specifically prohibited it?” … or …”Why did Abraham attempt to sacrifice Isaac when human life was so precious to God?”

After a brief lunch following services, our Midrash Shabbat consists of a 45-minute, expert-led and interactive discussion on various topics which have covered intermarriage, kashrut, holiday customs, origins of the Hebrew alphabet, as well as very entertaining recent sessions on Jewish humor and Jewish music. Our last few events packed a standing-room-only chapel with sessions on Advocacy for Israel and Songs of the Halutzim (pioneers who fought for Israel’s founding and independence). Many of these events were led by Tifereth’s own members, including Martin Sodomsky, Zev bar-Lev, Mike Abrams, and Eileen and Myla Wingard. Every other month, Rabbi Rosenthal presents on a plethora of interesting topics, often tied to upcoming holidays, such as “The Real Story of Chanukah,” presented last month. We are starting off 2009 with an equally interesting guest in Charlene Neely.

For those of you who are not regular shul-goers and those who may not be familiar with, or even relaxed in a typical Shabbat morning service, I sincerely hope that you will try to take advantage of a few Midrash Shabbat programs over the next year. I know that there are always commitments to kids, sports, household chores, and other distractions, but I guarantee you will walk away from a Midrash Shabbat program feeling glad that you attended and you might even make some new friends with whom you didn’t know you had so much in common.

Shabbat Shalom,

Norm Katz, Religious Life Vice-President

reprinted from The Shofar, January 2009