Midreshet Rachel Areas of Study
The program is engineered to help students develop step-by-step in both Chumash and Navi. Chavruta preparation is integrated with classroom work to maximize individual growth and independence in learning.
In Basics, students learn biblical grammar, Rashi script, in a first hands on encounter with the Chumash and Navi.
The Introductory class introduce Rashi’s commentary, adding breadth and scope as well as developing independent learning skills.
The Intermediate class inculcates close analysis and appreciation of the many faces of Torah. Skills development is further pursued with a focus on the Medieval Biblical commentaries, Ramban and Rashi.
In Advanced Chumash, students are taught to use Midrash as a means of adding to their understanding of the Chumash, as they continue to delve more deeply into commentaries.
Parshanut, for the Intermediate and Advanced levels, surveys the classic commentators of the Chumash from the medieval period until modern times. Biographical background is provided for each commentator. Representative commentaries from the current Parshat Hashavua are studied in order to elucidate style, approach and orientation.
Navi study progresses incrementally similar to the Chumash program
The introductory class concentrates on the moral teachings of the Prophets. Analysis of the political, economic and spiritual climate of the prophetic era is an integral part of the course, elucidated with the explanations of Rashi, Metsudot and others.
Intermediate Navi/Prophets focuses on classical commentaries such as Rashi, the Radak, the Ralbag, Abarbanel, and the Malbim in order to comprehend the spiritual and ethical underpinnings of the Prophets.
Advanced Navi/Prophets Rabbi Yitzchak Shurin This course takes students into later Prophets and commentaries including the Ibn Ezra. The relationship between the Prophets and the people is analyzed towards developing an understanding of the Jewish people today.
Two additional courses bring out special connections between the Tanach and Jewish life.
Eishet Chayil – learned with midrashim and commentaries teaches about the ideal of the Jewish woman
The Five Megillot — Kohelet, Esther, Shir HaShirim, Ruth and Eicha, each examined in detail as they become topical during the course of the year.
Bein Adam Lechavero/Interpersonal Relations
The introductory level analyzes mitzvot regulating the conduct of society through primary and secondary sources, integrating textual skills with life skills. Examples of mitzvot covered are: Loving thy neighbor, honoring parents, and giving tzedakah.
The advanced class examines more subtle and complex issues — including relationship between the secular and religious communities, unfair competition, and obligations toward special needs groups — through primary sources.
The introductory course considers the basic philosophical and technical structure of prayer, based on sources from the Talmud, Midrash, and Medieval philosophers. Students seek to gain a deeper understanding of prayer as a way of approaching and communicating with G-d. Another class focuses on the book of Tehillim/Psalms.
A range of Jewish thinkers and ideas are dealt with in the following courses:
Contemporary Jewish Philosophy – In the modern era, Torah Judaism has endured many philosophical and ideological challenges. In this course we use original texts to discover how Rabbis Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, Moshe Chaim Luzatto, Yosef Dov Soloveitchik and Eliezer Berkovits have dealt with the challenges of the period of Enlightenment, the Reform movement, the Holocaust and Zionism.
The Kuzari – The dialogue between a rabbi and the Khazar king in Rabbi Yehuda Halevy’s Kuzari touches on every major issue in Jewish thought from both the mystical and rational perspectives.
Chassidut – Using texts written by the Chassidic masters such as Rebbe Tzaddok HaCohen, the Sfas Emes, the Kedushas Levi and others, the practical application of Chassidic ideology into everyday life is discussed.
The Philosophy of Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch – 150 years ago, Rav Hirsch redefined the tenets of Orthodox Judaism in response to the intellectual and cultural challenges of the modern era. His thought remains as relevant and as timely today as it was then.
The Mussar Movement – This course aims to familiarize students with the Mussar movement founded by Rav Yisroel Salanter. Its introductory level deals with the Rambam’s presentation of the golden mean and Slabodka Mussar’s view of the greatness and lowliness of man. Its advanced level elucidates Rav Salanter’s “mussar personality”. Emphasis is placed on the historical background of the mussar movement and the practical application of mussar to our daily lives.
Maharal – The Maharal’s unique approach to Rabbinic texts combines rigorous textual analysis with the presentation of deep metaphysical concepts. Special emphasis is placed on the Maharal’s Derech Hachaim on Pirkei Avot.
Practical Halacha – A practical and analytical approach, based on classical and contemporary sources, illuminates the halachot of Shabbat, Kashrut, Brachot, and Shmirat Halashon.
Daily Halachot for Women – This class provides practical and analytical guidance from the sources for a Torah-observant way of life. Topics such as Tefila, morning Brachot, Limmud Torah, and Hilchot Beit HaKnesset are covered.
Cycle of the Jewish Year – The structure of the Jewish calendar and a detailed investigation of the holidays provide insight into the unique rhythm of Jewish life.
Ein Yaakov – Students acquire the tools needed to translate and understand the aggadot and midrashim found in Rabbinic literature. Particular emphasis is placed on learning ethics from the Aggadic story and Jewish thought from midrash.
The Jewish Family – This series of discussions explores what the sources have to say about Jewish modesty, family, sexuality, and feminism.
The Jew in Contemporary Society – The 20th century has brought about a radical transformation of society, both through technological innovation and social movements. These changes force the Jew who lives within the framework of Jewish tradition to apply the timeless truths of the Torah to the timely questions of modernity. The course examines contemporary issues through a careful analysis of classical texts including Tanach, Talmud, law codes, responsa and philosophical works.
Hebrew – Developing Hebrew language skills is a key element of Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya’s textual learning curriculum. The ability to read, translate, and understand a Hebrew text enables a student to grapple with Jewish sources independently in the original Hebrew.
Beginning levels focus on the grammar and reading skills essential for learning Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew.
Basics Program – This is an introductory program for women who haven’t yet obtained the necessary skills required for serious textual study. In this six-week intensive course, Basics improves a student’s translating and reading abilities in Hebrew texts. The rigorous study of Chumash and Navi, along with biblical grammar, dictionary skills, and learning Rashi script provide a basis for in-depth class discussion. For women who are newly observant, appropriate discussion groups on various philosophical and practical issues are conducted. At the end of six weeks, students are equipped to enter our regular Level One program.
Yemei Iyun – Every year, Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya hosts several seminars for current students and the general community. Each of these Yemei Iyun, in advance of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur/Sukkot, Chanukah, Pesach, and Tisha B’Av, develops a specific theme through textual study. Presenters are the Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya faculty along with special lectures by leading scholars and educators.
Special Community Service Program – One afternoon per week, Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya students put their learning into action by participating in their chosen community service projects. These projects range from working with children from disadvantaged families to answering phones on a crisis counseling hot line. Each student works with our community service/chesed coordinator to find a placement that is right for her. Periodic seminars on issues raised by these projects give the participants an opportunity to discuss and grow from their experiences.