About Ohr Somayach

Programs of Study

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All the programs at Ohr Somayach offer small and individualized classes. New students who require assistance are given the opportunity to work with specially appointed tutors.

As the student progresses, he is encouraged to work on independent projects under the guidance of teachers. At the graduate level, the student takes on a greater degree of independence, with emphasis on original research and fieldwork. Students receive special training in bibliography, research techniques, Jewish education and homiletics. They are engaged in youth education programs and in publishing projects.

The academic calendar is designed to harmonize with the cycles of life in Israel. The fall and spring vacations coincide with the seasonal festivals - Succot (Tabernacles) and Pesach (Passover).

The mystique and lifestyle of Jerusalem prove a particularly fertile soil for growth, especially on the Shabbat when the tempo of the week slows to a rhythm of tranquility and meditative calm. The environment of Shabbat in Jerusalem, the communal prayers and meals; or meals shared in the homes of faculty members, all add a special depth to the academic program. The result is not mere study, but learning that is an experience with unmatched poetic dimensions.

Objectives: To acquaint the student with the scope and depth of the Bible, and the Biblical sources of Jewish history, law and thought.

Curriculum: The student begins with a survey course, outlining salient passages. He then progress through an intensive program of Biblical text and exegesis, focusing on the principal commentaries. The student deals with the Bible in terms of its historical, legal, philosophical and moral significance.

Hebrew Language
Curriculum: Depending on his score on the Hebrew placement examination, the student will be assigned to one of four levels, from elementary Hebrew, to advanced reading and composition. Courses in Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew are geared to develop the language skills necessary for full comprehension of the texts.

Objectives: To give the student a working knowledge of the Hebrew language. To facilitate reading classical and modern texts and comprehending lectures in Hebrew. To develop the ability to communicate in Hebrew, both in writing and orally.

Objectives: To develop a perspective and understanding of the various processes and currents in Jewish history.

Curriculum: The student studies the major periods of Jewish history from antiquity to the present. Particular emphasis is placed on the Bible as a historical-ethical document in the trend of the Mesorah (oral tradition), and the concept of the repeating cycle of Jewish history is emphasized.

Jewish Law
Objectives: To acquaint the student with the rich body of tradition; the legal structure of Jewish values and ethical culture; the philosophical and moral underpinnings of Jewish law (Halacha) and custom.

Curriculum: Beginning with an overview of the 613 biblical commandments and an historical perspective of the oral tradition, the student continues to cover the major areas of Jewish law. A dual emphasis throughout all levels is placed on technical mastery and conceptual comprehension of Halacha, as well as practical application.

Objectives: To acquaint the student with the fundamentals of Jewish thought, while surveying the scope and depth of Jewish philosophy, theology and ethics.

Curriculum: After beginning with an overview of the basic concepts of Deity, faith, free will, good and evil, the student is introduced to the classical works of the traditional Jewish philosophers. The student considers the nature of prayer and ethics in detail. Major modern philosophers are then studied, analyzing their theological systems.

Objectives: To introduce the student to the expanse and depth of the oral tradition; to provide training in the linguistic and analytic skills of Talmudic logic and discourse; to familiarize the student with the values inherent within that tradition.

Curriculum: Introductory courses provide a foundation in the structure and dialectic of the Talmud: colloquy, question and response. At the same time, the student becomes familiar with Talmudic structure, language and style.

An intermediate student is able to prepare an independent preliminary interpretation of the text and begin to probe the commentaries which provide the basis for close analysis of the sugya (subject under study).

Advanced studies center around modern and contemporary interpretation of the traditional commentators. Special attention is given to abstract conceptualization of the sugya, as well as subtleties of expression and definition.

Graduate students apply their acquired expertise to an intensive study of Talmudic principles of jurisprudence, law and custom. At this level, emphasis is placed upon original thinking based on principles gathered from prior studies.

Students at all levels work together with tutors to review and prepare for lectures and seminars. Much of the most significant progress in Talmudic study is achieved through tutor supervised independent study.

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