Discovering the Landscape of the Soul

Posted Wednesday, Jan 28th, 2009

A noted author once wrote of landing in Chicago.  He rented a car and proceeded to drive to the city.  But time and again, despite the map he had with him, he couldn’t find his way out of the airport.  That is, until he realized he’d landed at Midway airport – and was trying to navigate his way out of O’Hare!  Life’s like that too.  Often we try, and try again.  But without the success we anticipate from our efforts.  At those times, we have to check in with ourselves and the world to ask, “Do I have the landscape clear?”

 

“Soul Maps”, the recent JLI course, was just that – an opportunity to clarify the landscape of our soul.  It explored the book of Tanya.  The original work is a text authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidic Movement.  He labored for twenty years to completing it in 1796. Upon receiving the book the legendary Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev exclaimed, “Reb Schneur Zalman did the impossible – he put so great a G-d in so tiny a book!”  The JLI course, authored by Rabbi Shais Taub, explored the whole of Tanya in a mere six weeks.  That’s a tall order, especially given that the Alter Rebbe once told his brother R. Yehuda Leib, that while writing Tanya, he once spent six weeks pondering on whether to include just one letter in the text!  Yet in taking a broad approach, the course afforded students the lay of the land so to speak, allowing them to gain access to their inner workings and thus make shifts in outlook and conduct.

 

Omek, a Crown Heights based organization devoted to in-depth transformational learning for women, offered the course to both local residents and those who wanted to call in from further afield.  “Having had the privilege of being involved with JLI for some time, I am acutely aware of how enriching the material is,” says director Shimona Tzukernik.  “All JLI courses explore concepts in such a fresh and comprehensive way, I had no doubt that participants would gain from the experience.”

 

And that sense has proven true.  Eighty nine students signed up for the course which was held in the merit of a speedy recovery for Yechiel Michal ben Doba Raiza Raskin.  The response has been overwhelmingly positive.  In the words of one of the participants:

 

“Dear Shimona, I just wanted to say thank you for the incredible Tanya classes that you taught these past few weeks.  It gave me a whole new meaning to Tanya.  In the past, I've always thought of Tanya as examining the personas of the “Righteous, Intermediate and Wicked” among us, but having nothing much to do with me.  I never quite understood those people who said. ‘The Tanya is brilliant!’ or ‘Tanya changed my life!’  I always thought of it as just another subject in school.  However, I am happy (and excited) to say that things have changed thanks to you. Tanya is alive – and it now talks to me!  Every time I sat in your classes I had a feeling of (this might sound strange) my soul being elevated. I walked home in an uplifted mood…I especially loved the last class.  Firstly, we were always taught to say chapter forty one before prayer.  I've read it in English a couple of times but never understood it.  Tonight, I finally got it!  Secondly, I deal with teens and the concepts of self esteem, self worth, suicide etcetera come up. When you learn Tanya, and realize how much G-d loves us, and how 'important' we are to Him, those thoughts don't even make sense! It finally clicked!...I also loved your class on happiness…I could go on...Thank you, thank you, thank you! I look forward to learning with you again!”

 

Another student wrote, “Tanya?  Tanya to me was a subject, remained in my heart.  I knew many concepts.  Understood many ideas but was never actually able to put it all together.  Now I see the whole picture.”

 

The learning was intellectually stimulating and students certainly gained access to “the whole picture.”  But it didn’t end there.  A central goal was to make an impact, a shift, in the way we relate to ourselves and negotiate our daily lives.  Here too, the feedback was resoundingly affirmative.  One participant shared that, “I definitely feel a shift in a positive way in my spiritual service of G-d.  I am excited to read the daily portion of Tanya, to know the larger picture that puts together all my little pieces.”  Another said, “The class was taught in a way where familiar ideas were reviewed and expanded upon in both a practical and intellectually stimulating way. I came home from each class inspired to actually apply what I learned throughout the session at home and in my daily life.  And yet another said, “The influence the class had on my daily spiritual practice was palpable – now I just need more!”

 

And more there is.  Next up with Omek is the JLI course, You Be the Judge II, authored by Rabbi Eli Silberstein.  It's a course on Talmudic Ethics. We'll be examining compelling contemporary legal scenarios through the lens of Talmudic thinking. It promises to be intriguing.  There is no prior knowledge of Talmud necessary, so for all those women who want to taste the richness of Talmudic debate, contact Omek at info@shimona.org.  You can take a peek at the topic to be covered in lesson one on the website’s home page at http://www.shimona.org/home.html.   At issue is whether two young men who murdered their parents have the right to inherit the money left to them in the will!

 

Shimona’s style is at once intellectually rigorous and personable.  In the words of one student, “You have a special talent that enables you to connect to people in a very spiritual way – through teaching.  Loved the course, connected to it and made it my passion for 6 weeks!  So come join us, ignite a passion and feel the shift.  Omek, in-depth transformational learning for YOU.



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