Sfat Emet: The Blessings of Blessing

A live, interactive course led by

R. Prof. Elie Holzer

                                                     SPRING 2020


Exploring bracha (blessing) as a daily, essential concept that lies at the intersection of life’s existential, psycho-religious, and ethical dimensions, in the Hasidic writings of the Sfat Emet (authored by R. Yehuda Leib Alter, 1848-1905).

In the first chapter of Bereishit, God blesses animals, Adam and Eve, and the entirety of Creation. Human beings respond through verbal expressions, blessing God’s Name at specific times and at the advent of certain opportunities and experiences. In Rabbinic Judaism, blessings have been institutionalized and ritualized, and they constitute a many-times-daily, essential speech act.


How might we make sense of blessing as a relational, spiritual/religious, and ethical practice, far from potential ‘magical’ overtones?


In this course, we  will explore the insights of the Sfat Emet (writings of R. Yehuda Leib Alter, 1848-1905) into bracha (blessing) as an essential experiential concept that lies at the intersection of life’s existential, psycho-religious, and ethical dimensions. Like other key concepts the Sfat Emet illuminates, delving into the world of bracha attunes our eyes, ears, and hearts to the numinous dimension of life, transforms our awareness of being in the world, and awakens us to the gift, the responsibility, the fragility, and the call of existence.


With inspiration from additional authors and philosophers, we will explore and discuss the ways in which we might re-engage with the concept of bracha in our lives, helping us to refresh and revitalize Jewish religious life against the backdrop of the current spiritually hungry and complex world, rather than  merely sliding back into the comfort of traditional religious teachings.


THURSDAYS from 9-10:15 a.m. ET

February 2021: 4 & 18.

March 2021: 4 & 18.

April 2021: 8 & 22.

May 2021: 6 & 20.

June 2021: 3 & 17.

Studying with Elie Holzer engages both the mind and the heart. As you work through elegant and complex texts you can feel the impact on many levels. And when class is over the thoughts and feelings that have been experienced stay with you through the week, into Prayer, Shabbat and your encounters with others. It is truly a privilege to be his student.

Dr. Jane Shapiro

Founder Orot: Center for New Jewish Learning, Skokie, IL

Elie's class is a rare and precious opportunity for me to quench the thirst of my mind and soul in the company of other's who seek to drink from the same well. His thoughtful and "fresh" pedagogy extends to the sources we prepare in advance and the framing of each class. He is truly a mentor for what is fast becoming my deeper understanding of spiritual practice.

Pearl Mattenson

PCC, Director, Rosov Consulting

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Elie’s sensitive reading of the Sefat Emet along with selections from philosophy and literature gives me the chance to breathe deep every Wednesday morning. It is the kind of Torah that opens my soul.

Rabbi Barry Dov Katz

Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale, NY

The experience had great meaning, depth and inspiration for me. Your classes and the preparation for them created a kind of Shabbat during the week. The Sfat Emet is wonderful and your teaching illuminates his ideas and complements them and expands them in new directions. 

Eric Mattenson

Former Senior Director, Walgreens Lean Six Sigma, Skokie IL

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