WATERVILLE — The emotional and spiritual features of classical Jewish literature will be the topic of monthly classes starting later this month.

The free noontime classes on midrash, hosted by Rabbi Rachel Isaacs of Beth Israel Congregation, will be June 25, July 25 and 30 and Aug. 1 and 6 at Thai Bistro, 147 Main St.

One does not have to be Jewish to attend — the classes are open to everyone.

Midrashim are sacred stories that explore the interior lives of Biblical characters as imagined by ancient rabbis, Isaacs said.

“They fill in the lacunae (gaps) left by the Biblical text, which often does not describe the motivations of individuals, the contexts of their decisions or the connections among various stories within the Biblical corpus,” Isaacs said. “Midrashim also contain aphorisms and other words of wisdom from our ancestors regarding how to live holy and rich lives.”

Last fall, Isaacs started teaching a class in Talmud at Selah Tea Cafe. The Talmud is a collection of writings that constitute the Jewish civil and religious law. Isaacs described it as a sacred book that records all the questioning and debates of early sages.

“I wanted to teach the class so that community members and Colby (College) students could begin high-level Jewish learning and also begin to explore Jewish approaches to some of the most pressing ethical and social issues of our time,” Isaacs said. “Topics have included end of life choices, work-life balance and civil discourse.”

She said holding classes downtown is a way to integrate Jewish life into downtown, increase visibility and emphasize the importance of supporting local businesses.

In addition to serving at Beth Israel, at 291 Main St., Isaacs also is Jewish chaplain at Colby.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]


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