Getting Started

SVARA’s mission is to teach Talmud through a traditionally radical lens to develop compassionate, critical thinking, courageous humans who work to create a more just, peaceful & healthy world. We are opening Talmud learning up to the 99% of Jews who have been shut out of the bet midrash for two millennia. Whether you have been learning Talmud for your entire life, or whether you’ve never heard of Talmud before, we believe that the SVARA method can support you in deepening your sense of Talmud study (in the original language!) as a radical, subversive, and deep spiritual practice, and will help you fall in love with the tradition. Are you ready to get started?!

Never learned with us before? Here’s what you’ll need to get started on your journey into traditionally radical Talmud if you’re a first-time SVARA-nik: (1) the ALEF-BET, (2) the CRASH Talk, (3) the HOW TO LEARN TALMUD workshop. You’ll also need two dictionaries for study
Not sure where to start? Sign up for a One-on-One with a SVARA Faculty Member.

(1) ALEF-BET

All you need to begin learning is your alef-bet (the ability to sound out the Hebrew alphabet) and you’re ready to go! Still working on your alef-bet? Check out the resources below.

HOW TO LEARN THE ALEF-BET

If you’re still working on recognizing and sounding out the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, we’ve heard from SVARA-niks that these resources have been helpful as you’re learning:

There are two different kinds of Hebrew fonts you might want to get familiar with as you learn in the bet midrash: “cursive” (sometimes called “script”) and “Rashi script.” We’ve created this short worksheet to help you practice both!


(2) CRASH TALK

In this introductory talk, SVARA’s Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Benay Lappe lays out our philosophy of the Talmud and the rabbinic revolution that gave rise to it–along with important vocabulary and concepts for anyone learning Jewish texts. We will explain where the Talmud came from, why it was written, what its purpose is, and why the study of it has been so important for Judaism and the formation of the Jewish mind. Join us for an upcoming CRASH Talk, or watch Rabbi Benay Lappe’s ELI Talk, “An Unrecognizable Jewish Future,” below.


(3) HOW TO LEARN TALMUD

Stay tuned for upcoming sessions!

The best way to get trained up in this method is to join us for a Pop-Up or Weekly Bet Midrash, an immersive program, or for an online workshop called HOW TO LEARN TALMUD. This online workshop will support you on your journey to becoming what we call a “player,” someone empowered with the skills to play in and with the tradition. You’ll…

  • learn what the Talmud is and why we learn it at SVARA
  • learn how to follow SVARA’s method, step-by-step, to start your journey of learning how to translate Talmud for yourself
  • learn what the basic components of a page of Talmud are
  • meet 2-5 other newbie SVARA-niks in a mixed-level, inter-generational, queer-normative learning space

We strongly recommend watching or participating in a CRASH TALK in advance of this workshop so that you get a deeper sense of what Talmud is, and why we think it’s a powerful, queer, and radical blueprint for us.

NOTE: If you’ve been to Queer Talmud Camp, a pop-up bet midrash, or a weekly bet midrash, chances are you’ve participated in this workshop. There’s always more to learn, and we encourage folks to join us for this workshop more than once, because experienced learning is not about covering more–it’s about going deeper.