Queer Talmud for Beginner’s Mind

a weekly deep-dive into traditionally radical Talmud with SVARA

Tuesdays, October 20th – December 15th*

8:00-10:00 PM ET | 7:00-9:00 PM CT | 5:00-7:00 PM PT

*NOTE: there will be no class on November 3rd.

Join SVARA’s Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Benay Lappe for a semester of Queer Talmud goodness specifically designed for folks who are new(er) to SVARA’s approach to Talmud study and want to learn in a queer-normative space!  The learning is rigorous, yet the bet midrash environment is warm and supportive. Students are strongly encouraged to bring their real-life experiences to bear on the text and to share openly in a space that models queer culture and radical inclusion.

We’ll study a section of the Talmud in the *original language* (with no translations!) with a focus on skill-building (learning how to learn), the radical nature of the Jewish tradition, and the cultivation of Talmud study as a spiritual practice. Each weekly session will combine chevruta learning (learning in pairs) and collective unpacking of the text in shiur

All you need in order to participate is the ability to sound out your alef-bet, and you’ll be reading from the daf (directly from the page of Talmud) in no time. If you’ve never learned with SVARA before and are new to traditionally radical Talmud study, this learning experience is for you!

About this Shiur (Class):

This learning experience is for folks who:

  • have never learned Talmud before (with SVARA or otherwise!)
  • want to explore Talmud study in a queer-normative learning space
  • can sound out the letters of their alef-bet
  • are excited to work hard in a rigorous, joyful, supportive learning space

What you’ll need:

  • a commitment to join for each session
  • a ‘Jastrow’ dictionary (NOTE: while we know the Jastrow Dictionary is available online, we strongly recommend using a book for this learning, access needs notwithstanding. If you’re having trouble finding a Jastrow Dictionary, you can order one directly from the publisher here or from your local Jewish bookstore.)


What will a session look like?

Each class begins with chevruta learning–sitting with your chevruta, your text, and your dictionaries and preparing the text.  At SVARA, we never use translations–no matter how long you’ve been learning, or if this is your first time opening the Talmud, your text is in the original Hebrew or Aramaic. That’s what makes it fun! After everyone’s spent some time deciphering the assigned text, we’ll come together as a group to go over what we’ve learned and discuss it–that’s called shiur. The following week, chevruta time begins with hazara (review) of the previous week’s material to the point of ownership, mastery, and memorization, after which you’ll prepare the new material. Then during shiur, we begin with recitation of the memorized material–and everyone who recites gets clapped up, no matter how much you were able to do!

I don’t have a chevruta (partner) to learn with!

We will pair you up with a partner in advance of the first session!

I’ve never done this before. I don’t think I can do it!

While all texts are studied in the original Hebrew/Aramaic from the Vilna Shas (traditional printing of the Talmud), no prior text experience is necessary. The requirements for the class are your ability to merely sound out (even without comprehension) the alef bet, your text, and dictionaries, attendance at all sessions, and your willingness to work hard. If you’re willing to try, we’ll help you succeed!

What if I can’t make all the classes in a session?

This is an eight-week class. While unforeseen circumstances do arise, it is important that you plan to be at all eight sessions. Each week builds on the work of the previous week, and students who miss a week will find it extremely difficult to catch up and participate fully. In addition, your chevruta depends on you for their learning as well!

We are also trying to create an intimate community of learners, and consistency is important in developing such a community. If you are not down for this sort of commitment–that’s ok–just let us know; we’ll let you know about other ways to learn with us!

You mentioned texts and dictionaries...

Before our first session, you’ll be provided with a volume of the tractate of Talmud that we will be learning–a masechet. If you have your own unvocalized, unpunctuated, untranslated volume of the Vilna Shas and do not need one from us, please let us know on your registration form.

There are also two dictionaries necessary for doing the work of this bet midrash:

  1. A “Jastrow”—Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature, by Marcus Jastrow (required); and
  2. A “Frank”—Practical Talmud Dictionary, by Yitzhak Frank (recommended)

These are great dictionaries for any and all future Talmud study (with SVARA or elsewhere). If you’re having trouble finding a Jastrow Dictionary, you can order one directly from the publisher here or from your local Jewish bookstore. 

EVERY STUDENT IS REQUIRED TO HAVE THEIR OWN JASTROW! We also strongly suggest also having your own Frank.

If you are unable, for financial reasons, to purchase a dictionary at this time, please be in touch with James!


Register & Cost:

The sliding scale for this shiur is $100-425, and we ask that you select a number on this scale that works for you. If this scale is beyond your means, you can pay a reduced tuition rate (any meaningful amount to you at this time) and indicate this on your registration form. Questions? Be in touch with James!


Your Faculty & Fairies:

Rabbi Benay Lappe (Rosh Yeshiva & Faculty, she/her) is the Founder and Rosh Yeshiva of SVARA. Ordained by The Jewish Theological Seminary in 1997, Benay is an award-winning educator specializing in the application of queer theory to Talmud study. Benay was named to Jewrotica’s Sexiest Rabbis List of 2013 (and is a little embarrassed about that but also a little tickled), The Forward’s 2014 List of Most Inspiring Rabbis, is a Joshua Venture Fellow, a recipient of the prestigious 2016 Covenant Award for excellence and innovation in Jewish education, and was named to The Forward’s 2018 list of Sexiest Jewish Intellectuals Alive (and is both tickled and embarrassed again, and also more sheepish about the intellectual part than the sexy part). While learning and teaching Talmud are her greatest passions, Benay is also a licensed pilot, shoemaker, and patent-holding inventor.

Information about fairies coming soon!