Friends With Benefits: The Chevruta Relationship in Rabbinic Text

Summer 2006

SVARA/GTU Bet Midrash

Friends With Benefits
The Chevruta Relationship in Rabbinic Text

July 15-20

Chevruta* describes the relationship between two people studying a text together in a uniquely Jewish way. The 2,000-year-old method involves a back and forth of continuous reflection, both on the text and on the individuals themselves. In this process, chevruta becomes an act of creation, as two people gain insights that neither could experience if learning alone. This process has never been taught explicitly nor analyzed formally, but has survived and sustained a rich tradition of learning and thought. In this course, we will look at the story of Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yochanan, with a focus on the intensity and intimacy of their chevruta relationship. This text is currently the hotbed of queer Jewish scholarship. This is your opportunity to study the text and make sense of the story for yourself. The course will reveal the potency of chevruta learning, and the potential dangers that lie within. We will explore chevruta as a mechanism for developing one’s svara, and ask the questions: Where is God in the study of Talmud? Where is God in our relationships? Ultimately, we will see how the insights of the text are revealed through the intimate act of studying with another person in chevruta, and the ways our self-understanding is transformed through that engagement.

*The word itself comes from the Hebrew/Aramaic root chaver, meaning friend.

Saturday 8pm: Seudah Shlishit (Third Shabbos Meal), Havdalah with Jhos Singer and Kumzitz/Musical Celebration with Guest Performers
Free and Open to the Public
Location: GTU campus location TBA
Please RSVP so we can be sure to have enough food and space.

Sunday 12 – 5 pm: Talmud Text Skills…Learning How to Learn

Come play with the nuts and bolts of Talmud study. Rabbi Lappe will walk the class through the geography of the Talmud page, teach dictionary skills, Rashi script, Hebrew and Aramaic roots, prefixes and suffixes, the use of talmudic reference materials, and an introduction to the mind of the Talmud. This is an important primer for all new SVARA students, and an optional refresher for SVARA alums.

A catered kosher dinner to follow, 5 – 7 pm
Free and Open to the Public
Location: GTU campus location TBA
Please RSVP so we can be sure to have enough food and space.

Course Schedule:

Monday – Thursday, 9 am – 4 pm
9 – 10: Drop-in tutorial (optional)
10 – 12: Chevruta (paired study)
12 – 1: Lunch
1 – 3: Shiur (group discussion)
3 – 4: Office hours with Rabbi Lappe (optional)

Location: Dinner Board Room, GTU Library, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA


The course is open to students of all Hebrew levels. All texts will be studied in the original Hebrew/Aramaic. The ability to decode Hebrew writing (sound out the letters, even without comprehension) is a prerequisite.


$500 – $700, sliding scale*
$325 for GTU students

*Limited scholarships are available.

For more information, please email us atĀ [email protected]. To register, please download an applicationĀ here.

If you are traveling from out of town and would like to stay with a member of the SVARA community, please contact us and we will do our best to arrange a homestay.

Co-sponsored by The Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union. Supported by a generous grant from the Koret Foundation.