The intellectual heart of the SBM is the shiur of Rosh Beit Midrash Rabbi Robert Klapper. Participants spend four to five hours preparing for each of the four weekly shiurim. The shiur is highly participatory, and students are encouraged to offer sharp criticisms and develop alternative structures. Discussions started during shiur frequently spill over into meals and free time. Rabbi Klapper is available for one-on-one discussions throughout the program, and every student takes advantage of this opportunity.
SBM fellows are required to make themselves available for paired study with community mmbers at least two afternoons a week. In addition to expressing gratitude for community support, this frequently gives fellows the chance to get a non-academic perspective on the material being studied and generates productive discussions within the program. SBM fellows are also expected to help community members prepare for Rabbi Klapper’s twice-weekly public lectures and to serve as teaching assistants at occasional joint programs run with other Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Congress.
In 1997 the SBM studied the fourth chapter of Tractate Pesachim, focusing on the tension within halakhah between respect for custom and cultural autonomy and the desire for unity of practice throughout the Jewish community. (Part of this material is presented in Rabbi Klapper’s review essay in the current issue of Tradition.) In 1998 the SBM studied the tenth chapter of Tractate Yebamot, focusing on the seemingly paradoxical rabbinic willingness to legislate new categories of mamzeir and agunah while making every effort to prevent the real-life application of the biblical categories.
Click here for a speech given by Rabbi Klapper about the Summer Beit Midrash.
Click here for a summary of the 1999 learning.
Click here for the programs of other years.