Joel’s Menu

Are you thinking about having Joel Grishaver as a scholar-in-residence in your community? Here is Joel’s “chinese menu” of programs.

This is a list of Joel’s sessions. They’re building blocks for creating a Grishaver weekend. In consultation with Joel, you’ll pick the sessions that fit your community’s needs.

Spiritual Growth

Music and Leadership. A Kabbalistic Fugue. Rabbi Nachman of Bretzlav was the great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov. In his 282nd sermon in Lekutai Moharan he intertwines the double issues of the power of music and the traits of successful leadership. In this workshop we will work our way through that sermon and explore both areas.

The Kabbalah of Self. Through reading and unpacking primary mystical texts (Sefer Yetzirah, Zohar, Rabbi Nachman, etc.) participants will gain insight into how Kabbalah is both a process of coming close to God and a process of self-actualization.

The Kabbalah of Family. Kabbalah deals with the inner life and with redeeming the world. Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlov, the Mei Mishloach, the Sefat Emet and other Hasidic teachers will share their insights into the Kabbalistic dynamic of families. We will study a series of texts and look at the family process they suggest, specifically the relationship between family life and redemption.

The Mechanics of Jewish Values. This is a hands-on look at how Jewish ethics work differently than the “family values” or the “Christian values” that are so frequently cited in our media and our political system. Through looking at cases and how Jewish values are applied as a process rather than as a single absolute fiat, participants will come to understand the “organistic” nature of the Jewish ethical process.

The Good-Side of Evil. An exploration of the Rabbinic understanding of the Yetzer ha-Ra, the evil urge, using hevruta study, storytelling, and lecture discussion.

Healing Evil. An interactive exploration of a portion of Maimonides Laws of Repentence and Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik’s writings on repentance.

The Jewish Meaning of Family

The Kabbalah of Family: Drawing from Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, the Mei Mishloah, The Zohar, the Sefat Emet and other texts we will explore the meaning of family from the Kabbalah

Finding God in the Family. Three case studies, one from the midrash, one from real life, and one from the Talmud lead to the discovery of a Jewish vision of family.

It Only Takes Four Stories to Be Jewish. Through sharing their own family stories participants learn that they are reliving experiences of creation, exodus, Mt. Sinai, and the final redemption.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Institute. Designed for families of upcoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah students, this three to five hour series of events look at the meaning of coming of age and the acceptance of responsibility in the Jewish tradition.

What Happens After I Die? Starting with participants’ own beliefs and moving into traditional beliefs, this is an interactive exploration of various Jewish views of the afterlife, including a number of midrashic stories and a piece of Talmud

Stories We Pray

Stories We Pray. Every prayer has a story- that is what the midrash and the Talmud understand. Through knowing the story of the first time a prayer was said, one gets a window into the spiritual process (kavanah) the prayer is intended to create. This first session will contain an introduction and look at the Shema and her blessings.

Abraham, his Mother, and their Friends Teach Us How to Pray. A further look at the stories that reveal the inner workings of the Amidah.


Shabbat. Sanctuary in Time (Shabbat 73b ff) Hayyim Nachman Bialik said that “Halakhah (Jewish Law) was frozen Aggadah (Legend). Through studying a series of texts including the laws of work that is prohibited on Shabbat, participants will see how the poetry of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath emerge from legal documents.

The Day the Talmud was Created. A look at the sociological, cultural, and religious context through which the Talmud was created and developed. Through understanding a single moment in Jewish history participants will come to understand the Talmud as both an evolutionary process and as a revolution. This will lead to a hands-on exploration of a Talmud text.

Courtyards and Classrooms (Bava Batra 22b) The Talmud combines a discussion of Jewish Education with an exploration of Business Ethics. In this passage we learn the limits on fair competition between businesses. Through this passage learners will get a sense of the Rabbinical view of Walmart.

Meet the Evil Inclination (Sukkah 51b ff) Judaism believes that every feeling and every urge we have is a gift from God-through some may become problematic in certain moments. In this Talmudic text (and in a series of surrounding passages) participants will come to understand the foundation of Rabbinical theology.

The Physics of Shame (Bava Metziah 58b ff) The Talmud introduces a concept called Ona’at Dibbur, emotional fraud-behaviors that leach self-esteem and cause shame. In this passage we will learn how the Talmud develops a sense of treating people with dignity. The passage culminates with the story of Akhnai’s Oven.

Other Adult Sessions

Jewish Moot Court (a.k.a Adult You Be the Judge). An adult process that includes (a) hands-on struggle with Ethical dilemmas, (b) an exploration of Jewish sources that speak to these legal situations, and (c) a history of the Jewish application of these sources to such cases. In several occasions this program has qualified for Continuing Legal Education units for lawyers.

God Talk. An interactive program allowing participants to join in conversations about their beliefs about a series of key “God Questions.”

Hard Decisions. An Adult You Be the Judge Session on Medical Ethics. A combination of case-studies, debate, hevruta learning, and lecture discussion. This is a hands-on exploration of Jewish law.

How to Make A Golem. A performance piece that involves interactive storytelling and discussion on such topics as death, evil, antisemitism, and kabbalah.

Family Sessions

You Be the Judge. An exploration of family values through participation in a moot-court and an exploration of Jewish sources.

Target Painting. Interactive storytelling and dialogue on Jewish values.

Agents of Peace. An interactive program that explores Jewish responses to bullying.

Tales of Jewish Horror and Suspense. A campfire style gathering (often by candles light) that use a collection of interesting Jewish stories for family conversation.

Words that Hit-Words that Hug. An interactive program that explores how words hurt and help people.

Oneg Shanah. A large group board game on the Jewish year.

Parent Education

Four Steps to Menschlekite-Jewish Insights on Parenting. A look at how Jewish values and Jewish practices can help families become places of goodness.

A Jewish Guide to Growth. A look at how the wisdom of the Talmud and other Jewish sources can help us to help our children manage their own behavior.

Teacher Training

Torah Aura Productions offers teacher training for free. Joel will gladly add teacher training sessions onto a scholar-in-residence weekend, or he’ll do free-standing teacher training workshops. (Schools or communities need only pay travel expenses.)

Teaching Jewishly. Teaching is a Jewish art form. This workshop based on Joel’s newest book, looks at how Jewish sources inform our ability to create classrooms rooted in and manifesting Jewish values.

Rethinking Teaching Israel. We know Israel is important but for years we haven’t been sure how to teach it. What’s the right way to connect our students to Israel? Is it possible to teach Israel in a real way, while maintaining our ideological commitments? How can Israel fit into the larger school curriculum? For the past year, Torah Aura has been researching these questions, and now we’ve begun to turn that exploration into curricular resources. In this session Joel will share what we have learned, and will engage participants in a discussion about how to make Israel a meaningful part of the school curriculum.

Jewish Parents-A Teacher’s Guide. Pragmatic tools for communicating with the parents of your students, for facilitating “family-learning” which reinforces and extends your classroom activities, and for forming partnerships with parents-particularly when dealing with difficult classroom situations.

Teaching with Stories. Stories are a wonderful way to teach. We will look at how one transforms a story into a lesson.

I Have Some Questions About God. Through studying stories and participating in discussions teachers will grow in their facility and confidence at teaching and talking about God in their classroom.

Effective use of Madrikhim (Teen Assistants). A workshop for teachers and teaching assistants to look at how they could maximize the impact of working together.

The Art of Bible Teaching. A hands-on exploration of a number of techniques and insights that match the nature of the biblical text with a number of teaching tools.

Real Siddur Teaching. An investigation of the skills and insights needed to teach Siddur.

Sessions for Teens, Groups, and Schools

Joel’s week-ends regularly include family events, religious school events, and frequently includes a session for the youth group. If these interest you, ask for the latest list of sessions or have a conversation with Joel.

Joel’s Sunday mornings are usually Target Painting for younger students and parents, Four Steps to Menschlekite for parents, You be the Judge for older students and parents, and then a teacher training workshop.

Note: Joel is pretty flexible about his teaching. Many things listed here can be adapted to different settings. If you have specific needs, he may well have things in his file cabinet that can be reanimated. You can also check with him about the newest parts of his repertoire. New learning experiences are always emerging from his teaching experiences and from interesting challenges.

To begin planning your own Grishaver Weekend, call 888-231-4598, or email

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