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SUGGESTED FORMAT FOR CHABURAH LEARNING / RAV DOV ZINGER

The basic structure that I recommend is as follows:

  • Opening Blessings
  • Torah: Immersive Joint Learning
  • Avodah: Putting the Learning into Practice
  • Lechem haPanim: A time for refreshments & deepening friendships
  • Final Blessings

Introductory Remarks

The purpose of these remarks is to help participants detach from their everyday concerns and focus their attention on the chaburah. This can be accomplished in several ways:

  1. Go around the circle and have each of the participants say a few words regarding where he is at the moment, what he's feeling, what would help him to be more present and/or what he's hoping to get out of the encounter.
  2. Request that one of the participants tell the group about an issue that's been occupying his thoughts lately, or perhaps something interesting/funny that happened today.
  3. Sing a soulful tune that others can join in, and that will help turn their focus inward.

See some more ideas at [web link].

Torah: Immersive Joint Learning

We begin the session by studying texts in which we encounter inner wisdom and spiritual vitality. The learning should be based upon a written text and the first stage, which should be approached with humility, is to fully understand the language and concepts used in the source materials without trying to apply these ideas to the lives of the participants. The group sits around a table and the facilitator places the text's ideas and issues before the group. He does not use his position to preach to or influence the group — rather, the facilitator's job is to make the source material as accessible as possible to the chaburah members so that they can jointly interpret and discuss it.

Avodah: Putting the Learning into Practice

At this point, the facilitator will raise questions whose purpose is to encourage participants to internalize what they've learned and find ways to put it into practice in their own lives. The questions are in a personal coaching style that seeks to define actionable steps for making changes in one's life. Sample questions can be seen on our website, xx.xx

An additional step, after turning the theoretical text into practical steps for application in one's life, is to pray for divine guidance in choosing a course of action and carrying it out properly.

 

Lechem haPanim (The "Showbread")

The group is of paramount importance to the process of personal growth. Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) teaches that the world's existence depends upon a trio of human endeavors: Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Chasadim. After having learned some Torah, and done some Avodah (inner spiritual work & prayer), now is the time to engage in Gemilut Chasadim (charitable work or kindness to others).

At each session, a different member of the group will be the designated host who takes responsibility for the refreshments and shares with his fellow participants a personal anecdote from his life, or some personal thoughts or feelings. After the host's story (which should be pre-assigned a set amount of time), other members of the group are invited to react, by saying which part of the story spoke to them or caught their attention, or by asking questions. It is also possible to ask participants to write down their questions and then have the host select a few to answer. The purpose of all this is that the host's story should receive the attention it deserves.

Final Blessings

It is important to review and sum up every session with the entire group before it ends. There are several ways to do this:

  • every participant can list one of the topics discussed or something new he learned
  • the group facilitator can review the session
  • a song or nigun (soulful melody) can be sung by all
  • some of the participants can be invited to say a few words to others present
  • the group can spend a few moments in quiet meditation on what has transpired.

This final step is crucial in that it prevents participants from mentally ducking out toward the end of the session and enables it to end with the participants still engaged, having fully experienced the event at hand.

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The basic session structure described above is intended for weekly meetings of 2-3 hours which should be followed up with personal work done either individually or in small groups (which can even meet by phone or social media) in between the weekly sessions. The small group meetings should advance and enhance the personal work that each participant has committed to.

If time is limited, the basic structure can be adapted by, for example, limiting the refreshments to once every few sessions, shortening the textual learning time, etc.