Young Professionals Look To Talmudic Wisdom for Modern-Day Guidance

Walking into any beis medrash around the world brings the welcoming cacophony of voices in furious debate. Throughout the last few months, stepping into your local Chabad Young Professionals chapter may sound the same.

Walking into any Talmudic study hall in Israel or abroad brings the welcoming cacophony of voices in furious debate. A far cry from the silence marred by page rustling in your local public library, Talmudic study has always been collaborative with vibrant discussions idealized. Throughout the last few months, stepping into your local Chabad Young Professionals chapter may sound the same, but the intricate overlapping chatter emerges from pairs of young Jewish professionals rather than full-time scholars.

CYP Academy’s “The Dilemma Course” is coming to a close in 35 Chabad houses worldwide. 650 young professionals took part in a fascinating 4-week course incorporating the intricacies of age-old Talmudic wisdom, into the complexities of modern life. Taught by the Chabad Young Professionals Shluchim, the course delves into philosophical topics with a syllabus tailor-made for this demographic.

“The session discussing the morality of autonomous cars and how they should be programmed to deal with trolley-problem-like situations really stood out to me,” said Alexandra Weiss, Managing Editor at Interview Magazine and course participant from Long Island, NY. “It genuinely changed my prior perception of these issues, I would have thought differently myself but seeing the Torah perspective laid out clearly deeply affected how I’ll think about the sanctity of an individual life.”

CYP Academy, led by Rabbi Mencham Lazaroff of CYP International at Merkos 302, offers three courses each year geared to the young professional audience and is available at the 218 chapters of CYP around the world. The courses are provided complete with a teacher syllabus, student handbooks, multimedia resources, and marketing tools for social media. Shluchim can then offer the course at their community’s pace, scheduling classes around their other events.

“The CYP Academy demonstrates the relevance of Torah throughout the ages, into our current time,” says Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302. “Young people today are seeking guidance and looking to their roots for clarity and strength. Our goal is to communicate it to them in a relevant and applicable way.”

Courses like “The Dilemma” enable Talmudic topics to be appreciated by people from all walks of life. By first laying out the background information, the courses encourage students to discuss among themselves and think independently before introducing Talmudic perspectives. Rather than memorizing rules, the courses allow participants to engage with the halacha and allow age-old wisdom to provide guidance in complex scenarios.

Originally designed by JLI (Jewish Learning Institute) for the wider audience, the courses are adapted by the CYP team. To suit the qualities of this unique audience, courses are consolidated into four classes rather than six and presented in an interactive format, complete with study-partner (or chavrusa) brainstorming sessions. Attendees who complete the course are eligible for a $200 CYP voucher, redeemable towards one of CYP’s many trips or Shabbatons.

The next course, starting after Pesach, is set to demystify the Kabbalistic intentions behind the often misunderstood or simplified Mitzvot. Understanding the background behind Mitzvot enables one to engage in them with a deeper connection rather than as a chore. The mitzvah of prayer, for example, can be reframed from dogmatic chanting into a personal expression by understanding the meditations and context behind the lyrical mysteries.

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