What would motivate a mature woman with limited discretionary time to sit in a classroom for 3 hours once a week and agree to take on at least “some” homework? Me’ah! And why? Easy. Me’ah is so intellectually exciting and learning with other adult learners – rarely like-minded – is the stuff of personal renewal and growth. The program is geared towards the intelligent adult learner who is not already at the undergraduate level of Jewish studies.
The amazing teachers take joy is exploring what you may or more likely may not know. They challenge you with new thoughts and select perfect additional materials for you to explore, allowing you to revisit things you vaguely know about or know from another context. They burst bubbles, break long held myths, and do their best to help you understand each historical period. They “get” that we are busy adults and design class work so that whether we can do all or only some, what we can do makes class worthwhile.
Always culturally Jewish, but not a synagogue person, I established a relationship with the TE community about 12 years ago. I leaped into study in every way I could to catch up with what I thought I had missed. Participating in both the Adult B’not Mitzvah program and Me’ah at the same time as changing jobs made for a frenetic 2 years. Me’ah always came in 3rd, so I have been waiting to have the experience again.
Studying with mostly other members of the TE community – some I knew well and some I didn’t know at all — has been part of the great experience. Seeing Me’ah classmates at other programs, on Shabbat and talking about the latest readings or a point made in class or what snacks to bring for the break – its kol tov.
And above all the rest, for me, Me’ah is an opportunity to look at texts outside of a strictly religious context. Seeing texts in a new way does nothing but enrich the experience when the texts are visited again within the religious context. Understanding the history of how we got to this place and time, and trying to understand the factors and influences that formed our body of texts and current Jewish practice is fascinating, engaging and as I mentioned earlier ultimately renewing. Having just finished my attempt to think like an ancient Israelite (at Marc Brettler’s urging) – I cannot wait to begin the next “semester” and see how the Rabbis dealt with the world they inherited.