Hamilton Beit Midrash

Illustration: Cee Bea Lavery


New! Summer Session 2020: August 16 - 20

Av 25 - 30 5780


Theme of the Year: Contamination/Containment

The Hamilton Beit Midrash has always been oldschool: learning Talmud the traditional way, in the original languages, and even committing to learn some genuinely oral Torah (through hearing and repeating rather than text).

But this year, we're outdoing ourselves by exploring the theme of tumah and tahorah (ritual states of restriction and access). This topic was one of Haza"l's favourites, yet it is also one of the most misunderstood. In particular, the Christianisation of English makes it impossible to discuss classical tumah/tahorah in translation. Aimed with Jastrows, Franks, and our ever-sharpening memories, we will investigate the real thing.

With COVID-19 in the air, classes will occur online. The morning Talmud session runs from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and will consist of an hour of havruta and 1 hour of shiur. We'd prefer a longer havruta time but screen burnout is real. This year we will be starting at the mishnah on Hullin 33a. Afternoon classes will include:

  • Shulhan Arukh/Mishnah Berurah on the subject of handwashing
  • Ramba"m demystifying the contamination and purity of objects (taught by R. Hillel Lavery-Yisraeli)
  • A philosophy class by Dr. Dana Hollander on select Derrida texts from Monolingualism of the Other
  • A biology lecture on the shifting borders of microscopic worlds 

Our oral Mishnah lessons will occur by appointment one-on-one. Contact R. Yonah Lavery-Yisraeli directly to book a convenient time. This individualised session will enable you to "bind" memorised information into your desired environment, for example, the same wretched room you've been stuck in all summer -- might as well make use of it.

Full schedule coming soon.

Tumah/tahorah-themed study art by Cesario Lavery

Learn Talmud deeply and well at the Hamilton Beit Midrash, a volunteer-run program hosted by Beth Jacob Synagogue (375 Aberdeen Ave, Hamilton, Ontario). The style of learning we offer is your chance to immerse yourself in rabbinic literature, sharpen your skills, and see the world with new eyes. You can master a text, rather than have a translator filter it for you. You can reforge your relationship with Judaism with depth and joyous authenticity.

A beit midrash is a place where people come together to get to the bottom of texts, both in havruta (with study partners) and in shiur (lesson with the whole group). You are invited to join ours! Write to us for an application form today.



Hamilton Beit Midrash operates on two levels: a weekly year-long program on Sunday nights, and a summer intensive from a Sunday to a Thursday in August.

The general format of the summer intensive is this: we work on Talmud in the morning, and in the afternoon we will work with texts that relate to some of the questions we have been raising. On Thursday night we have historically finished up with a festive get-together, where participants will be able to share the ideas they have been developing during their time in the Beit Midrash.  

For a good idea of what to expect, please check out:

HBM 2019 Schedule
HBM 2018 Schedule

You can also peruse this astonishing poem about the 2018 Hamilton Beit Midrash summer intensive.


Any Jewish adult can apply. It is important that whatever your observance level, your orientation toward "tradition" be seen by you as basically non-adversarial.

Knowing how to sound out Hebrew letters is good. Knowing basic grammar (recognising plurals, common verb patterns, etc) is even better. You do not need to be fluent nor experienced in Talmud study.

Beth Jacob is a barrier-free and wheelchair-accessible space.


This year there is no food being provided. Therefore there is no fee, as it is forbidden to teach oral Torah for money.

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