Friday, October 16, 2009

Happenings at the Yeshiva

The yeshiva is now beginning its regular learning for the year. First and second year students are in two shiurim, one learning Baba Kama and one learning Ketuvot, and both years are learning Hilkhot Orah Hayyim in the afternoon. Third and fourth year students are learning Hilkhot Niddah in the morning and Lifecycles in the afternoon - with a synchronized (and sometimes integrated) Pastoral, Officiating and Halakha Lifecycles curriculum. This week in Lifecycles Halakha we began with bris milah, addressing the question of the nature of the father's obligation, if there is a value in the appointing of a shaliach (agent), the timing of the bris, and whether there is an obligation and/or value of doing hatafat dam bris (a pin prick to extract a little blood) when the original bris was invalid (e.g., done in a hospital before the 8th day). We also discussed interesting issues that arise if the baby was born as a result of artificial insemination. We will continue to learn about bris, pidyon, naming ceremonies, and bar and bat mitzvahs, as well as have a class devoted to creating inclusive ceremonies, over the next few weeks.

Most of the Lifecycles curriculum will be devoted to marriage and its related topics (including tzniut (modesty laws), the wedding ceremony, marital sex, birth control, adoption, abortion, infertility, infidelity, and divorce). As in the past, we will be bringing psychologists, sex therapists, and the like, as well as kallah teachers, yoatzot halakha, and community rabbis as part of the morning learning of Niddah and of course as part of the Lifecycles curriculum. These experts will bring critical other dimensions to our learning and truly deepen our understanding of the Torah we are learning and of how it plays out in the real world.

We will also be having a number our own musmachim teaching some of these lifecycle classes. Students deeply benefit when Chovevei rabbis come back to present on these topics. The musmachim present for the students live examples of what they will be in a few years, and allow them to really grasp the role they will be playing and the challenges that they will face, and enable them to learn from their experiences in serving Jewish communities.

Later in the year we will be learning aveilut in the morning, and devoting the afternoon to medical ethics and end-of-life issues, as well as a segment on conversion. Also, this year we have added a lifecycle-shadowing component, where all of the third- and fourth-year students will be required to shadow a rabbi for both a wedding and a funeral, and the rabbi will spend time reflecting with these students before and after the event. A good number of senior rabbis from the NY-NJ area have agreed to participate in this shadowing program, and we know that it will provide invaluable training for the students.

All in all, this Niddah-Aveilut-Lifecycles year promises, as always, to be very rich and exciting as we deal with these very relevant topics which touch people's lives so deeply in this multifaceted, integrated, and real-world way.

Refuah Shleima

Thank you all for your tfillot for Elnatan Strossberg, Elnatan Meir ben Devorah Ze'eyva. He is doing so much better. He has regained consciousness, is alert and talking, has his sense of humor, and is moving his own body, although not yet walking. He recently played his drum at a hospital concert. Ruthie and the entire family are very grateful for your tfillot. Please continue to keep him in your prayers.

Sadly, the father of our dear friend and supporter, Howard Jonas, is gravely ill. Please keep him in your tfillot as well. His name is Issar ben Leiba Freydal.

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