Friday, January 8, 2010

Happenings at the Yeshiva

As we now begin to lay our roots in Riverdale, we hope and trust that we will become a center of learning and a vibrant makom Torah for all of Riverdale. We have already extended an invitation to the entire community - men, women, parents, and children - to come to our beit midrash at any time and to be a part of the kol Torah and the powerful learning that takes place each day. We hope to soon designate an afternoon or evening a week as a Community Beit Midrash, where anyone can drop in and either participate in a shiur or learn bi'chavruta with one of our students.

We were thus doubly blessed this week to have had Rabbi Chaim Rapoport with us once again. Blessed, first, because we were able to start our spreading of Torah to the larger community with a wonderful public lecture that R. Rapoport gave on Monday night on the topic of "The Role of Hashkafa in Halakhic Decision Making." Ranging from topics as diverse as whether kavod habriyot, human dignity, applies to non-Jews, and whether one tears kriah nowadays when one sees the Kotel, he demonstrated quite vividly the way that hashkafa interplays with halakha in a number of areas - particularly those that are value-laden. He also addressed the relevance of this issue to the layperson, underscoring how one must pick a rabbi who shares one's worldview, or else the questioner and the rabbi will not even be talking the same language.

And we were blessed, as always, because R. Rapoport spent the entire week with the students, giving shiurim on the halakha, values, and religious leadership that a rav can impart in the areas of sex and sexuality, and devoting one full day, on Thursday, to the topic of homosexuality and the properly sensitive rabbinic response. This last issue is one to which R. Rapoport has devoted a serious amount of his efforts in the last two decades, having written a groundbreaking book on this topic, "Judaism and Homosexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View". The issue of gay men and women in the Orthodox community has also been much in the news very recently, and it was a true blessing to hear him address this issue with sensitivity and humanity, with a full allegiance to halakha and with deep sense of responsibility to all of the Torah's obligations and values. We are also deeply grateful to the time he spent with individual students, giving them counseling and religious and professional guidance.

We are truly blessed to have such a dear and close friend as R. Rapoport and to have him serve as a mentor to our students.

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