Friday, May 7, 2010

Happenings at the Yeshiva

We started this week with a wonderful Lag Ba'Omer picnic at Palisade Interstate Park, right on the Hudson River and near the George Washington Bridge. There was a wonderful turnout of students, rebbeim, staff and their families. We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon together, with hamburgers, hotdogs, and salads, games of volleyball, guitar playing, and great conversation. It was truly a beautiful way to start the week.
Students are wrapping up their regular learning, and entering into an intense chazara time for their final tests. Third and fourth year students will be taking a rigorous, closed-book siddur kiddushin exam next week, to qualify them to officiate at weddings, and will be taking a similarly closed-book, rigorous hilkhot aveilut exam after Shavuot.

We had a number of special classes and guest teachers this week.
On Monday, third and fourth year students had a packed day - first a class on Eulogies and Funerals given by Rabbi Steven Exler, and then - continuing our series on End-of-Life, an amazing presentation by Rabbi Dr. Eddie Reichman. Dr. Reichman gave students a clear understanding of the scenarios that they will encounter, and the medical and halakhic issues involved. He told students that they should always feel comfortable contacting him if they had any questions they needed to discuss, and we are grateful for his class and his friendship. Next week, as part of this series, we will be hearing from YCT musmach Rabbi Jason Weiner, as he presents students with a selection of actual cases that he has dealt with, and that require halakhic and pastoral expertise. This series will culminate with a class by Rabbis Love and Marder, analyzing and reflecting on the range of halakhic and pastoral challenges that these cases present.

On Wednesday, Rabbi Katz delivered a special yahrtzeit lecture on the Noda BiYehudah, Rav Yechezkel Landau. Rabbi Katz spoke about the Noda biYehuda's life, his seforim, his character, and his intellectual and religious achievements. According to R. Katz, the Noda biYehudah was not only a highly creative and original thinker, who had no hesitation disagreeing with the greats of the previous generation, including the Rema, but he was also a person who was proud of his originality and demanded proper credit and recognition for his chidushim. Rabbi Katz stated that there was no area of Jewish intellectual life where the Noda biYehudah did not leave his mark, and even Chasidim - of whom he was not enamored - respected him, and that in his honor, some do not say li'Shem Yichud ­- a Chasidic kabbalistic practice that he opposed - for sefirat ha'omer, because he died during the period of the sefira.

On Thursday we had another great professional and halakhic class, this time on the topic of conversion, and given by R. Saul Strosberg. Rabbi Strosberg talked about the range of issues - halakhic, pastoral, and political - that come up in cases of conversion, and that even rabbis who do not see conversion as a significant part of their rabbinate, will be confronted with such cases. Dr. Michelle Friedman, Rabbi Love and I were all there to reflect on his comments and discuss the halakhic and pastoral dimensions. It was a great class, and students emerged with a good sense of the practical issues that they will be facing and how to approach them.

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