The learning at the yeshiva continues at a strong, steady pace. Years 1 and 2 covered all the mishnayot in mesekhet Shabbat, and are now getting into the sugyot looking first at the general principles and then moving on to the specific categories of work. Years 3 and 4 have now begun chapter 98 in Yoreh Deah which lays down the foundation of the laws of mixtures of non-kosher foods with kosher foods - when we are concerned with taste, and how much is needed to nullify, and how to deal with related cases of doubt.
Our machshava and professional classes continued this week. Rav Nati's class on "Fundamentals of Jewish Thought" read through sections of Tanakh with an eye towards how God is literally described in the Tanakh itself. A careful reading shows that the Tanakh never says, for example, that God does not have an appearance or a "face," just that no one can see that face and live. It is thus understandable why - prior to Rambam, and for some even post-Rambam - many Jews believed that God actually did have a form. This class will continue to explore classical Biblical, Rabbinic and Jewish philosophical texts as they relate to God, Israel, selection, free choice, and reward and punishment. And - in that vein - Rabbi Katz completed his mini-seminar on Iyyov and Schar v'Onesh to the second year students in preparation for their chaplaincy internships. They will be hearing two classes over the next two weeks from our musmach - R. Jason Weiner - on the practical challenges and opportunities of doing Jewish chaplaincy, and what it means to do such work in a authentically Jewish way - informed by Torah values and guided by halakha.
Finally, this week we began our student dvar Torah after mincha. This year, students are presenting only once a week, so they have 7 minutes (as opposed to the standard 5) to present, at which point they must sit down even mid-sentence. This is great preparation for them as future rabbis, who must be able to give short and pithy divrei Torah and divrei Halakha. This year we will be doing Ben Adam LiChavero topics as they relate to monetary matters, from general principles and prohibitions, such as not stealing, restitution, not using property without permission, returning lost objects, and the like to specific applications, such as workers' rights, invasion of privacy, copyrights and intellectual property, gambling, and the use of secular courts. Students are very excited to be covering these topics this year, and Seth Winberg started us off this week with an excellent presentation on lo tachmod, not coveting.