This week I had the opportunity to be in Los Angeles, as one of the featured presenters in a gathering of lay and rabbinic leaders at the Skirball Center on ""Conversation on Jewish Belief, Meaning and Purpose in the 21st Century" held by National Center for Jewish Policy Studies. During my time there, I had a chance to connect with some of our musmachim who are in LA, including Rabbi Yehuda Hausman, Rabbi Drew Kaplan, Rabbi Jason Weiner, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz and Rabbi Devin Villarreal. It was wonderful to connect and spend good chevre time with them, to hear about how they are acclimating to the rabbinate, and to hear about all the good work that they are doing. I also had a chance to visit the American Jewish University, and gave a "lunch and learn" shiur to many of the students and faculty of the Ziegler school on "Kiddushin: Ownership or Partnership?".
Here at the Yeshiva, students continue to learn Shabbat and Kashrut, including the topics of ta'am lifgam, bad taste, and transfer of taste. In the afternoon machshava class, we just concluded a series on "History of Orthodox Feminism," given by Rivka Haut and Adena Berkowitz, and will be starting this coming week a 4-part series by Rabbi Blanchard on the megilot entitled The Many Faces of Desire: Five Megilot.
During the week of Chanukah we are having a series of special shiurim at the end of morning seder. On Wednesday, Rabbi Blanchard spoke on the debate of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai as two models of the spiritual meaning of Chanukah. On Thursday, Dr. Robert Barris spoke on Chanukah as a chag of "spiritual audacity" and on our obligation to not be complacent, but to push ourselves to become spiritually better, even great. In particular, he spoke about work on character traits and the use of the sefer Tikkun Ha'Middot as a way to develop practices for spiritual betterment. And, during morning seder, Rabbi Katz's students are learning the sugyot in mesekhet Shabbat on lighting Chanukah candles.
Finally, on Wednesday, the students, led by Mishael Zion, held a special tfillat mincha for the dire lack of rain that Israel is now experiencing and that is resulting in particularly low water levels in the Kinneret. It stands to reason that the lack of rain is also a contributing factor in the wild fires now spreading in the Carmel, and we all should be joining our tfillot with those of our brothers and sisters in Israel, for and end to the fires and for a downpouring of the much needed rain.