This week, the third and fourth year students wrapped up their learning of Yoreh Deah, and covered the area of bishul nakhri, the prohibition relating to kosher food cooked by a non-Jew. This prohibition can be very wide-ranging, as it can apply to almost any food. However, the Gemara already introduces two serious limitations in terms of the type of food - only food that cannot be eaten raw and only food that is "fit for a king's table" - and another limitation in terms of the way it was prepared - if a Jew participated in any (significant) way, it is not a problem. We explored in shiur both the reasons for and the history of this prohibition, and how in practical terms it is interpreted and applied at the industrial kashrut level, and for travelers to foreign countries.
Students in the first and second year continued their studies of Hilkhot Shabbat. They, together with the third and fourth-year students will soon be moving into full-force review prior to their taking of the semester final in the last week of yeshiva.
This week, also, was Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'Atzmaut. On Yom HaZikaron, Yisrael Klitsner, a student who is an Israeli citizen and served in the army, spoke on a personal level about the meaning of Yom HaZikaron for him, showed a moving short clip with powerful images of funerals and sacrifices of the members of the IDF. He then read to the yeshiva the words of a number of powerful songs that speak to the sacrifice on those serving in the army. Particularly moving was the "Ballad of the Medic," which was played for the whole yeshiva, as we read and sang along.
Throughout the day of Yom HaZikaron, we had a yahrtzeit candle burning in memorial of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice for the State of Israel and its people, and students took turns guarding the flame, and learning by the table which was draped with an Israeli flag and had the memorial candle in its center. We ended our commemoration with the E-l maleh for the souls that had been lost, and with the singing of HaTikvah, underscoring the dream and reality for which they had given their lives.
On the following day, Yom Ha'Atzmaut, we began with a celebratory Shacharit, with Hallel and dancing. This was followed by a terrific program arranged by Josh Frankel (YCT 2011). It began with the learning of sources relating to the sanctity of Israel bi'chavruta. Then, rather than culminating with a shiur, the rebbeim - myself, Rabbi Katz, Rabbi Love, and Rabbi Weiss - got up and one by one shared with the students something of their own relationship to the land and State of Israel. How they understand the nature of its sanctity, whether they see the establishment of the State in messianic terms, what about it do they find most inspiring and meaningful, and what is its ultimate religious significance? Because they were personal and from the heart, the presentations were powerful and resonated deeply with the students.
After this learning and presentations, students had an Israeli lunch (falafel!), and sang Israeli songs. The day's activities culminated with a series of moderated discussions around the State of Israel and all of its complexities and challenges. It was a wonderful day of chevrehshaft that was both intellectually and emotionally uplifting!
Finally, on Wednesday, we had the opportunity to have Rabbi Meshulam Polotchek of Williamsburg, a world renowned expert on the Pri Megadim, speak to the yeshiva about the life and scholarship of the Pri Migadim in commemoration of the Pri Migadim's 219th yahrtzeit, which will be this Shabbat. This was the second yahrtzeit lecture we had this year, and is part of an ongoing series of yahrtzeit lectures of gedolei HaTorah.