Friday, December 2, 2011

Happenings at the Yeshiva

Students continue to shteig away, in their learning of Gemara and Halakha.  Those students learninghilkhot Niddah are now completing the first half of the Niddah curriculum, having covered the halakhot of moving from the niddah state to the non-niddah state, culminating in the pre-mikveh preparations,chatzizot (obstructions) and the act of immersion.  They will be taking their final test on this material in one week's time.   In Modern Orthodoxy, year 1 students explored issues around rabbinic and halakhic authority, and the relationship between halakha and historical and scientific fact.  And  3rd and 4th year students continued their work with Professor Judith Katcher in Public Speaking, and in their Lifecycles class finished their study of hilkhot Milah and pidyon ha'ben, along with discussions of baby naming ceremonies and other ritual opportunities for the birth of baby girls.

On the Monday before Thanksgiving we welcomed Rabbi Herzl Hefter to the yeshiva, a dear and old friend and colleague.  Rabbi Hefter has just announced the opening of a new yeshiva, Harel, in Israel, for men in their twenties.  Rabbi Hefter spoke to students after lunch about the need for a new theology, one that was driven by a need to know and understand God, and at the same time anchored in humility. 

On a similar theme, Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein, founder of the interfaith institute Elijah, spoke to students this past Monday about the notion of religious truth in the thought of Rav Nachman of Breslav and his student Rav Natan.  According to Rav Nachman, Rav Alon taught, any debate,machloket, is an indication not that one side is right and the other wrong, but rather that there is an absence of truth on both sides.  This is a fascinating twist on the concept of elu v'elu, of multiple truths.  Rather than multiple truths, we have multiple falsehoods.  He challenged students to think what the implications of this would be for our sense of religious truth.  Vigorous discussion and debate followed throughout lunch.  

And yesterday, Thursday, Rabbi Steven Exler (YCT '09) gave a shiur and led a discussion about how to set policy and priorities in tzedakkah giving, not as an individual, but as a rabbi of a shul who is dealing with communal tzedakkah funds and is approached by a wide range of people and causes.  The presentation and discussion were a wonderful example of the challenges of translating halakhic theory into real-world practice, and grappling with the degree of discretion that the halakhot oftzedakkah allow for.

We look forward this coming week to a weeklong visit by Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, who will be teaching at the yeshiva all week, on topics ranging from marital sex, to homosexuality, to challenges on college campuses in kiruv opportunities that may lead to transgressions (e.g., a non-observant student driving to a Shabbat event).  We also look forward to a visit by  Rabbi David Bigman, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ma'ale Gilboa, who will be speaking on Wednesday on the topic of akarah hilkhatit,women who cannot conceive because their Niddah period overlaps with their fertility period.

And on Wednesday night, December 7, at 7:30 PM, we will be cosponsoring with SAR High School apanel discussion between Rabbi Rapoport and Rabbi Bigman on the topic of Agendas, Values and Halakha: Non-Jews in Contemporary Halakhic Rulings.   The event will take place at SAR and it would be wonderful to see you there.

And in the Mazal Tov department -  Mazal Tov to David (YCT '08) and Sara Wolkenfeld on the birth of their new baby girl, Tzofia Yasha, Sophie Jane, who was named on the Monday before Thanksgiving, after Sara's aunt and mother.    And a Mazal Tov to Elliot (YCT '07) and Toby Kaplowitz on the birth of their new baby girl, Oshra.   Shetizku li'gadlan li'Torah li'chuppah u'li'ma'asim tovim!

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