This week was the final one before our Pesach break. Students in the upper years started the week with presentations on the real-world conversion cases that they had been assigned. They presented their cases, taking into account both on the halakhic and policy considerations, and Rabbi Love and I - together with their fellow students - gave them critical feedback. The process of presenting to their peers, hearing the feedback, and discussing the cases together as a group was a tremendous learning experience for all involved, bringing the theory into (virtual) practice.
For the remainder of the week these students continued learning the halakhot of siddur kiddushin, focusing on the role of and the criteria for the witnesses of the kiddushin. When we return, we will spend one more week on this topic, looking at the halakhot around chuppah, ketuvah, and sheva brakhot.
First- and second-year students spent the week learning the sugyot in Arvei Pesachim on the content and structure of the seder. Keeping with the Pesach theme, Rabbi Love gave a shiur to students on Wednesday on kashering the kitchen for Pesach, and Rabbi Weiss delivered his Shabbat HaGadol sermon to the students on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, we had the opportunity to welcome Serge Etele, religious leader of the Beth Yeshouron community of Cameroon, in central Africa, whose trip to the US has been sponsored by the Kulanu organization. The Beth Yeshouron community 1998 when its leaders turned away from Christianity. Increasingly observant and deeply committed to Jewish rituals and practice, the 50-member community has made amazing progress, educating themselves through the Internet by downloading Jewish liturgies and prayers, and studying Judaism, Hebrew, and Torah on Jewish websites. Serge presented on the history of this community, and ended his presentation by playing on his guitar, sharing with the students the African-Jewish music developed by this community. Students left fascinated and inspired by this wonderful presentation.
The week ended with a pre-Pesach night seder. Students and rebbeim learned till late at night both in chavruta, and in shiurim on Pesach-related topics. Rav Nati gave a shiur on the Four Cups and Motzi Matzah, Rabbi Katz gave a shiur on the Minchat Chinukh's analysis of the mitzvah of sippur yitziat mitzrayim, and I gave a shiur on the development on the haggadah, the transition after the churban to a night without the korban pesach, and the transformation of the rituals of the seder night. The first part of the shiur was based on an article that I wrote a few years earlier on the topic of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai and Commemorating the Temple. The article appeared in Millin Havivin, and it can be found here.
Finally, a big Mazal Tov to Marisa and Eytan Yammer (YCT '11), on the birth of a baby boy, and the bris which took place just yesterday at Eytan's shul in Birmingham, AL. Mazal Tov to the newborn, Hiyah Yitzhak Yammer, and to Eytan and Marisa - shetizku li'gadlo li'Torah, li'chuppah, u'li'ma'asim tovim!