Halakha learning continued in earnest this week, as students entered into the homestretch of the Fall zman. Shabbat students continued learning the nuances of amira li'goy, asking a non-Jew to do certain acts on Shabbat, and the Kashrut students began the sugya of transference of taste - the degree of heat needed, and what keli - keli rishon, sheini, etc. Chanukkah will be the last week of learning new material, and then chazara week and the finals!
On Monday, we were privileged to have Rav Yehudah Gilad, the co-Rosh Yeshiva of Ma'ale Gilboa give a shiur to students after mincha. Rav Gilad spoke about the opening of parashat vaYishlach, and focused on the question of why Yaakov was so humbling himself to Esav. In a brilliant shiur, Rav Gilad developed the idea that over the preceding years Yaakov came to realize that he should not have taken the berakha from Esav, and that he struggling with the *man* was a replay of the events with Yitzchak and the blessing. It is dark, the man asks him what his name is, and this time he gives his true name - Yaakov. And he demands a berakha as Yaakov, not as Esav. So that now, when Yaakov encounters Esav, he symbolically gives him back the blessing he took away those many years ago. The blessing was for material prosperity, and that his siblings would bow down to him. Yaakov, now, gives Esav great material wealth, and bows down to him seven times, indicating his recognition that the blessings belong to Esav. The climax is when Yaakov says - ”Take my offering which has been brought to you”, which in the Hebrew is kach na et birkhati, take my blessing, take back the blessing that I took from so you long ago. Esav takes it, Yaakov has changed, and the offense has been forgiven.
Also this week, Rabbi Adam Scheier (YCT 2004) drop by with a group from his synagogue, Shaar HaShomayim in Montreal. They were in New York and at YCT to interview candidates for his assistant rabbi position, and while they were here I had gave them a short shiur on a teshuva of the Maseit Binyamin regarding giving an aliyah to a blind person. It is a beautiful teshuva about empathy for those who feel excluded and the need and mandate to be responsive halakhically towards inclusion. It is also striking that he only wrote this teshuva after he himself became blind and truly understood the sense of exclusion. This is a real lesson in how hard it is to have true empathy for another's suffering or exclusion, and on how things can change radically when the issues hit closer to home. In some sense, we deal with this theme all the time, and, in particular, we will be dealing with these issues at the end of January when we have a Week on Disabilities here at the yeshiva.
On Wednesday, we all shared a great simcha as to Rebecca Schischa and Brachyahu Schönthal (YCT 2013) celebrate the bris of their son in the beit midrash immediately following davening. The boy was name Ori Yehudah Avraham, after Brachyahu's recently departed father, alav ha'shalom. Relatives came from France and England, and Brachyahu's sister spoke in the beit midrash after the bris. May Brachyahu and Rebecca only know of simcha and nachas from their new son. Kishem she'nikhnas la'bris, kein yekanes li'Torah li'chuppah u'li'ma'asim tovim.
And finally one big Mazal Tov to Rabbi Avidan Freedman (YCT 2007) for passing all *six* of his tests from the Rabbanut haRashit. Rav Avidan now has full semikha from the Rabbanut. A wonderful accomplishment! We are all so proud! May he continue to teach Torah and to provide religious leadership to Am Yisrael, in Medinat Yisrael and beyond. Mazel Tov.