This zman started last Wednesday, as students returned from their mid-Winter break. Students threw themselves into the learning of the first perek of Makkot and the topic of eidim zomimim. There has been a great kol Torah in the beit midrash as students start to conquer this new mesekhet. We also had a nice number of college students with us for the week, participating in our first ever College Intersession Week of Learning. It was great to have these students in our beit midrash and participating in our learning.
As for our special afternoon topics and our guest rabbi - this week we were blessed to once again welcome Rabbi Chaim Rapoport as a scholar-in-residence at YCT. Rabbi Rapoport comes to YCT on a yearly basis, to spend a full week giving shiurim and connecting to the guys. This year, Rabbi Rapoport devoted his shiurim to topics relating to sex and sexuality, including homosexuality, teenagers and single adults and the challenges of the halakhic restrictions, and dealing with allegations of abuse. The presentations were a wonderful merging of halakha, sensitivity, and policy, and students gained so much not only from Rabbi Rapoport's erudition, but also from his role modeling of what a responsible, sensitive Orthodox community rabbi should be.
This week we also partnered with Lincoln Square Synagogue, and on Wednesday night held a panel discussion entitled "Orthodox and Gay: At School, At Shul, and At Home". The event took place at Lincoln Square Synagogue, and over 200 people turned out. The evening began with a three brief personal narratives from gay and lesbian members of the community, where they describe with eloquence and grace something of their own journey and a hope they have for the future. It then moved on to a panel discussion with Dr. Michelle Friedman, YCT's Director of Pastoral Counseling, and Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, moderated by Rabbi Shaul Robinson, senior rabbi of Lincoln Square Synagogue. After their sensitive presentations there followed a Q&A session from members of the audience. Perhaps beyond anything specific that was said, the most moving part of the evening was a sense of collaboration between all members of the community, both gay and straight, a shared commitment to work together to understand one another and to make our communities welcoming and inclusive.
Rabbi Robinson opened the evening with a dvar Torah on the parasha that I would like to share. He quoted the Mesekh Chakhma who commented on the verse that states that God sent Moshe and Aharon to Bnei Yisrael and to Pharaoh - a seeming equivalence between the two. The Mesekh Chakhma explains that there were those of Bnei Yisrael who owned their own slaves, and that God said to Moshe that he cannot free Bnei Yisrael from slavery until they free the slaves that they own. We, the Modern Orthodox community, said Rabbi Robinson, refuse to tolerate any prejudice or intolerance towards us from the outside world. But how can we demand that from those outside of our community if we allow for intolerance within our community. Truly words to take to heart.
Finally, some Mazal Tovs:
In the births department -- Mazal Tov to Rabbi Adam Scheier (YCT 2004) and Abby Brown on the birth of a baby girl. Mazal Tov to Rabbi Kenny (YCT 2009) and Lisa Birnbaum on the birth of a baby girl. Shetizku l'gadlan li'Torah li'chuppah u'li'ma'asim tovim!
And in the wedding department -- Mazal Tov to Mikey Stein (YCT 2012) and to Shevy Baskin on their engagement over the mid-Winter break. And Mazal Tov to Jon Leener (YCT 2016) and Faith Brigham on their wedding, also over the mid-Winter break. Shetizku livnot bayit ne'eman bi'Yisrael!