Students continued to learn Makkot this week, wrapping up the first perek as we came to an end of our January zman. We also had the wonderful opportunity of having two guests from Israel to give special shiurim this week. Rabbi Yehoshua Engelmann, previously the rabbi of Yakar in Tel Aviv, a deeply spiritual, sensitive, and scholarly rabbi, who came to New York after having taught at Limmud in England. Rav Engelmann gave a daily shiur each afternoon on "Tzedakkah - Hilkhot Tact and Grace." The shiur focused on the sugyot in Baba Batra on tzedakkah and grappled with the issues of halakha, sensitivity, and society, looking at the difference between tzedek and tzedakkah and asking whether clear cut halakhot can actually be given for such issues.
Also visiting was Rabbi Yakov Meir, a Tikvah fellow who studied with Rav Shagar at Yeshivat Siach, is a noted Israeli author, and is currently doing doctoral work on the Yerushalmi. Rabbi Meir (no, not that Rabbi Meir) gave a daily class on Introduction to the Yerushalmi, providing students with an appreciation for the history, nature and background of the Yerushalmi, of the text and textual issues, and the ways in which it is similar to and different from the Bavli. On Thursday, he ended our week of learning Makkot with a shiur klali on a sugya in the Bavli around a Mishna in Makkot on daf 6a, and with a look towards how the Yerushalmi deals with the same issues, but comes to a different conclusion, one that is perhaps closer to the original meaning of the mishna.
Today the week and zman comes to an end with a special workshop, led by Rav Engelmann, on the topic of "Leadership and Community: The Split of Tel-Aviv Yakar as a Case Study". Rav Engelmann jokes that he had the privilege of starting not one, but two shuls in Tel Aviv, when, a few years ago, he allowed a lesbian couple to have a kiddush in the shul's courtyard in honor of their newly born baby. Tel Aviv Yakar is a shul with a very diverse population and, nonetheless, this led to tremendousmachloket, which culminated in some members leaving and starting their own shul. Rav Engelmann held this workshop to reflect on what he did right and what he did wrong, how to learn from that event, and how to think about halakha, inclusion, community, policy, and sensitivity to every individual.
It has been a wonderful zman and we look forward to next week when - prior to returning to our normal zman - we will devote a full week to the Rabbi and Persons with Disabilities. Stay tuned for more details.