I hope all is well and you are all prepared for the first of our early Shabbatot of the year.
Here at YCT it has been a busy week. we had a boker iyyun in honor of Rav Ovadyah Yosef zt"l's shloshim. The day began with a lecture by Dr. Marc Shapiro on Rav Ovadyah's life, influence and derekh ha'psak. Dr. Shapiro described how Rav Ovadyah's work truly transformed the nature of psak halakha, particularly within the Sephardi community where he cleared away centuries of diverseminhagim and established the primacy, at least in Eretz Yisrael, of the Shulkhan Arukh. It is only once in centuries, Dr. Shapiro said, that you get to see a posek whose work truly changes the way halakha is done, and we have had the zekhut to see that with Rav Ovadyah Yosef.
Dr. Shapiro's talk was followed by personal reflections by our mashgiach, Rabbi Dov Lerea, who also serves as the rabbi of the Sephardi minyan in Riverdale. Students then broke into groups to study selections of Rav Ovadyah's teshuvot. Each group studied a different teshuva, which had been prepared ahead of time by one of the students, chosen to highlight different aspects of Rav Ovadyah's approach. The teshuvot studied deal with: a Shabbat question that illustrated his relationship with other Gedolim, the use of secular music for davening, whether to say Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut and gap-year students keeping 1 day of Yom Tov, and the possibility an Ashkenazi or a Sephardi davening in a different nusach than their traditional one. The learning then ended with my reflections on the differences between his derekh ha'psak and one the derives from the Lithuanian Brisker approach, and with closing remarks by Rabbi Lopatin.
The week ended on another high note, as we had the honor of welcoming Rabbi Shlomo Riskin to our beit midrash where he addressed students on his approach to avoda zara and his interfaith work, and underscored the importance of recognizing our strong supporters in the Christian community and of working to strengthen that relationship.
We wish condolences to Avram Mlotek (YCT 2016), his father, and uncle and entire family, on the loss of his bubbe Chana Mlotek, who was one of the leading figures in Yiddish music, and whom Isaac Bashevis Singer called "the Sherlock Holmeses of Yiddish folk songs." Appreciations of her life can be found in articles that appeared this last week in theNY Times, the Forward, and the Jewish Week. Avarm's classmates were present at the funeral, together with hundreds of friends and people whose lives she had touched. May her memory be for a blessing.
And finally, Mazal Tov to Rabbi Mike Schultz (YCT 2008), on his being one of the cohort which received the first-ever certification of spiritual care providers in Israel. May he continue to bring help and healing to all those in need.