I hope your Chanukkah was a happy and meaningful one. Last night, Rabbi Lopatin and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the White House Chanukkah party, to meet and talk with leaders of the Jewish community and to hear inspiring words from President Obama.
This week at the yeshiva, Rav Yehudah Gilad, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Ma'aleh Gilboa, gave a shiur to the students on "Zealotry and Tolerance", focusing on the concept of machloket li'shem Shamayim. Rav Gilad spoke about how such arguments can be so much more dangerous than a machloket shelo li'shem Shamayim,for when each person is operating from an ideological position and believes that he holds the only truth, much harm and violence can be perpetrated in the name of Heaven. The solution, he said, was the approach of Beit Hillel, whom the halakha always follows, because Beit Hillel first taught Beit Shamai's position. That is, they were able to see the other side and to understand that they might not have a lock on the truth. The incorporating of multiple voices represents the ultimate truth, not the monolithic truth of one position.
Also this week, we had a panel of LGBT men and women speaking to our third and fourth year students for their Lifecycles class. It was a powerful opportunity to hear first person accounts of the challenges and struggles that confront these men and women, in life and in our communities.
And this Friday, we welcomed Dr. Biti Roi, lecturer of Kabbalah at Hebrew University, who is running a two-part series on Body and Sexuality: Between Philosophy and Kabbalah. The day is divided between chavruta study of philosophical and kabbalistic texts and between lectures from Dr. Roi. This learning connects in a profound way with the learning of hilkhot Niddah that we are doing in the morning, and with the learning of issues of sexuality and marital sex that we are addressing in our Lifecycles classes.