Our school year draws to close, and students are busy doing chazara and completing their final assignments. First-year students continued with their year-end Modern Orthodoxy presentations, covering the topics of "Transgender Issues in Halakha," Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut - Responsa and Contemporary Practices", "Modern or Post-Modern Orthodoxy?", and "Talmud Education in Modern Orthodox High Schools: Goals and Practices". The presentations have been a wonderful way for students to explore the issues that are of high interest and relevance for them, and to bring to these topics a range of different disciplines and perspectives. We look forward to the final series of presentations next week.
Also this week, third- and fourth-year students had as their final project for their Lifecycles, a series of role-plays around halakhic and pastoral issues connected to dying, burial, and shiva. I reached out to our musmachim for the most interesting questions they have received in this area. We used 7 of them, and we are keeping all of them in a database for future and ongoing use with our students. The ones that were addressed this week in the final role-plays were: Burial of an army veteran in an military cemetery; mourners who only want to tear a ribbon, have an open casket, and place items in the grave; having a non-Jew involved in the burial, or as a pallbearer; a congregant who asks about doing kriya, walking in the shura, and saying kaddish for a gay partner; responding to an avel who asks about coming to shul during shiva, if he regularly drives to shul on Shabbos; and how to direct mourners who do not want to do any of the shoveling themselves.
We find that dealing with these real-life questions is a powerful way to prepare them to deal with the complexities of the situations they will encounter in real-life as future rabbonim. The more we can grow our database of questions, and the more that students will write teshuvot on these issues, the better we and they will be able to serve Klal Yisrael.
We have many Mazal Tovs this week! Mazal Tov to Jamie and Rabbi Seth Braunstein (YCT 2006) on the birth of a baby boy this week, on Lag Ba'omer! Mazal tov to Devorah and Rabbi Avidan Friedman (YCT 2007) on the birth of a baby boy last week and the bris this week, who was named Amihud Tzvi Nezach. And Mazal Tov to Michal and Rabbi Aryeh Leifert (YCT 2006) on the birth of a baby boy last week and the bris this week, who was named Reuven Nachum. To each of them we say, Shetizku li'gadlo li'Torah li'chuppah u'li'ma'asim tovim. Mazal Tov, mazal tov!