30 November 2005

Aggaditar Hug Hamivtar

R' Yitzi Blau, son of the awesome R' Blau and brother of the patented "Smiling Harumph" R' Yaki Blau, taught a very precise and fun lunch and learn this afternoon on his favorite topic, aggadita in gemara. Last year his Lookjed post helped us put together a chabura on whether or not "haadam" always means "all mankind," and today he helped us learn that balabatim need to become more learned so they can appreciate us better. The tiferes yisrael in pirkei avos said it, and it's on a website, it's got to be true! Alternatively, we rabbis need to stop pretending to be so learned. One way or the other. Check it out, shabbos 1XXb.

What am I trying to say? What I am trying to say is, I can see why Wolk is so enamored of R' Blau.

YCT Hugs

Who wants to be the YCT mascot? You also need to create your own costume. It's going to be a giant pair of arms.

Social Action not bad

So you know how the point of life is to develop a caring, thoughtful personality and to do the absolute most you personally can to better the life of the world around you? Right, I know, and R' Roly Matalon from BJ and their partner social worker, Susan Kalev, told us about all the things they can do for their members and regulars, from tons of help for the elderly, even just connecting them to free cultural and educational stuff going on in the city, to housing and job help. The shuls used to be seated by profession, so you could come to shul and get a job, although if you came to YCT davening looking to get hired as a rabbinical student, actually that probably would work. Anyway, by having a social worker work with the shul, and come in to the shul, you can provide a much higher level of services to your members, even those who would be embarrassed to go directly to a social service provider, and there's a lot to that model that could be adapted to shuls that are smaller than BJ.

Once again let's give a shout out to R' Linzer for how tremendously supportive he's been of creating a social justice curriculum as part of the YCT program, we're so lucky to have him on board.

21 November 2005

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller Gives Talk

Today, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of the UCLA Hillel, spoke to YCT students today at lunch about the two major opinions in Jewish tradition about conquering ארץ ישראל (the land of Israel). His lunchtime שיעור, entitled "The Land of Israel: קדושת הארץ (holiness of the land) - Sanctified Matter or Mythic Space", presented the opinions of רמב"ם (Maimonides) and that of רמב"ן (Nahmanides) as against each other, stemming from the Rambam's omittal of settling the land of Israel and the Ramban's specifically pointing out the need for it, in addition to the latter's comments on ויקרא י"ח:כ"ה (Lev. 18.25).
He went over some sources, including some of Rav Kook's pieces, which seem to follow in line with the Ramban's thinking upon this matter.
Basically, Ramban thought that Israel is the place to be living and doing מצוות (the commandments) and that there is an eternal commandment to conquer and to live on the land, whereas Rambam thought that the commandment to capture the land of Israel was only in force for Yehoshua's time, etc., but not nowadays.
Rabbi Seidler-Feller's ending point was that some people think that we absolutely have to conquer Israel, whereas he wants to show that it's an open conversation, if only at least between the Rambam's and the Ramban's positions.

10 November 2005

2nd Annual Bear Mountain Hike

Today, YCT went on its second annual November hike to Bear Mountain in upstate New York. It was a chilly day, chillier than last year, preventing us from staying up on top of the mountain for too long. Upon our descent down the mountain, we enjoyed some hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, and soda, followed with some pastries for a festive meal following our hiking. Unfortunately, due to the cold, we weren't able to really stay around during lunch, as well as davening מנחה (afternoon prayer) on the bus (as it was not as windy and cold). It provided a good day of bonding for the students and faculty who went.

For more pictures, check out my pictures.

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo and Heresy

On November 7th the yeshiva was graced with the presence of Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo of the David Cardozo Academy. He spoke about the role of religious doubt and heresy during an afternoon shiur. He discussed several fascinating points, one of which raised a profond question for me. In his talk he mentioned that without people like Baruch Spinoza, who questioned the legitimacy of traditional Jewish theology, our intellectual appreciation for our tradition would not be as developed. He elaborated on the many rabbinic works and indeed entire rabbinic careers that were dedicated to the strengthening, defense and exploration of Jewish doctrine due, either directly or indirectly, to the serious questions and doubts raised by people like Spinoza.

If it was not for the bit of heretical thinking, in Rabbi Dr. Cardozo's opinion, our tradition would not of continued to develop intellectually. I, personally, tend to agree with Rabbi Dr. Cardozo's conclusion, however, I am still left to wonder if an increased refinement of Judaism philosophically and intellectually is worth the expense of losing those Jews from the fold of traditional Judaism due to the heretics in the first place. Is heresy truly ever justified? Could there of been ways the Jewish communities in the past could of prevented heresy to develop so as not to need defense after defense, inquiry after inquiry in order to continually make Judaism relevant and respond to these doubts? Or perhaps heresy and doubt are inexplicably linked to the process of religion and it is precisely within those challenges that Judaism finds its greatest moment.

I am left to wonder these questions and I am grateful for Rabbi Dr. Cardozo's visit to the yeshiva for providing such stimulating thoughtful discourse. For those interested Rabbi Dr. Cardozo will be the scholar-in-residence at The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale this Shabbat. He will also be presenting at a Motzei Shabbat Melava Malka in Riverdale. For more information about the weekend contact H.I.R.

03 November 2005

The First Posting

Welcome to the YCT Chevre blog, a blog designed to
inform the world, or at least the blogosphere, about
Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. Although the yeshiva has an
official website, we thought people might better be
informed about the ongoing life of the school through
a blog.
One note must be mentioned: We hope for a discussion
undergirded by a sense of דרך ארץ (proper conduct),
נקיות הלשון (appropriate language), and כבוד
Thank you for visiting.