16 February 2007

Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf Speaks to the Yeshiva on Pesak and Values

Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf came to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah today and spoke on Pesak and Values. It was the first of two such lectures on the topic.
An interesting piece from the lecture was on meta-halakha:
The word was coined by my late teacher, Professor Isadore Twersky, at Harvard. The function of the word "meta-halakha": the word "meta" means "beyond" or "behind".... He took it to mean beyond halakha - it is not something that is part and parcel of halakha...it is something outside thereof and critical therefore. In his parlance, Twersky is known for the extensive emphasis he placed on the interaction and necessary interaction between spirituality and law.
...It started in an essay which he published in a book called Religion in a Religious Age in 1974...the article is called "Religion and Law" and he (based on the Rambam) basically academized significant sections of Rabbi Soloveitchik's thinking. Because, if you take a look at what the Rav was bothered by in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and early 80s until retirement. This was exactly the point: he used to call himself a failure because he raised talmidei hakhamim but he felt that he failed in terms of instilling a sense of spirituality and the capacity to feel halakha and taste halakha and mitzvot in a sophisticated fashion among his students. Twersky said the two have got to live together. So, halakha has its own pristine, autonomous dynamic. ...
Twersky defines meta-halakha as those disciplines which serve the function of providing the spiritual element without which Judaism can't exist. If you halakha yourself to death, you will fossilize. If you just emphasize halakha, you will end up coming to ceremonialism, because the mitzvah becomes an end in itself.

He adds the following:
Thank you for the summary. However, I'd like to sharpen one point. Emphasis, and almost exclusive emphasis, on mitzvot is entirely legitimate, so long as these are performed out of obedience to God. Mitzvot become ceremonials when they are performed for reasons other than Avodas HaShem.

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Rachel Levmore speaks at YCT

Rachel Levmore, a leading agunah advocate in Israel, came to speak on 9 February 2007 to YCT on the politics and process of selecting דיינים (religious judges) for בתי דין (religious courts) in Israel.
Levmore, who was in town for the recent JOFA conference, spoke on the topic regarding women's rights, which is relevant for giving of גיטין (gets) and the issue of עגונות (agunot).

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