Our program is now at its halfway point. It has been everything I could have hoped for and more – challenging, inspiring, thoughtful and filled with fellowship and the joy of learning. Each morning we begin with a hevruta study period – reviewing the sources prepared for us and then followed by the scholar of the day’s lecture.
I told you about some of the luminaries we studied with at the beginning – allow me to bring you up to date. Over the past few days we have studied with Noam Zion, David Ellenson, Arnie Eisen, Israel Knoll and Donniel and David Hartman.
Noam Zion is a wonderful teacher and the author of the popular Haggadah that I have recommended for years: A Different Night- The Family Participation Haggadah. Rabbi Friedman and I have been speaking to him about the possibility of his coming in as a scholar in residence at TBS in the next year or so – he is a marvelous teacher.
David Ellenson is the president of the Hebrew Union College and of course Arnie Eisen is the new Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary. They had a wonderful evening of dialogue on the challenges that confront our Movements in North America. Arnie made us all proud – he was a true visionary, dynamic and profound. He laid out a very exciting program for the revitalization of Conservative Judaism and I am proud as a member of his Rabbinic Cabinet that we at TBS are going to be right at the heart of that revitalization.
Israel Knoll is the Yehezkel Kaufman Professor of bible at Hebrew University and his presentation was a fascinating analysis of the First Biblical Story on Tikkun Olom. It is always amazing when you can take a story you have read and studied dozens of times before and in the hands of a skilled and talented scholar see it anew and from a totally different perspective.
This morning Donniel Hartman tied a lot of what we had been exploring together in his lecture on NIMBY – Jewish Sources on Not In My Back Yard syndrome. Using everything from the Talmud, the Rambam’s Mishne Torah , The Book of Esther and so forth he set forth a fascinating dialectic between a life that promotes your own legitimate needs and one that is concerned for the welfare of others beyond yourself. In fact, I was thinking these sources might make the basis of a wonderful Adult Ed Course – I know that Florence Meyers is waiting for my summary for my course for this Fall's Herbert Tarr Institute – I think I might have something for you, Florence!
On Tuesday we took a break from our studies – a tuches can take only so much – and we were able to choose from a number of tiyulim or trips to various parts of the country. I chose a tiyul to Har Gilboa up near Beit Shean in the Galil. The Gilboa was the sight of the Biblical battle where Saul and his three sons’ were killed in the fight with the Philistines. The views from the top are breathtaking, the walk was challenging and we also studied the relevant chapters of the Bible during our breaks!
Your intrepid Rabbi with Rabbi Neil Cooper of Wynewood, Pa. -- an old and dear friend.
The Hartman Tiyul Group
At the end we took an unforgettable walk through Nahal Kibbutzim which is about a half hour walk in a small river where the entire time the water is up to your neck!
Thirty rabbis, walking through water up to their neck -- that was a sight to behold. After the very hot hike the cold water was truly a mehiyah (even if the cleanliness was not exactly up to Roslyn standards.)
We have also found time to take in the Jerusalem Film Festival – tonight we are meeting friends for dinner at a hot new steak restaurant located, in of all places, Mahaneh Yehuda(!) and then to see a Spanish Movie titled: The Other (with English subtitles I hope!) If you are interested in knowing more about the movie, you can check it out at: http://www.jff.org.il/?CategoryID=255&ArticleID=23. Last week we saw a movie called Persipolis http://www.jff.org.il/?CategoryID=257&ArticleID=167 an animated French feature that dealt with a young girls journey in Iran from before the fall of the Shah until she flees to France as a young woman.
I must say Israel is a very different place this summer than it was last summer! Last summer we were in the midst of a war! We were all riveted to our television screens watching the daily bombardment of missiles in the North. This summer, it is life – back to normal. Israelis are nothing if not resilient.
Today was the end of the RTS – the Hartman program that invites hundreds of rabbis each year without any commitment. Now, we are left with the hard core 30 of us in the RLI – the Rabbinic Leadership Institute that makes up the Hartman Fellows program I explained below. It will be a little lonelier without all the others – but now the focus will be wholly on us and I expect things to ratchet up a notch (as if it were possible to get any more intense that it already was.)
There are no classes tomorrow (Friday) but Professor Lee Levine is giving a lecture on the Second Temple Period and taking a group on a trip to the Second Temple Model which is now located at the Hebrew Museum. I studied this material with Prof. Levine 30 years ago when I was a student at the Hebrew University and I am curious to see if the field has changed much since then!
I have spoken to Susan and Alan Zelman who are here as part of a JTSA Study Mission that is being led by Chancellor Eisen. I hope to connect with them on Motzei Shabbat and hear all about their experiences.
So, all continues to go more than well here in Israel and I hope the same is true of you back home. Until next time!
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