On April 30, 2018, The Schechter Institute and the Jewish Theological Seminary co-sponsored a very successful academic conference at The Schechter Institute in Jerusalem on the subject listed above. Speakers included Chancellor Arnold Eisen of JTS, Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Jewish Agency and winner of this year’s Israel Prize, MK Rachel Azaria, and many professors from Schechter and JTS. The following is a translation of my Hebrew lecture delivered at the conference.
When tragedy strikes what do we say to God? In Parshat Shemini Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, die suddenly. Dr. David Frankel, senior lecturer in Bible at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, examines Aaron’s silent response and contrasts it with The Book of Job and the outrage Job expresses when faced with suffering. When is the time for silent submission and when is outraged protest appropriate?
He said, she said did not originate in the modern era, in fact, in 12th century Cairo, Maimonides hears both sides of the argument settles a dispute between a woman teaching at a yeshiva and her disgruntled husband.
Rabbi Dr. Reb Mimi Feigelson, Mashpiah Ruhanit (Spiritual Mentor) and senior lecturer of Rabbinics and Hasidic Thought at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, explores Jacob’s identity when he is on his deathbed. Jacob, also known as Israel, articulates his values as he dies and how he wants his descendants, the Children of Israel, to live.
Jacob is blessed with many children but is it too much of a good thing? Using an example of the midrashic technique of notarikon – rearranging or deriving meaning from the individual letters of a word – Tamar Kadari, Senior Lecturer in Midrash, teaches how Joseph’s famous (technicolor dream) coat ended up becoming a source of division in his family.
Does Esau get a bad rap? Through his unique lens of evolutionary psychology, Rabbi Dr. Paul Shrell-Fox, Lecture in Family and Community Studies, explores the different personalities of Esau and Jacob. How much do nature and nurture influence their wildly different personalities?
In this week’s Torah portion, Vayera, it is many years later. Abraham and Sarah live in Hebron, about 40 miles South of Jerusalem, when he is called with the same words “Lech Lecha”, but this time he is told exactly where he is going and why – to the Land of Moriah, the same spot where the Temple and Dome of the Rock would later be built, to sacrifice his son Isaac. The journey that began years earlier for Abraham’s benefit is ominously transformed, and the extra, emphatic word, “Lecha” has a different meaning. Abraham is told to look into himself in order to summon the strength for this final test.
In my book Ideology and Landscape, which is about reinterring Zionist leaders in the homeland, I devoted a chapter to the reburial of Baron Edmond de Rothschild in Ramat Hanadiv. He and his wife Ada (Adelheid) were reinterred there in April 1954 in an imposing public ceremony. An Israeli battleship brought the coffins from Marseille to Haifa, and from there they were transported to the majestic burial estate south of the Carmel.
The Kotel belongs to the entire Jewish people; and “Who is a Jew?” is not an Israeli issue but rather an issue facing Klal Yisrael, the collective Jewish people throughout the world.