Monday, July 2, 2007

"There Is No Torah Like the Torah of Jerusalem"

Wow! What an amazing day of learning.

Moshe Halbertal's opening lecture on the history of the term "tikkun olam" was tremendous. Nowadays tikkun olam is used to mean social action, but Halbertal showed that this is in reality the third meaning of the term. In the Mishnah it means in essence preserving the social order and more specifically family life and procreation. In Lurianic Kabbalah it is a theurgistic practice reuniting the scattered sparks of the Godhead. I realize that this may be a bit cerebral and I need to process it a bit more but it was exactly the kind of learning I love. Historically aware and thorough but also engaged, struggling with how ancient categories can live for us today in a very different social setting.

A couple of other lectures which were also good. David Hartman showed how the biblical and rabbinic concepts of God are radically different. The rabbis were dealing with the reality that while the Bible seems to promise immediate or at least "this world" reward and punishment, the world doesn't seem to work that way. We sometimes think that we are the first generation to doubt and question, but Hartman showed that we aren't.

The elective I am taking is "Posekim (Jewish legal decisors) Approach Modernity: Tikkun Olam or its corruption?" Yesterday we read two responsa on whether it is permissible to give kosher supervision to a restaurant which insists on serving ice cream to those who want it after a meat meal. I won't tell you what they said because I'll teach these sources later but the answer may surprise you.

Off to Hartman for another day of learning . . .

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