Rabbinic Discussions; Part 1

Let the new season begin!

Now that the holidays are over, it is time to get down to business!  There is much to do with midterms already creeping up – and most of us are hunkering down to get cracking on some soon-to-arrive deadlines.   And since we are now back into full swing, it is time to come back together again as a full rabbinic school to engage in discussion together.

The rabbis recognize the importance of communal discussions and are able to bring fresh and unique perspectives to the table of Jewish matters.  This term, our focus is on the topic of commandedness.

What does it mean to be commanded?      What are commandments anyway?  Are there limitations with commandedness? What are they?

Over the next several weeks, our entire student body will continue to come together weekly to discuss these matters. Rabbi Cheryl Peretz does a great job mediating our speakers and keeping the program moving swiftly, sharing stories and teachings along the way.

Before things get started, we will always start things off with a drash from the Dean of our school, Rabbi  Bradley Shevit Artson, followed by 3 speakers; a final year (5th/6th) student, an AJU faculty member and a rabbi out in the field. Quite the wide-ranged panel!

Today, Rabbi Artson kicked it off with a talk on The Synagogue: Structure, Challenges, Promises   –  WOW!  I want to be apart of THAT guy’s Judaism  let me tell you!  This speech is so exciting – and he doesn’t miss a beat.  What does a tennis club and a temple have in common?     *I WILL SHARE THE PODCAST AS SOON AS IT IS POSTED*

 Then, the topic was shifted to THE LIMITS OF COMMANDEDNESS.  Dr. Labovitz (a professor in the Rabbinic school) gave a spirited talk in which she questions the purpose of commandedness – bringing civil disobedience to the table (body issues, law, mikveh…..very interesting).  What do you do when Jewish law requires you to do something that you feel is against your human code??

Next we heard from Rabbi Rachel Bovitz, an AJU graduate who is working “out on the field”.  She gave a very passionate and moving talk about how and when commandedness came into her life and how practicing these laws can bring love unto others (love expressed through action).

And finally, we heard an invigorating drash by final year student Uri.   His points stirred up a lot of discussion – as he brought meaning and Jewish behavior concepts to the table.  What does it mean to be an authentic Jew?  Are we finding MEANING in our commandedness?

Following these three speakers, we were then broken up into groups of 8 or so, to discuss our views.  As you can see from the photo on the top of this article, not all rabbinical students agree…..and as they say – 2 Jews, 3 opinions!

To close up the program, we all came back together to share our thoughts, feelings, concerns and revelations.  Do commandments have to have meaning to be done?  What about the idea of being commanded by God?  Are we still Jews without commandments?  Does commandedness strictly refer to the 10 commandments?  All 613?  What if there are commandments that you don’t believe in?

The point of these programs are not to solve problems, but to open issues up for conversation.  I thank my institution for allowing, encouraging and supporting such open-mindedness,  and the ability to freely and safely express our own unique thoughts.  And thank you to my fellow “colleagues” whom which I get to do some of my most intellectual growth and development with.  We truly are family.

Stay tuned for next week!

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