A Global Day of Jewish Learning

Today Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz completed his monumental translation of the Talmud into Modern Hebrew – a feat begun 45 years ago. Nearly 400 communities around the world joined together today for a global day of Jewish Learning to mark this tremendous achievement.

The author of over 60 books and hundreds of articles, Rav Steinsaltz has opened up the world of the Talmud and Jewish learning to new generations of Jews, and has established a network of Jewish learning institutions across Israel and the former Soviet Union.

Today I attended two tremendous events worth sharing about. The first was at the historic 6th & I synagogue in Washington, DC where we were joined by a live broadcast from Jerusalem to hear from Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, other figures, and of course Rav Steinsaltz, who read from the last few lines of his final volume, Masechet Ta’anit, gave a small d’rash, and recited the special brachot upon completing such a monumental task. This was followed by learning sessions with local rabbis and a special message on Jewish learning from Meet the Press’s, David Gregory.

Panel: Orthodoxy at a Turning Point, a National Conversation: Women and the Future of Judaism

This evening I was at Kesher Israel, “the Georgetown shul,” for a panel discussion on the topic of: Orthodoxy at a Turning Point, a National Conversation: Women and the Future of Judaism. The highly-esteemed panel included Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Frimer, Rabbanit Chana Henkin, Rabbi Dr. Daniel Sperber, and Rabba Sara Hurwitz – whose recent ordination has created quite a stir within the Orthodox community. The panel was moderated by Rebbetzin Sharon Freundel.

I have long been interested in the discussion of women’s roles within Orthodoxy. The roles of women within the Orthodox community, especially in regard to the possible role as a rabbi, must be guided by halachah. As such, women rabbis do not function entirely in the same ways as their counterparts within the wider Jewish community. For example, Orthodox interpretation of halachah forbids women to make-up a minyan, serve on a Beit Din, act as a posek (a religious judge), or as a halachic witness. As such, women rabbis within Orthodoxy would not be able to participate in these particular roles. However, advocates point out that there is much more to being a rabbi than just those few roles.

Many halachic authorities, both who support or may not support outright s’micha for women, acknowledge that many of these other roles are not forbidden to women. As such, as Rabba Hurwitz argued in a recent article in Moment Magazine: “I don’t think there’s a 90 percent overlap [between a rabbi’s role and what women can do] … There is a 100 percent overlap. The rabbi’s job isn’t to make the minyan. It’s to make sure there is a minyan.” She added that women can also serve in roles not open to men, such as accompanying a woman to the mikveh.

Many halachic authorities recognize the need for greater roles for women … but the question is: Should they necessarily be called ‘rabbis?’

Judaism is a dynamic community – constantly evolving and wrestling with its identity. But it begins with a deep knowledge and love of Jewish learning. I echo the voices of those around the world encouraging active participation with our faith and texts. The point, as I have pointed out before, is not about always agreeing or disagreeing with everything. It is about participating in the conversation!!!

So what are you waiting for??? Get more involved in your own spirituality, and begin engaging in greater learning opportunities! (Some practical how-to’s will come in my next post!)

About Rabbi Joshua

I'm a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband ... not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I'm just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Simchat Yisrael Messianic Synagogue in West Haven, CT, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin' hot human rights attorney... and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.
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1 Response to A Global Day of Jewish Learning

  1. rik says:

    Two realy good events Reb Josh.1 It was good to see Netenyahu take time out in recognition of such an importan "work" in the progress of making Talmud more accessible.2 It appears rabbinic Judism and the church have in common that they both use criterion out side of proper contextual Scripture exegesis in objecting to the ordination of women.

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