Yesterday afternoon, I went to the neighborhood gathering of the day, "Parshanut Hamikra: An Afternoon of Tanach Learning", a program sponsored by Yeshiva University's Abraham Arbesfeld Kollel Yom Rishon and the Millie Arbesfeld Midreshet Yom Rishon and co-sponsored by the Orthodox Union and initiated by two YU students. It was a nice event, spanning several hours in the afternoon. I got to hear Rabbi Yehuda Sarna speak on "God: A Character Analysis," Rabbi Moshe Simkovich speak on "Biblical Sources of the Mitzva of Tefilla: Are Any Really About Prayer?", Malka Simkovich speak on "The Role of Fertility and Infertility in the Gan Eden Story and in the Patriarchal Narratives in Genesis," and Rabbi Menachem Leibtag speak on "The Underlying Logic Behind 'Ein Mukdam u’M’uchar ba’Torah'".
Rabbi Sarna's presentation of "God: A Character Analysis" was a study of the character of God in Genesis. The presentation took place, as did all of the presentations in Furst Hall, although his was the only packed lecture I attended, with well over 50 people present. He tried to show the tension between the plain meaning of the text and of philosophical understandings. He said that we're used to thinking of God in Maimonidean terms. He highlighted two complexities: God in His tension with humanity and God as knower of good & bad in regards to justice. Rabbi Sarna, whom I had never previously met him before, was a young-looking rabbi who is very smiley, openly warm, charming and humorous.
Next, I heard Rabbi Moshe Simkovich speak on the topic of "Biblical Sources of the Mitzva of Tefilla: Are Any Really About Prayer?" Once again, the class took place in a classroom in Furst Hall, with there being roughly 35-50 people. He largely focused on Maimonides as well as some Nahmanides, and, eventually, did not want us to be biased by the views of the ראשונים (medieval Jewish intellectual authorities), and that prayer does not seem to be one of the 613 mizvot.
I stayed in the same room to listen to his daughter-in-law, Malka Simkovich, who had been a havrusa with my wife in seminary in Israel (who, by the way, joined me in time to listen to Malka) and who had been in the SBM with me a couple of years ago, who spoke on "The Role of Fertility and Infertility in the Gan Eden Story and in the Patriarchal Narratives in Genesis,"
Lastly, we went to hear Rabbi Menachem Liebtag, who spoke in a big room with many dozens of people, especially many undergrad students present, on the topic of "The Underlying Logic Behind 'Ein Mukdam u’M’uchar ba’Torah'". Rabbi Liebtag was very energetic in his speaking. His main point was that those proponents of pieces not necessarily being in chronological order of stories in the Torah are not random but rather that they are out of chronological order for a reason.