13 August 2008

Day One of 2008 YCT Yemei Iyun in Bible & Jewish Thought

Shalom Berger speaking at the panel discussionThe first day of YCT's 2008 Yemei Iyun in Bible and Jewish Thought was 29 June and the first session I attended was Rabbi Dr. Tsvi Blanchard on "Origins and Beginnings: Genesis, Law and the Redemptive Narrative", which was chock full of information - it was definitely a session for which I would have liked to have more time. After that session was Rabbi Uri Etigson on "Does God Haave Real Feelings? An Inquiry into Reading the Bible", which was interesting as he started out discussing Maimonides' conception of God not having feelings. Having been reading the Guide this summer, it is clear to see that he is fighting an uphill battle, going against the straightforward readings in the Bible (I would also say rabbinic literature, but he doesn't really have to defend those readings to the masses). Indeed, Rabbi Etigson said that he used to think about these things in a Maimonidean fashion, but came around to seeing it as it is. He then presented some rabbinic statements about God's emotionality and then moved on to try to show that God cared for Adam & Eve by providing for them (I was skeptical about this last point).
There was a special panel discussion in celebration of ten years of LookJed on "Using Academic Methods and Tools in the Study of Tanakh", co-sponsored by the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education. This was a new feature not found in any of the previous Yemei Iyun, but was definitely excellent - I definitely enjoyed it. Although there were definitely some interesting points, I wanted to quote here some neat points made by
Rabbi Zvi Grumet: "Intellectual Orthodoxy isn't for the masses." "Teachers don't have to have all of the answers - but they should know such things exist." "Dogma shuts down discussion and there is no more opportunity for dialogue."
The Followed by dinner.
After dinner, I heard an excellent presentation by Professor Leeor Gottlieb on "Did Nehemiah Have a Kosher Lulav?", which I found to be the most enjoyable class of the day for me.
The last class of the day I heard was by
Rabbi Tzvi Grumet on "Confronting Halakhic Sections in Humash", wherein he presented the idea that the Humash is really alll narrative, even the discussions of commandments (a thesis of which I wasn't convinced (sorry)).
Then came ma'ariv, and thus concluded day one of the Yemei Iyun of 2008.

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