This week was especially busy, even by normal, already-packed standards. It was also an extremely impactful week.
Last Shabbos, I was honored to serve as Scholar in Residence at Congregation Torat Emet in Columbus, Ohio. As part of the occasion, I delivered a number of talks of particular relevance to this time of year. These included a sermon entitled “The Casualties of War,”a shiur entitled “Mindfields: Rambam’s Analysis of Six Spiritual Roadblocks That Preclude Teshuva,” and a talk at seudah shlishit entitled “Homo-Judaeo: World’s Most Universal-Parochial Being.” Shabbos afternoon, I hosted an open conversation on“Modern Orthodoxy and the OU in the 21st Century.” I thank Rabbi Howard Zack for hosting me and I hope that the members of the kehillah gained some useful insight and inspiration as we enter the yomim noraim.
As part of our ongoing efforts to address day school affordability, Nathan Diament (OU Director of Public Policy), Josh Pruzansky (New Jersey Regional Director of Public Policy) and I met with John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark, in order to discuss the Opportunity Scholarship Act. While tuition for private schools is clearly an issue affecting both the Catholic and the Jewish community, we also discussed other opportunities to work together with the Catholic community in New Jersey.
On Wednesday, I participated in an “armchair conversation” at The Jewish Center in New York on the subject of “A Vision for the Future: Is Orthodox Judaism Still Relevant?”Also participating in the discussion were Leon Wieseltier, Literary Editor of The New Republic, and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, Director of the Strauss Center for Torah and Western Thought. It was a most enlightening experience.
On Thursday, UN Ambassador Susan Rice briefed a dozen American Jewish leaders on US efforts to derail the Palestinian bid for a UN vote on statehood. The Palestinian effort could include a vote in the Security Council and/or the General Assembly as early as the coming week. The US is committed to vetoing the attempt and is working on persuading European and African countries to abstain, denying it the requisite number of votes needed to pass. The US, like Israel, supports the idea of Palestinian statehood but is opposed to passing it in the UN while negotiations in the region are stalled. Others in attendance at this gathering included Lee Rosenberg of AIPAC, Abe Foxman of the ADL, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents, and many more familiar names.
Finally, Thursday night, I started a special Elul lecture series at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck. The three-week series is intended familiarize us with the transcendent meaning of the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur liturgy. The first installment was “The Most Sublime Prayer of the Year: An Analysis of the Rosh Hashana Mussaf,” a version of which can be found online on OU Holidayshttp://www.ou.org/holidays”>(www.ou.org/holidays). The subsequent lectures include“Grappling with and Confronting the Rosh Hashana Machzor” and “The Transformative Landmarks of the Yom Kippur Machzor.” These lectures are free of charge and open to the public.
As you can see, the week was balance between spiritual matters, as we focus our sights on the impending Days of Awe, and temporal matters, addressing the realities of politics and economics as they affect Israel and chinuch – a virtual microcosm of Jewish life in the 21st century!