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Posts Tagged ‘Halakha’

Israel – parts of it at least – promotes itself as the most tolerant country in the Middle East. Gays and lesbians have a freedom to live openly unheard of in the Arab world. Transsexual singer Dana International is a popular entertainer and TV personality. Yet… Yet… Late Saturday an unidentified shooter opened fire in a Tel Aviv club that provides a haven for gay teens and youth. Two are dead. Another 10 are wounded, some critically.

Mainstream and ultra-Orthodox politicians have risen to condemn the shooting. The Mayor of Tel Aviv pledged his city will remain friendly to and supportive of gays. Yet…there is often open talk in this country about how homosexuality is the root of many problems – even earthquakes!

Shalom Hartman Institute has made a point of being an open, pluralistic center that is a place where gay and Orthodox rabbis study together. Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman has several times on our website condemned the hateful speech of anti-gay political and religious leaders.

Read his recent posts:

This summer in Jerusalem – heat and holiness
The ultra-Orthodox, gays and the future of Jerusalem
and one from last year: When an earthquake is not just an earthquake

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In a lecture this week to rabbis at Shalom Hartman Institute for the annual summertime Rabbinical Torah Study Seminar, Donniel Hartman mentioned that he had just finished a session with senior IDF commanders attending an ongoing program at Shalom Hartman Institute, the Lev Aharon program.

This program teaches Judaism, Jewish moral philosophy, and other related matters to senior officers of the IDF (majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels), in an effort to help them better understand their roles as defenders of the Jewish nation, and to explain the same to their soldiers, some of whom have rudimentary Jewish knowledge. The program is not about teaching kashrut, Shabbat observance, or ritual, but the historical, cultural, and moral underpinnings of the Jewish nation.

So, Donniel was saying how the officers were complaining that some religious soldiers are taking extreme stands on matters and, for example, are not willing to listen to a female singer during Army celebrations or ceremonies. Or, the commanders asked, what do we do when we go away for a unit retreat and some soldiers want single-sex swimming hours in the pool. Donniel said the commanders are struggling with such real, “tachlis” (detailed) conundrums.

It seemed to me that some of the rabbis in the room were skeptical that the situation was so complicated, or at least found it difficult to believe that such internal problems could occur in a Jewish army. I’ll admit, I thought so, too, to a degree.

So, imagine my surprise when I saw this article today on Ynetnews: Rabbi Eliyahu warns of rabbis who ‘kowtow to women’:

Former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu warned this week of the rising prominence of the liberal stream in religious Zionism and slammed rabbis who “kowtow to women.”

During a Torah lesson he delivered on Monday, the prominent national religious leader spoke in length about the importance of observing chastity codes. He advised soldiers to cover their ears during military ceremonies that include women singing. “It’s better to go to jail than to obey the commander and hear a woman sing or play.”

….Eliyahu’s son, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, also referred to the issue of women performing in military events. He commented on a recent statement by the chief education officer, who said religious soldiers must stay put during such ceremonies, despite the halachic problem.

“This order is clearly illegal,” said Eliyahu. “A person cannot be forced to go against the Torah. Today it’s singing, tomorrow it’s singing plus half naked women… a breach in such a question is like fire – you don’t know where it’s going to end.”

Just when you thought you had heard it all: “Today it’s singing…you don’t know where it’s going to end.” I don’t mean to make light: this is an important matter. Donniel did not say what he counseled the officers to do. But it is clearly a matter in which the Shalom Hartman Institute can play an important role in helping the jewish army of the State of israel remain both Jewish and democratic.

Hattip to the excellent blog, Religion and State in Israel.

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Four lectures about Serving God in the Jewish tradition by leading scholars of Jewish studies from the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, Israel, pluralistic Jewish learning and leadership training. Soon on the Shalom Hartman Institute website.

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Children, Parents & God: Assymetrical Obligations, by Vered Noam, Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem, Israel

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David Hartman talks about how Jewish religious extremism, and even “mainstream” Orthodoxy have grown in modern times as more modern, rational movements have struggled.

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Rabbi Bill Berk, Director, Center for Rabbinic Enrichment, invites rabbis the world over to attend the Summer 2009 Rabbinic Torah Study Seminar at Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem

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Rabbi bill Berk, Director, Center for Rabbinic Enrichment, Shalom Hartman Institute

Rabbi Bill Berk, Director, Center for Rabbinic Enrichment, Shalom Hartman Institute

Special note from Bill Berk, Director, Hartman Institute Center for Rabbinic Enrichment, regarding Rabbinic Torah Study Summer 2009 program:

“We are responding to the unprecedented economic, political, and social changes taking place. We are well aware that the ground is shifting underneath us and we are asking the great scholars of the Hartman think tank to respond. We want to know what wisdom our tradition offers for how one might respond to crisis and uncertainty. In the Summer 2009 Rabbinic Torah Study Seminar, we will identify and explore Judaism’s core paradigms that emerge in response to change and loss of meaning and how those responses are expressed, interact, and often critique each other. We will study various paradigms of response in our classical and modern texts including the Bible, the Talmud, the Zohar, post-Holocaust theology, and modern Zionist literature.”

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