Wednesday, July 4 - David Hartman is Brilliant

Happy 4th of July. Being in Israel, spending every moment in a love fest with this land, this country, this people, also, sometimes surprisingly, re-enforces my love for the United States. On this Day of Independence, we give thanks for the gift of liberty that our fore- fathers brought forth in this great enlightened experiment in liberal democratic government. (Of course, I mean fore-fathers in a patriotic, nationalistic sense, since my actual mishpacha was still running around Poland!)

It is also painfully clear to me that if I were to try to capture each and every learning experience throughout the day into these web pages, I would need to write dozens of pages each day (as I do in my notebook) and it would take me hours and hours!

In fact, the amount of serious learning and deep experiences that fill the days at Hartman boggle my mind!

AND DAVID HARTMAN IS BRILLIANT. To understand why Chasidim would sit at the Rebbe’s feet or eat crumbs from his table, one just needs to be in his presence and listen to his Torah. He also has a wonderful sense of Zen about him – this great thinker and teacher at any moment can tell a story, make a comment, or throw out a zinger that surprises everyone.

Long before I was invited to join the Rabbinic Leadership Institute at the Shalom Hartman Center, I credited David Hartman with being the source of two of the greatest lectures I have ever heard – both in Jerusalem. And he is not disappointing here.

We spend the mornings in two hours of Hevruta study, and the San Diego contingent is trying to study together – David Frank, Menashe East and me. Then the teacher for the day teaches about what we have studied.

AND DAVID HARTMAN IS BRILLIANT. The morning’s lesson had to do with problematic texts in the tradition that are not nice about non-Jews, and what we do with these texts. David explained that every time he opens to the pages of these texts, he hopes that these offensive passages will be magically gone, but that hasn’t happened yet.

The important part: he is unwilling to edit them out of the tradition. This is our tradition – its beauty and its warts. We need not be apologists for it, but we do need to know it, even the ugly parts.

This is our family – the beautiful and the not so beautiful. MISHPACHTOLOGY is the science, art, sacred responsibility to recognize that all of us Jews – including yesterday’s Jews, today’s Jews and tomorrow’s Jews – are part of my story and my family.

Brilliant and fantastic thoughts and teachings.

If you attend Ohr Shalom’s services and programs, and read our D’var, you will certainly hear me returning to these ideas and these texts over and over again.

I am wondering what I will do when my notebook is filled?!?

Of course, today was the first day where I was at the program all day – from early in the morning until late at night. The teachers are amazing, the learning incredible, the community of rabbis unlike anything I have ever been a part of, but wow will I miss my family during the days!


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