The day began with an amazing shiur (lesson) by David Hartman. We took a look at a number of Maimonides’ texts, trying to understand why people observe halakhah.
Maimonides rejects the simplest reading of “Do it because God says so.” In fact, he argues that if one does not have the proper kavanah (intention or focus) that simply doing the act or saying the prayer does not fulfill one’s halakhic obligation.
Sometimes Maimonides sounds deeply spiritual, but he generally ends up in an over- intellectualized place that seems very cold.
Again, in the context of his teaching, David helped traced out how Maimonides’ openness to an ethic outside of the Divine, arrived at through philosophy, and his recognition of the universal wisdom that can be found among other nations (at least their most intellectual philosophers, helped David escape from a narrow perspective and discover a much larger world. David is of that generation of American trained Orthodox Rabbis, students of the Rav, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who created an intellectually open and religiously observant Modern Orthodox community.
Then David gets on a roll, explores Maimonides’ cold, implacable side, and in the process, David condemns all of those who would reduce Judaism or God or life or the world down to a single organizing principle.
While teaching, with a passion that could resemble one pontificating except for the depth of his wisdom and teaching, David shared that he actually does have a single organizing principle:
“I see people who have one organizing principle, yekishe (ask me to explain this term in person) and I have rachmanes (compassion) on them My shitah (system, way of looking at the world) is chaos.”
And he means it. David does not live in the world where everything lines up, where all you have to do is connect the dots and stay between the lines. For those of you who have heard me teach what I learned from David before Purim of 1990, you know how important his vocabulary and “messiness” (my word) is to me and for my understanding of the world.
At lunchtime, Jen and the kids met me at the Institute and we cabbed over for a quick lunch and Maital’s follow-up neurology appointment. (Just writing that actually makes my hands quiver!)
The doctor was a very sweet Argentinean, Professor Jose Cohen. Who looked at her, asked us if anything had changed, reviewed her CT Scan and concluded that she is perfect and that Hadassah’s treatment had been very thorough!
Actually, there is a small mall right by the hospital and we found these wonderful children’s towels and had the kids’ Hebrew names sewn on them. Very cute.
Afterwards we went to visit a very dear friend from college (Eli) and his family. The kids really enjoyed playing together.
After running around with them, we came home, put the kids to bed and went out to celebrate Jennifer’s birthday (which was really Monday, but for reasons that either are obvious, or you will understand when you read Monday’s entry, that wasn’t an option).
Tzachko is an amazing restaurant inside of Machane Yehudah (the outdoor produce market).
We ate like the king and queen (now I know why traditionally monarchs are quite large!).
The appetizers were amazing! A whole eggplant was grilled, and then the top was cut off and shredded beef from ribs was placed over – unbelievably delicious! We also shared an oriental salad. For dinner, Jennifer had the finest steak I have ever had in Israel and I had delicious lamb kebabs. Possibly the best meal I have ever had in Israel.
Then, of course, the mandatory two hours of shopping. Very successful. We have worked our way through most of our gift buying list!
Back home, and of course, under Jennifer’s pillow I had place her favorite candy bar – Mekupelet!
Stayed up just past midnight to be able to officially with Jennifer a Happy Birthday, and then fall quickly to sleep!