Another fantastic, inspiring, food- and fun-filled day at the National Jewish Retreat!
The early birds enjoyed early morning Jewish meditation (for women) and Chassidut sessions, which revitalized all in attendance for the packed day of learning ahead.
A lavish breakfast, as usual, was followed by an array of stimulating workshops that had participants wishing they could be many places at the same time.
Some highlights of the morning included: “The Kosher Pig” by Yitzchok Shochet (Will the pig be kosher in the Messianic Era?), “Age of the Universe: Cosmology vs. Torah” by Prof Alex Poltorak (How do we reconcile modern cosmological and traditional Torah calculations of the age of the universe?), “Life as Art: Lessons on Living from the Artistic Process” by Shimona Tzukernik (What can we learn about Divine service from our core desire to create?), and “Homosexuality and the Jewish Community” by Bronya Shaffer (What issues does it raise, and how can we respond wisely and compassionately?), which spurred much open discussion and debate.
Distinguished guest David Nesenoff was honored at lunchtime. Nesenoff gained national attention in June 2010 when he posted to his website a video he had made of columnist Helen Thomas making outrageous statements about Jews and Israel. Over the next several days, the video went viral. Thomas resigned her job over this, and Nesenoff received over 25,000 pieces of hate mail, including several death threats. Nesenoff gave a both powerful and hilarious talk after lunch recounting his story, a series of twists and turns of events in which the Lubavitcher Rebbe played a surprisingly crucial role. Look out for it on TorahCafe.com!
A beautiful dinner banquet was held, featuring a presentation for the George Rohr JLI Teen of the Year award to two friends, Silvi and Michael. Their journeys crossed as they both decided to join a JLI teens course, which ended up changing their lives. It gave them a forum to ask questions about Judaism and have an open forum of discussion with peers going through the same struggles. As Michael said, it helped him to feel his connection to G-d in a real way, not just go through the motions.
Dennis Prager, national syndicated radio talk show host and author of numerous influential books about Judaism, gave the keynote address on the Centrality of Learning in Jewish Life. He spoke candidly about how his personal connection to G-d comes not from prayer, but from studying the Torah and Jewish law, and stressed that in Judaism it’s the deed that matters, not the thought or intention. To paraphrase: We can’t just follow our hearts, because they don't always lead us in the right direction. We must learn how to be good people. And for that we need the Divine wisdom of the Torah.
The day ended with a ROCKING concert by chassidic superstar Mordechai Ben David, which had the whole house dancing into the night!
More to come after Shabbos! Shabbat Shalom!