What I learned at Hadar
It felt akin to living in a 2-D world and feeling satisfied with height and width, and suddenly having depth thrust upon me as the world spreads out and expands before one’s eyes.
I had just gotten back from 10 months of learning at Pardes in Israel, and was having a lot of culture shock. Having gone from living in a Jewish normative culture to a context of both immense, beautiful diversity – and an ever-present feeling of no longer being fully in sync with my surroundings.
It was this incredibly productive and distressing tension that propelled me towards New York City’s Hadar Beit Midrash. I was there, learning intricate arguments about how to nullify idols, but we weren’t actually talking about nullifying idols. Rather, about navigating contexts that erase who we are.
The Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Avodah Zara 41a) states that nullification of these idols could only fully occur if those that worship them render them invalid – and later that same summer we saw real world case studies play out with the removal of multiple confederate statues in the wake of Charlottesville.
I had numerous conversations about particularism and universalism, about litmus tests of self, and how we play these out in the world, and I was alive.
The same thread, reverberating through thousands of years of intellectual history, from the mouths of different scholars, rabbis, and learned laypeople, and beyond.
The Impact of a Teacher
Hadar’s faculty are stellar teachers and careful scholars. In particular, Rabbi Ethan Tucker is remarkably good at teasing out the conversations behind conversations, and in finding creative and rigorous readings of topics that might appear either straightforward or dry on the surface. His treatment and explication of Halacha (Jewish Law and Practice) as a discourse of both values and legal precedent is thought-provoking and exciting.
I had often found the actual explication of Halachic argumentation and legal codes to be somewhat dry in the past, being more interested in Halachic process and the ways that values bled into the process. I found his style to be incredibly refreshing, liberating, and helpful to understanding how consciously to live a Jewish life.
Learn with Hadar in Chicago
R’ Eitan Tucker, Rosh Yeshiva of Hadar Institute, will be visiting Chicago as a Scholar in Residence at Kol Sasson.
You can learn with him Saturday, October 27th at Base LOOP –
Look at some texts that explore how to maintain sensitivity to our social environments without losing yourself in the process. When should you blend in with others as much as possible? When do you need to steel yourself to stand for what is crucially important to you?
Join Base LOOP, the home of Rav Ezra and Laura. Light apps and refreshments provided – RSVP
Find other Jewish Events in Chicago on ChiTribe’s calendar.
Jonathan Bressler is getting his MS in Environmental/Occupational Health Sciences at UIC, researching water lead levels in rural Illinois.
He spends what little free time he has biking, hiking, singing, reading, and is active in community building at the Rose Crown Minyan at Anshe Emet, Anshe Shalom, Eshel Chicago, and more.
Nominate your friends for Jewish Person of the Week!
Find more Jewish people of the Week on ChiTribe
Find all the Chicago events on ChiTribe’s Event Calendar