by Joel Rich
The Bernard Revel Graduate School organized a conference: Understanding Halakah, History and Spirituality, A conference marking the 25th Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Professor Yitzhak (Isidore) Twersky and the publication of his collected writings Ke-Mayan ha-Mitgabler: Law and Spirit in Medieval Jewish Thought. The youtube recording (5 1/2 hours) can be found here ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlXciczKyN8 ). I found the range of topics and speakers and analysis interesting and insightful.
The introductions included a brief biography, a review of the newly published book, some thoughts on R Twersky’s impact and his halachic/spiritual approach. Specific sessions follow:
Prof E Karnarfogel
Discussion of R Twersky’s contribution to understanding the work of the RIB (Ashkenaz and Sfarad issues).
Prof K Schachter
Memories of R Twersky focusing on his combination of spirit and law (much like the Rambam)
Dr T Morsel-Eisenberg
R Twersky saw the Shulchan Aruch and Rama as proof against historicity in halacha and also noted their religious law focus (w/o spirituality). Dr M-E presents a case to view information overload/printing press/global trends as drivers for the Shulchan Aruch’s and Rama’s new paradigm.
Prof E Fishbane
Evidence of the Rambam’s intellectual humility as seen in the Moreh and in his son’s recollections.
Prof N Grunhaus
Do we view kri and ktiv as there from the beginning (indigenous to the text) or as a methodology to reconcile conflicting manuscripts.
Prof I Robinson
Some thoughts on Y Kaufman and his unfinished work on the Moreh.
Panel – Prof B Septimus, Prof D Shatz, Prof M Shmidman
Understanding the Rambam’s position on non-Jews and the world to come. Do we focus on the non-jews actions or (also) his belief (ie is he good because he believes in HKBH)?
R Twersky viewed the Rambam as a unified whole (religion, philosophy, halacha, Mishneh Tora, Moreh Nvuchim …) The Rambam believed we had a philosophical tradition which was lost for various reasons but could be reconstructed through logic. This tradition needs to be pursued (as it was in yesodei torah) and is included in talmud torah. Each of us pursues intellectual perfection and then continues the cycle through actions to help others do the same.
Panel – Prof C Horowitz, Prof S Leiman, Dr K Stein
Personal reflections of R Twersky’s personality, intellect, chassidus, tzniut and being.