Playing catch-up with science

Playing catch-up with science

Tackling the thorny issues of modern life

“There’s a huge thirst for learning,” says leading Conservative scholar and halachist Rabbi David Golinkin, who will be Shabbat scholar-in-residence at Temple Beth Sholom in Fair Lawn on Sept. 23-24.

President and professor of Jewish law at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, Golinkin served for 20 years as chairman of the Vaad Halachah (the Law Committee) of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel, which writes responsa (answers to questions of Jewish law) for the Conservative (Masorti) Movement there. He has lectured in such cities as Puerto Rico, Paris, London, Montreal, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Tucson, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, Chicago, and Reno.

“People are always interested in the topic of Jewish law and are always fascinated by the process of writing responsa and how many questions and problems they address,” said Golinkin, estimating that the number of rabbinic responsa in the last 1,500 years number in the hundreds of thousands.

“You have a huge corpus with answers to every topic under the sun, including genetic engineering and privacy in the computer age. And there are usually many on each topic.”

At a communal Shabbat dinner Friday night at Temple Beth Sholom, Golinkin will speak on “Challenges of Halachah in Israel.” His topic for a Saturday afternoon “Lunch-and-Learn” is “High Holy Days Folklore: East and West.” On Saturday evening, his keynote address “Halachah for our Time: A Conservative Approach to Jewish Law,” will precede a dessert reception and pre-Rosh Hashanah Selichot services. The public is invited to attend any or all sessions.

Golinkin, who was raised in Virginia and made aliyah in 1982 from Teaneck, has a Ph.D. in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

One “hot-button” issue he will address Friday night is the sabbatical (sh’mitah) year, when the land is to remain fallow. This presents a huge problem in modern Israel, Golinkin said, because “if you cannot work the fields and export crops, Israel’s part of the market in Europe would simply disintegrate.” Various approaches are followed by different religious sectors. The Conservative view, adopted by one kibbutz, is that “sh’mitah today is an act of piety, not a biblical or rabbinic commandment…, so it should be observed in symbolic fashion, such as setting aside a field that is not worked, and giving a certain percentage of produce for the poor.”

Reservations are required before Sept. 14 for Shabbat dinner and lunch programs. For further information and reservations, contact or 201-797-9321 ex. 415.

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