Over the more than forty years that I have devoted to personal study and various forms of Jewish education, including formal and informal presentations to people of various ages in school, synagogue and conference settings, I have become convinced that particular questions, issues and aspects of Jewish tradition need to be more forthrightly addressed than they have been. While these topics are often “edgy” and “prickly”, nevertheless they are relevant and unavoidable in light of contemporary experience, and therefore deserve courageous and straightforward consideration. Have encountered over the course of my career segments of the general Jewish population, be they interested “outsiders” who are considering the option of increased observance, or insiders who due to indifference or even alienation, potentially will diminish or drop observance altogether, whom I believe await interpretations and understandings that will potentially energize their commitment and justify the considerable sacrifice that living an observant life entails. In addition, I believe that it is important that the broad and deep benefits of observance in the modern world be probed and defined so that these many individuals will be drawn to joining and remaining within the traditionally observant community. Reaching singular complete and satisfying resolutions regarding challenging subject matter is not as important, in my view, as the process of discussing them, thinking about these ideas, seriously reflecting regarding their cogent dimensions and possibly suggesting a number of approaches that could lead to better understanding of the overall human condition as well as how Judaism has attempted to address these matters. It is not by coincidence that religion in general and Judaism in particular are part of the “humanities,” and attempt to address the issues of concern not only for Jews, but for human beings as a whole.
My website, https://rayanotyaakov.wordpress.com contains, among other materials, many of my past investigations of such topics in the form of essays, articles and papers. Current projects include:
- the immanent completion of a book tentatively entitled What’s the Point? discussing the meta-principles that I feel are intrinsic to Jewish practice;
- an annotated collection of articles exploring the parameters and schisms of the religious movement known as Modern Orthodoxy;
- the development of educational units presenting and exploring the primary sources that comprise a number of R. Aharon Lichtenstein’s, ZaTzaL, published essays, over fifty of which have been posted on my website;
- an investigation of the implications of the exemption of women from positive, time-bound Commandments. Now that I have completed a quarter century of service as a communal Rabbi, I wish to devote my efforts to these types of projects in the interests of sharing what I consider a particular and unfortunately not-widely-held perspective on Jewish life and practice.
A non-profit corporation, “Contemporary Explorations of Jewish Texts and Thinkers, Inc.”, has been created to support these and other endeavors, and it is now possible to make tax-deductible contributions to this corporation. For more information regarding presentations within the contexts of Scholar-in-Residence, ideas for new projects, contributions, etc., please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 609 Winona Court, Silver Spring, MD 20902.