Neo-Hassidism and Modern Orthodox Spirituality: A Reappraisal

Part I: Spiritual Climate at Yeshiva University

Last year, I wrote an article[1] for this magazine that attempted to unearth, in sweeping, largely utilitarian terms, the philosophical anatomy of Modern Orthodox Neo-Hassidism. While I was fortunate to receive mostly positive feedback on the piece from friends (some of whom, admittedly, might consider themselves “neo-Hassidim”), I realized that something was eminently lacking from many of these conversations, and that is constructive, forward-thinking dialogue. For this, I fault none but my article and its writer, both of which missed an opportunity to initiate a university-wide, and perhaps community-wide, discussion on our spiritual climate. To my knowledge, my article did not beget a migration toward Yeshiva University’s few opportunities for the study of Hassidut[2] or practice of Hassidic prayer[3] – yet, more to the point, neither did it inspire the formation of alternative spiritually-minded groups or group-oriented explorations of alternative spirituality.

Now, fourteen months later, I feel obligated to continue what I started. The earnest complaints and yearnings of my friends and peers for ‘intellectual spirituality’, ‘genuine spiritual dialogue’, ‘meaningful conversation about Avodat Ha-Shem’, and other expressed varieties of this authentic religious need have only grown louder and run deeper with the passing time. These are friends and peers to whom Hassidut speaks, and these are friends and peers to whom Hassidut does not speak. Some of them are friends and peers who study Torah for hours each day with painstaking rigor and still feel a spiritual lack, and some of them are friends and peers who do not study Torah precisely because they feel a spiritual lack. For all of these people, and for everyone who seeks greater and deeper meaning from his or her religious life, I believe Hassidut and Neo-Hassidism have an answer – and it does not involve so much as opening a book of Hassidut or donning a gartel for prayer.[4]

I. Prayer and Torah-Study: Does A Framework Constrain?

It would be counterproductive, and certainly unfair, to bring the spiritual[5] void felt at YU into focus without first defining and appreciating the real substance that surrounds that hole; we cannot truly know what we lack without knowing and loving what we have. Most obviously, Yeshiva University is blessed with an overflowing wealth of opportunities for serious, religiously enriching study of Torah. Admittedly, that wealth is not, I believe, distributed fairly between the Wilf and Beren campuses, as I will elaborate below. The men of the Wilf campus have the unenviable task, but undeniable privilege, of choosing among over fifty talented scholars and educators across four morning programs, with whom to devote hours to study of Torah and Jewish knowledge each day. Each teacher, in supplement to his regular curricula of Bible, Talmud, Halakha, Jewish philosophy, or Jewish history, may serve as a spiritual guide and mentor for his students and/or arrange informal forums for religious conversation and camaraderie.[6] For those students seeking more personal attention, the Undergraduate Torah Studies (UTS) division of RIETS has nine Mashgihim (religious mentors) on staff, including one specifically for Sephardic students and two for students in the Stone Beit Midrash Program. In the evenings, students on the Wilf campus enjoy a rich, well-staffed Night Seder program with a variety of options including incentives for Talmud study and nightly classes on Jewish thought.[7] Among others, these classes include two well-attended ḥaburot (study groups) given by Rabbi Moshe Weinberger on Hassidut[8], which draw both YU alumni and non-students in addition to current YU students. Not least of all, the Glueck Beit Midrash is vibrant with the sound of Torah study into the late hours of the night, which recreates the Israel yeshiva experience for many young men, and, for some, is visceral enough to imbue them with authentic spiritual fulfillment.

The same, sadly, cannot be said of Torah study on the Beren campus. Though women at Yeshiva University benefit from a healthy assortment of teachers and classes (in some cases, healthier than that of the Wilf Campus[9]), they are afforded a fraction of the Torah study opportunities available to men. The Beren Judaic Studies department staff is less than half the size of its Wilf counterpart, and course offerings include far fewer Halakha options and just three Talmud classes. Class sizes for many courses are thus larger as well, making it difficult for both teacher and student to nurture religiously fulfilling relationships. In stark contrast to the Wilf campus, Beren campus employs only one Director of Religious Guidance, who is tasked not only with offering spiritual direction to students but also with arranging religious programming, which inevitably detracts from the time she can make available to students. Perhaps most troubling of all, the Stern College administration itself arranges few, if any, opportunities for informal Torah study besides the weekly Torah with the Roshei Yeshiva lecture arranged by the office of Religious Guidance, which, while certainly consistent and appreciated, is still only once a week. To their immense credit, Stern student-run clubs such as the Beit Midrash Committee and Bavli Ba-Erev are primarily responsible for arranging extracurricular Torah programming in the evenings. There is even a position on the Torah Activities Council board devoted almost entirely to inviting speakers to give Torah classes during students’ free time (Vice President of Speakers). Why this is necessary, especially since it is not required of Wilf Campus students, is beyond the scope of this article, but it nonetheless highlights the spiritual initiative and motivation of these young women, which will be discussed below. The fact that the Stern Beit Midrash now has a student-run Night Seder program each week, in addition to the regular presence of women learning be-chavruta each night, is a testament to the religious passion and fortitude of Stern College students, who, unlike Wilf campus students, do not have the luxury of being served replete religious programming on a silver platter.

When it comes to prayer, however, both campuses seem to be lacking. The Wilf Campus does boast thirteen minyanim for Shacharit, up to fifteen minyanim for Mincha (during the summer), and up to nineteen minyanim for Maariv (during the winter). Still, of those myriad minyanim, only three[10] offer a consistently measured pace that allows a slower davener (prayer participant) to recite the entire service; my friends, who attend other minyanim because of their schedules, tell me of their longing for that simpler time in yeshiva when they could pray the entirety of Shacharit with kavvanah (concentration) and without having to worry about being late to class or skipping breakfast.[11] One cannot even be assured that these other minyanim will sing any part of the Hallel service on Rosh Hodesh and Hanukkah. Finally, what upsets this writer most is the conspicuous lack of an explanatory minyan for students with limited Jewish day school or yeshiva backgrounds, and any other students who wish to infuse meaning into their prayer with the help of a teacher.[12] Imagine how many more students would attend prayers, and perhaps find spiritual fulfillment, if such a minyan existed! All the same, I am at least in part comforted by the prayer options, current and planned, on the Wilf Campus for Shabbat. Each week I attend, without fail, I am uplifted by the Carlebach-style minyan for the Kabbalat Shabbat (acceptance of the Shabbat) service in the Klein Beit Midrash, which is filled to capacity with men and women even on “out” Shabbatot when many local students go home for Shabbat. And I would be remiss not to commend the work of the Student Organization of Yeshiva (SOY) leadership[13] for their establishment of a new student-led minyan for Shacharit on Shabbat morning, which, according to an article in the most recent edition of the Commentator, is designed to “create an opportunity for students to be placed at the forefront of the religious atmosphere that fits their needs.”[14] It is these kind of creative, yet essential, initiatives that will reinvigorate the spiritual milieu of Yeshiva University, as I will contend below.

Where the Beren campus is lacking in structured communal prayer, it makes up for that with collective spontaneity. Besides for the (usually) monthly minyan on Rosh Hodesh, there is no minyan on campus; students who desire to pray with a minyan must arise before 7:00 am and walk to Congregation Adereth El, which is seven blocks away from the farthest dormitory building. Since this is unquestionably difficult for college students with packed schedules and heavy workloads, most Stern students pray on their own before going to class. In past years, however, a select few have sometimes prayed together in the Beren Beit Midrash, and, on some occasions, one student would lead the prayers as an informal Hazzanit. Beginning this semester, this phenomenon has become a regular occurrence, as a few students have coordinated a Tefillah group for Shacharit (in accordance with Halakha) that meets in the Beit Midrash. On Shabbat, as many as 150 women gather for a spirited Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday evening, also led by a Hazzanit. These two prayer gatherings each possess one quality – the first spontaneity, and the second unity – that are nowhere to be found in the formulaic minyanim of the Wilf Campus. To my knowledge, there is no minyan or smaller prayer group that meets only on occasion or forms in an impromptu fashion, nor is there one minyan, even on Shabbat, at which all students who wish to pray attend together. Yes, there is halakhic and spiritual value to structured prayer with a minyan. But, speaking in terms of giving rise to a spiritually dynamic environment, Beren’s model is far more well-positioned for success than that of Wilf, and the latter indeed has much to learn and gain from the former.

II. Institutional Efforts to Inspire: Too Many Left Behind?

Even so, in recent years, administrators and student leaders on the Wilf Campus have made a concerted effort to expand opportunities for spiritual expression.[15] Since the appointment of Rabbi Moshe Weinberger as Mashpia (spiritual leader, literally “influencer”) of RIETS in 2013, RIETS has sponsored a farbrengen (Hassidic gathering) in honor of each Rosh Hodesh. At the gatherings, which regularly draw over one hundred students, Rabbi Weinberger, in the manner of a Hassidic rebbe, leads students in wordless niggunim (devotional melodies) and spirited dance, interposed by an often passionately delivered – and emotionally relevant – ma’amar (Hassidic discourse) on religious service and struggle. True to their name, the farbrengens bring together students from many different yeshiva backgrounds and morning shiurim (albeit almost exclusively MYP and BMP), from the “Neo-Hassidic” contingent of Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg’s BMP shiur to alumni of less Hassidically-inclined yeshivot such as Har Etzion and Kerem Be-Yavneh. Even more popular is the annual yeshiva-wide Melave Malka with the well-known musician Eitan Katz, which is well-advertised and attended by many RIETS faculty members as well as students. Both of these events represent efforts to foster religiously-oriented collectivity among students[16], and, in a certain sense, to recreate the yeshiva milieu some students feel is lacking at Yeshiva University.[17]

While these efforts are certainly noble, I cannot help but wonder: where are the students who do not like singing, or are not religiously inspired by Hassidic teachings? If they struggle to find meaning in their daily prayers and Torah study, and if they are looking for alternative outlets in which to find that meaning, where are they to turn? And should not an institution which is built on a mission of preparing young adults to lead their own spiritual lives rouse them to create spiritual habitats of their own, rather than create a nostalgia-powered environment for them that can only so much as mimic the yeshiva experience?

Even if the answer to the latter question is no, this alone cannot excuse where this single-minded focus on the yeshiva has left the women of Yeshiva University. Students on Beren Campus have no events comparable to the monthly farbrengen or annual Melave Malka concert, nor are they welcome at either event. This is in spite of the fact that there are many Stern students who would find such an event spiritually enriching; impromptu kumsitzen are not an uncommon occurrence on the Beren Campus and the Hassidic Torah commentary Netivot Shalom is a popular favorite among havrutot in the Beren Beit Midrash.[18] Instead, students seeking organized, extracurricular spiritual activities must turn to their respective Midrasha/seminary groups led by fellow students, which, while conducive to real spiritual growth because of their small size, may reinforce the seminary-clique-driven social fabric with which some Stern students take issue.[19] I can only speculate on the origin of this imbalance between the two campuses – is it funding, false and outdated assumptions about students’ religious needs, a combination of both, or something else entirely? Regardless of the answer, I believe the administration has some soul-searching to do to ensure that all students, uptown and downtown, have as equal an opportunity as possible to religious fulfillment.

III. Individual Spiritual Fulfillment: Creativity, Community, and Conversation

Until this point we have been discussing religious life at Yeshiva University within an institutional context – that is, religious programming primarily initiated and maintained by the university administration. In addition to lacking the sort of active creative element I argue is crucial to a spiritually vigorous atmosphere,[20] institutionalized Torah study and prayer are alike in that participation alone cannot serve as a barometer for spiritual fulfillment and wholeness. To clarify, in this context I use the word “spiritual” to refer to the elements of religious life that inform and affect one’s emotional and intellectual personae, without exclusion of one another. Students may pray and attend morning Seder because they feel they are halakhically or morally obligated to do so, and participate in Judaic studies classes out of purely academic motivations or pressures. In this religious framework, there is no way to know whether a student feels content with his or her spiritual life without asking him or her directly, and, by extension, there is no way to measure the spiritual ambience of an entire university without conducting an exhaustive sociological survey.

A parallel phenomenon exists with respect to collaborative spiritual initiative in the college context: because it is generally the case that college students feel uneasy discussing their personal spiritual lives with peers who are not their close friends,[21] it is especially difficult for college students to create or even participate in a milieu of spiritual élan. Take, as an example, the pulsating hum of Torah study in YU’s batei midrash. A Romantic – or a Hasid – might feel the presence of God hovering between the undulating words of eternity.[22] There are always exceptional individuals who can seek out and find the spiritual in the finest details of their surroundings. But for the rest of us, there may be nothing uniting the men and women talking and studying other than the mere fact that they are learning the same holy Book in the same room. How are we, as feeling and thinking spiritual beings, supposed to feel and think in such a context?

The answer, in truth, is different for each and every one of us, and it may take a lifetime to find. But if part of us wants to sit on the edge of a glassy lake or the top of a mountain and meditate on our own existence for the rest of our waking days, another part of us demands to create and actively bring spirituality into our own human handiwork. This is why Beren Campus students give weekly haburot organized by the Stern Beit Midrash Committee; this is why Yeshiva College students are reviving the Tanakh Club; and this is why both Beren and Wilf Campus students started the Religious Approaches to Faith and Theology lecture series (RAFT) last year.[23] This is what lies behind the myriad student-led efforts of previous years, from the Jewish Meditation Club’s weekly groups, to the highly successful discussion and lecture group TEIQU (Torah Exploration of Ideas: Questions and Understanding).[24] The particular missions of these groups of spiritually minded students, and the varying content of their activities, are beside the point; regardless of their external manifestations, they are, at their core, cohorts of spiritual creators. Their often-short lifespans bespeak not a failure to sustain relevance or student interest, but the bounty of creative thinkers and dreamers with which our university has always been blessed. Successive groups of students work to actualize their own ideas rather than maintaining those of their forerunners, not because the preexistent ideas are not worth maintaining, but because the newcomers choose to seize an opportunity to create something of their own. It is this creativity, I believe, which is one of three components vital to the engenderment of collective spirituality, and which is the crown jewel of the current spiritual landscape of Yeshiva University.

Here, at the heart of these creative student initiatives, I wish to hone in on what is missing, an absence that reflects a larger absence within the variegated tapestry of Modern Orthodox spirituality.[25] Many of the initiatives begun over the past five years, I have noticed, orient themselves around a common goal: the deepening of students’ intellectual approaches to Judaism. It need not be stated that this is a worthwhile endeavor, especially in these formative years of early adulthood and in a university endowed with some of the finest scholars of Torah and Judaic studies in the world. And the groups that have undertaken this laudable effort have reaped impressive fruit, with consistently high attendance at events, a veritable spectrum of theological and ethical topics, and attention from outside the student community.[26] But what the groups also share is a focus on the intellectual to the exclusion of the emotional dimension of religious life and service.[27] Faith is discussed without mention of the emotional challenges posed by emunah (religious faith) and bitahon (trust in God); Jewish law without mention of the daily struggle with the yetser ha-ra (Evil Inclination); prayer without mention of practical advice to improve kavvanah. The term avodat ha-Shem, and its meaning “service of the Lord” does not enter the conversation, as if at war with intellectual discourse. Why this spiritual dissonance, this trench between the two sides of ourselves, at events which are, at their core, unmistakably spiritual? There is no one to blame. But I believe there are interfering gaps in our spiritual experience here at YU which, when filled, will allow us to fill this internal chasm just as well.

As observant Jews, we are acutely aware of the fact that community enhances our spiritual moments and lives, on both the individual and collective levels. Prayer with a minyan is of an elevated spiritual quality[28]; Torah study with a partner draws the Divine Presence into the exchange.[29] We welcome our families, friends, and people we have never even met to our weddings, britot milah, and kiddushes; we are commanded to invite needy strangers into our homes to partake in our Festival meals.[30] Yet there is little, if any, aura of collectivity to be sensed at our student-run spiritual gatherings on campus. Students come as strangers and leave as strangers; though some outward souls may kindly extend themselves towards unfamiliar faces, nothing innate to the ambience of the gathering urges them to do so. This, I believe, owes to the lecture format, and necessity of a non-student presenter, assumed by almost all student-run religious events on campus. The advantages of this formula are self-evident: it is easy to follow, it attracts more students, and it entrusts the chosen topic to capable hands of expertise and authority. But because it relegates students to roles as listeners, it stifles conversation before any conversation can even begin. The mere fact that a person with seniority and authority – be it academic or intellectual – is the only person in the room speaking about that topic for the duration of the event implies, if only subliminally, that students are not capable of conducting a conversation about the topic on their own, even with adequate preparation. The focus on the speaker, in opposition to the audience, as the axis of the gathering forestalls the possibility of the formation of a collective, a community of individuals who can freely share their thoughts without a precondition of authority. Professors and experts should be invited to discuss their unique contributions to their fields, and to share original ideas – in those cases, there is a clear reason, other than their mere authority, why they should speak and everyone else should listen. This sort of event is appropriate on occasion, as an intellectually, and hopefully emotionally, enriching experience. But most times, as young adults still paving a path to spiritual enlightenment, we should use these opportunities to build community and camaraderie with one another, without the presence of a guest lecturer.

Community itself gives rise to a third value I consider essential to collective spiritual vitality: conversation. The ideal spiritual gathering, in my opinion, is driven by open, honest dialogue that does not fear venturing into the domains of the emotional and the personal, and does not mask that fear with the defense mechanism that is cynicism. Some of my friends complain to me that the discussion-driven events they attend on campus are “pretentious”, or at least have many “pretentious” people in attendance whose chief aim is to showcase their intelligence to their peers.  I, for one, find it difficult to believe that there are enough people on campus like that to dominate an entire event. More fundamentally, though, I think that it is not “pretense” which my friends are detecting; it is a basic discomfort with candid group conversation that afflicts our entire generation. As young adults maturing into older, more secure adults, we are loath to make ourselves appear vulnerable at this transitory period in our lives, and are thus averse to sharing our emotions with anyone other than the people closest to us.[31] We protect ourselves by veiling our true feelings in long words and short wisecracks, making genuine connection all but impossible. For spending time with friends or meeting new people, this kind of interaction is perfectly acceptable, if not ideal. But if we are to re-envision our spiritual horizons, if we are to foment spiritual revolution, we need to be able to have the sort of authentic, earnest conversation in which our spiritual yearnings and aspirations are transparent.

IV. Looking Ahead

There is no question that spirituality is alive and well at Yeshiva University. Though it can be difficult to discern on the communal plane, many students feel spiritually fulfilled in their Torah and Judaic studies as well as prayer routines. I find it challenging not to be heartened by the roar of Torah in the Glueck and Fischel Batei Midrash in the morning, by the students I see running from their last class directly to the Beit Midrash for night Seder, and by the students I see praying soulfully in front of the Aron Kodesh long after Ma’ariv has ended. And the creative groups orchestrating spiritual change on campus exhibit at least some aspect of the three characteristics I consider critical to the development of a rich, self-sustaining spiritual ecosystem, based on the most definitional qualities of successful Neo-Hassidic movements: creativity, community, and conversation.[32] It is my belief that these groups, and the Modern Orthodox community as a whole, need look no further than the recent history of Neo-Hassidism for a spiritual model that allowed these three values to blossom, and that can serve as a beacon shining towards uncharted territory of religious devotion.[33]

 

[1] Netanel Paley, “Behind the Beards: A Philosophical Survey of Modern Orthodox Neo-Hasidism.” Kol Ha-Mevaser 9:1 (November 2015), available at www.kolhamevaser.com.

[2] Including, but not limited to, the three weekly classes given by Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, Mashpia of RIETS, and the shiur of Stone Beit Midrash Program teacher and Mashgiach, Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg.

[3] Such as the 7:00 am Nusah Sefard Shacharit minyan in the Rubin Shul, informally known as “Rav Moshe Tzvi’s Minyan”, which typically lasts for an hour and features audible chanting of Pesukei de-Zimra and dancing at the conclusion of the service. This group meets on Rosh Hodesh in Zysman Hall for a monthly “Happy Minyan”, the centerpiece of which is an hourlong, often musically accompanied Hallel prayer. The Happy Minyan is itself the brainchild of the close group of friends who started the Stollel, which is elaborated upon below.

[4] In seeking this answer, I am indebted to Rabbi Dr. Ariel Evan Mayse, himself an accomplished scholar of Hassidism and Neo-Hassidism and a treasured mentor and friend of many of us at YU, for his invaluable contributions to this article and my perspective on spirituality in contemporary Orthodoxy. The forthcoming second installment of this article draws heavily from Rabbi Dr. Mayse’s forthcoming essay “The Development of Neo-Hasidism: Echoes and Repercussions,” to be published in the near future in the next edition of The Orthodox Forum, which is at once a thorough history of Neo-Hassidism as well as a crystalline vision for the future of Orthodox spirituality. Without Rabbi Dr. Mayse, this article would certainly never have seen the light of day.

[5] I use the term ‘spiritual’ here in a rather broad fashion, encompassing all areas of religious life. Elsewhere in the article, I will use the word in more limited senses.

[6] ­­For instance, Rabbi Jeremy Wieder, in whose shiur I am privileged to study, delivers a brief Mussar “schmooze” each week related to contemporary ethical issues; many other teachers do so as well, each with his own unique religious perspective and rhetorical style. Rabbi Wieder also devotes time to eat lunch with his students once a week, as does Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg and other teachers on occasion. Many MYP, BMP, and JSS/Mechina classes also organize shiur shabbatons, and IBC has an annual program-wide shabbaton.

[7] See, however, Wilf campus student Binny Shapiro’s fine article in the most recent issue of The Commentator on the shortcomings of the Night Seder program: http://yucommentator.org/2016/11/investing-in-night-seder-yus-focus-on-the-yeshiva-elite/

[8] One on R. Nahman of Bratslav’s Likutei Moharan, and one on R. Kalonymus Kalman Shapira’s Esh Kodesh.

[9] The Jewish Philosophy department at Stern, notably, has more staff and class offerings this semester than its Yeshiva College counterpart.

[10] These are minyanim for Shacharit: the aforementioned 7:00 Nusah Sefard minyan in Rubin Shul, the 7:45 “Yeshiva” minyan in the Glueck Beit Midrash, and the newest reincarnation of the 8:00 minyan in Zysman Hall, led by Rabbi Hershel Reichman. I have prayed at almost all of the other minyanim for Shacharit and they regularly complete the service in approximately thirty minutes on days when the Torah is not read.

[11] This is to say nothing of the limited minyan options for Sephardic students (one minyan per service), and the fact that there was no Nusah Sefard minyan on campus until the previous year.

[12] The 9:00 Shacharit minyan in Rubin Shul, colloquially known as the “IBC Minyan” and listed on the IBC schedule of the classes as “Explanation of Prayer”, does not, in fact, feature any explanatory element. In previous years, Rabbi Zev Reichman, a teacher in IBC, delivered a short explanation of the service each day, covering the entire service over the course of the academic year.

[13] Particularly the gabbaim (beadles), Aryeh Laufer and Dovid Simpser

[14] Elliot Heller, “New Minyan, Coffee and Tea, and Free Meals: Shabbat at Wilf Gets a MakeoverThe Commentator Online Edition, 27 November 2016, available at: www.yucommentator.org.

[15] Outside of events held on special occasions, such as the Chagigot for Hanukkah, Purim, and Yom ha-Atzmaut.

[16] See the comments of students in Josh Blicker, “Melave Malka: An Opportunity For UnityThe Commentator Online Edition, 30 November 2015, available at www.yucommentator.org

[17] This was a general sentiment echoed by alumni of Sha’alvim and similar yeshivot during last year’s SOY presidential election, and utilized as a primary platform point of candidate and Sha’alvim alumnus Itamar Lustiger. See David Rubinstein, “Opposition Fails to Unseat SOY Establishment”, The Commentator Online Edition, 10 May 2016, available at www.yucommentator.org

[18] As reported by a Stern student.

[19] As reported by several Stern students.

[20] As I will contend in the second installment of this article, based on the successes of 20th century Neo-Hassidic movements.

[21] Many psychology studies demonstrate the prevalence of “social sharing” of emotion, especially among college students; see, for example, Rime, Bernard, Pierre Philippot, Stefano Boca, and Batja Mesquita. “Long-lasting Cognitive and Social Consequences of Emotion: Social Sharing and Rumination.” European Review of Social Psychology 3.1 (1992): 225-58. Web. Nonetheless, these studies also indicate that most people share emotions only with people with whom they have a significant relationship, such as spouses/partners, family members, and close friends.

[22] Hayyim Nahman Bialik’s classic poem ha-Matmid (“The Talmud Student”) may come to mind.

[23] Yakov Stone, “RAFT Hosts Discussion with Aaron Koller on Biblical Creation in the Modern World” The Commentator Online Edition, 29 September 2016, available at www.yucommentator.org

[24] “Bridging the Cultural Divide” YU News, 1 February 2011, available at www.blogs.yu.edu/news

[25] It should be clear that my objective is only to assess those shortcomings that can be addressed, not to criticize indiscriminately; on the contrary, I am filled with childlike excitement over the possibilities opened by these ideas.

[26]“Spurred by the AgriProcessors Controversy, Students Sponsor Panel on Morality and Kashrut” YU News, 12 December 2008, available at www.blogs.yu.edu/news

[27] I myself have observed this while attending several of these events, and friends of mine have noted it to me as well.

[28] See Talmud Bavli Berakhot 6a and 21b

[29] Avot 3:6 and Talmud Bavli Berakhot 6a

[30] Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Shevitat Yom Tov 6:18

[31] See Bernard Rime , Catrin Finkenauer , Olivier Luminet , Emmanuelle Zech & Pierre Philippot (1998) “Social Sharing of Emotion: New Evidence and New Questions,” European Review of Social Psychology, 9:1, 145-189

[32] Which I will address, at length, in the next installment of this article.

[33] Netanel Paley is a senior in Yeshiva College studying biology and music, aspiring to a career in child psychology and Jewish education, but dreaming of a future spent among people, books, and trees. He thanks Rabbi Dr. Ariel Evan Mayse and Miriam Pearl Klahr for their contributions to this article.