Academic Year 2012-2013
Richard Lewis has been Rosh Hayeshiva of The Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem since 2003. Before that he was a Senior Lecturer in Talmud and Halakha and Faculty Advisor in Jewish Law in the Center for Women in Jewish Law at the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies, and a research fellow and lecturer in the Beit Midrash program at the Shalom Hartman Institute. He received rabbinic ordination from the Schechter Institute and a Ph.D. summa cum laude from Hebrew University. His book 'And Before Honor – Humility': The Ideal of Humility in the Moral Language of the Sages [Hebrew] is scheduled for publication by Magnes Press of Hebrew University in December 2012. The weekly sichot he gives at the Conservative Yeshiva are recorded and posted on the following website (scroll down to "Reb Shmuel's Thursday sichot"): http://www.uscj.org.il/media.php
He lives in Jerusalem with his wife Yael.
Urging Inner Devotion in Public Space: Lithuanian Musar and Liberal Religious Discourse, a Philosophical, Phenomenological Comparison
The 19th century Musar movement presented not only a religious opposition to Lithuanian talmudism, it presented also a religious alternative to Haskalah. It did this partly by privatizing religion, moving the emphasis away from fixed public forms and into a rich inner life of devotion and virtue. This is consistent with larger changes in religion in the west since the middle ages, but has special interest as a response to challenges to traditional religion in the name of autonomy. Contemporary committed liberal Jews deal with an opposite issue – they embrace autonomy as a religious ideal and struggle with the submission implicit in traditional ideals of piety.
I hope to compare the musar discourses of a particular musar beit midrash over three generations (Reb Simha Zissel Ziv of Kelm–R. Yeruham Levovitz of Mir–R. Shlomo Wolbe of Be'er Ya'akov) and the sichot I give in the Conservative Yeshiva. The method will be phenomenological: to describe from within what it feels like – what it means – to a devotee to pursue the various ideals presented, whether of classic Musar or my own sichot, and then to analyze the descriptions of the world that make those aspirations appropriate and appealing. I will utilize recent philosophical and historical work on secularization to locate the tensions disclosed between ideals of piety and autonomy in a larger non-parochial context.