Volume 7, Number 1, May 2011

G vanim:
The Journal of the Academy for Jewish Religion


The weaver creates the fabric in accordance with his will, adorning it with a magnificent array of hues  “G’vanim” as His heart may prompt.  It is in precisely these terms that the Kuzaru describes God’s constantly unfolding work of Creation. Our own G’vanim – the Journal of the Academy for Jewish Religion – similarly makes a modest contribution to God s work – and to our understanding of God s Word – by weaving together the creative insights and heartfelt perspectives of an array of scholars and authors. The Academy for Jewish religion intuitively embodies the vision of the Kuzari by understanding that a principled pluralism sensitive to the wide variety of hues reflected in the Jewish community is indispensable to a full appreciation of God’s Creation and God’s Will.

To this end, we and our readers are indebted to those who contributed to this edition of G’vanim. Rabbi David Golinkin, President of Jerusalem’s Schechter Institute of Jewish studies and a prolific Posek, has provided a timely responsum regarding the religious status of the Kotel and adjoining plaza – and the nettlesome controversies surrounding that sacred site. Rabbi Michael Pitkowsky, the Academy’s rabbinics curriculum coordinator, reviews the life and work of Rabbi Yehudah Leib Zirelson with special attention to his responsa, their rulings, methodology, and perspective on modernity. Included in this volume is my own responsum on the unusual conversion of Samson Mugombe, for 75 years spiritual leader of Uganda’s Abayudaya community and known to them as Rabbi Samson.  The inclusion in a single issue of G’vanim of three original studies focused on responsa – she-eilot u-teshuvot – is testimony to the thoughtful and serious attention – so characteristic of AJR – to the ways Jewish law continues to inform and guide 21st-century Jewish souls.

Also in this issue, AJR’s director of Spiritual Education, Rabbi Jill Hammer, revisits the Book of Ruth, providing a fresh and insightful perspective. The Academy’s Rabbi-in-Residence, Rabbi Jeff Hoffman, further expands his contribution to the study of Jewish Liturgy with his commentary on the Shabbat piyyut, El Adon.

May this edition of G’vanim further strengthen AJR’s mission by providing a glimpse at the beautiful fabric emanating from the heart of the divine weaver.

Joseph H. Prouser
May 2011

Editorial Board

T A B L E   O F   C O N T E N T S
Is the Entire Kotel Plaza Really a Synagogue?
David Golinkin
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Ruth and Naomi: The Return of the Seed
Jill Hammer
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El Adon – An Historical, Literary, and Spiritual Commentary
Jeffrey Hoffman
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Modernity as Seen Through the Responsa of Rabbi Yehudah Leib Zirelson
Michael Pitkowsky
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The Conversion of Rabbi Samson
Joseph H. Prouser
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