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Dr. Daniel Rynhold with Professor Yair Lorberbaum at the PhD luncheon on Oct. 19th 2015

Revel’s PhD students had the privilege of meeting Professor Yair Lorberbaum at a private luncheon on Monday October 19th in the Revel lounge. Lorberbaum is a distinguished scholar with a broad range of interests, particularly the intersection of halakha, legal theory, and theology. Lorberbaum is currently a professor at Bar Ilan University’s Law School.

Lorberbaum imbued his captivated audience with guidance and encouragement commending their choice to venture along the academic path. Speaking from personal experience, Lorberbaum addressed the issue of how to choose a subject in the field of academia and what makes a particular topic a “good” topic. This was particularly relevant to many of our PhD students who have just finished coursework and are now deciding what niche area they will devote their lives to. Lorberbaum compared choosing a subject to entering a marriage as it will occupy your thought and your time and is indeed a life’s pursuit. Therefore the most important thing in choosing a subject is passion. Lorberbaum emphatically stressed the significance of this point. You must feel a sense of urgency and love towards your subject, if it bores you it will just become your “work” and you will never be able to complete it. In his own academic life, Lorberbaum struggled with picking the perfect subject. In fact, he sifted through at least four subjects (spending months on each) before finally settling on his perfect match – Tzelem Elokim.

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Professor Lorberbaum addressing the PhD students

 

According to Lorberbaum a “good” topic must be well-defined and directed yet, still rich in size. The more questions you can ask about a topic, the more layers you can add to enrich it. A successful article or book deals with one thing. Lorberbaum cautioned not to try and solve all the problems in the world. If you develop or discover one new rich thing, that is a worthwhile achievement. The key is to define your subject well and then work within its confines constantly adding more depth.

For Lorberbaum, Tzelem Elokim continues to be an engaging topic as it is clear to define, but when you begin to think about it there are so many aspects to it ranging from halakha, philosophy, history, aggadah, legal theory, and more. Lorberbaum’s last bit of advice was: the more you learn and the more disciplines you know the better equipped you will be to broaden your topic while still remaining within its clear borders.

Later that evening, Lorberbaum gave an engaging lecture to the Revel community entitled “Ta’amei ha-Mitzvot in the Thought of Rashba”. To read the write-up from his presentation, click here.

 

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