July 20, 2024
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Shani Taragin Initiates Frisch’s Second Annual Speakers Series

Whether seated in a classroom overlooking Harei Yehuda or on a grassy knoll at Camp Moshava in the Pocono Mountains, listening to a shiur by Shani Taragin is both a pleasure and a privilege. The pleasure derives from her warm smile, welcoming demeanor and ease and flow of expression. The privilege derives from her erudition, breadth of sources including wide-ranging texts and commentaries, and her mesmerizing passion for the message she is conveying to her audience. Without hesitation, Shani Taragin figures in the highest echelons of contemporary female Torah scholars. It is therefore not surprising that the Frisch School selected her as their initial lecturer at this year’s Distinguished Speakers Series which was hosted last week at the home of Naomi and Jason Greenblatt.

Shani’s credentials are as extensive as they are impressive. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Bar Ilan University, where she studied Tanach and Talmud, and where she is pursuing her Ph.D. Shani is also a graduate of Nishmat’s Keren Ariel Program for certification as a yoetzet, a halachic adviser on issues of family purity law. At Midreshet Lindenbaum, she serves as a Ram as well as coordinator of Torah studies. She also offers shiurim at MaTan, Sha’alvim for Women, Migdal Oz, Midreshet Torah VeAvodah, as well as the Womens’ Batei Midrash in Efrat and Ramat Shilo. She is a sought-out speaker throughout Israel and North America. Summers find her at Camp Moshava in Pennsylvania where she directs the Women’s Beit Midrash Program.

Frisch’s Distinguished Speakers Series was established last year by Miriam and Daniel Michael in keeping with the school’s mission of enriching their students’ understanding and appreciation of Jewish thought. The program is intended to provide “sophisticated discourse between parents and children, enabling them to share meaningful learning and thought,” said Rabbi Eli Ciner, Frisch’s head of school, in his introduction.

Teaneck’s Miriam and Daniel Michael’s daughter Michal graduated from Frisch last year and is currently enjoying a year in Israel at Migdal Oz. The Michaels endowed this series, to be presented three to four times a year, to express their gratitude for the excellent education their daughter received during her four years at Frisch. “Our daughter Michal was the recipient not only of a superior general education, but she was also imbued with a love and connection to Yiddishkeit which will accompany her throughout her four years at the University of Pennsylvania and hopefully always,” they told the Jewish Link.

In her fascinating shiur which she entitled “Dudaim, Destiny and Parenthood,” Taragin recounted the Biblical story of Reuven, the oldest child of Yaakov, bringing his mother Leah a gift of mandrakes which she was persuaded to hand over to Rachel in exchange for a night with “their” husband. Through an intriguing analysis of the texts accompanied by a wide spectrum of commentaries, Taragin shared a contemporary scenario for the dos and don’ts of parenting.

Reuven’s motivation in this story is to show kindness to his mother Leah whom he feels is being neglected by his father Yaakov. However, in his determination to please her at all costs, Reuven forgets who is in charge and who will orchestrate events. Rachel similarly is motivated by her desperate desire for a child, but does not focus on the ultimate decider and dispenser of life. Leah, in contrast, is fully cognizant of Hashem’s guidance of the world and thus she is rewarded at the end of the episode with additional children. The message to parents, suggests Taragin, is that “our children have tremendous strengths and equally great determination. The role of the parent is to encourage these strides while tempering them with the realization that makes Yosef HaTzadik our model of behavior when he declares to his brothers ‘Am I in the place of G-d?’ We must encourage our children’s capabilities, but at the same time remind them from whom they came,” she said.

By Pearl Markovitz

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