Clubs, News

Moot Beit Din: The Halakhic Perspective

Raphaela Gold ‘21


On the weekend of April 5, Limudei Qodesh teacher Mikey Stein, sophomore Sarah Horvath, and junior Talia Levin traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina to represent Heschel in the Moot Beit Din competition at American Hebrew Academy. Each year, the Moot Beit Din competition focuses on a different contemporary topic, ranging from controversy over self-driving cars to the moral implications of organ donations. Each team must write a ruling stating their view on the subject based on the Talmud, using halakhic, rabbinic, and biblical sources. This year, the competition surrounded the Jewish value of tza’ar ba’alei chayim – not allowing animals to suffer – and whether or not a Jewish camp serving industrialized meat was upholding that value.

After delivering their statement to the judges, the Heschel team came in second place! Horvath, who joined Moot Beit Din last year to further her skills in analyzing Talmudic sources and her debate skills, said that “Moot Beit Din has been the most fulfilling club.” She explained, “Through analyzing sources, writing the written ruling, and creating the oral presentation, I really feel like I accomplished a lot.”

Stein, the facilitator of the club, was proud that the team did so well, stating that they were “few, but mighty.” He enjoys working with the students in the club because “there aren’t so many opportunities to engage fully in the Halakhic process and see how these texts are potentially relevant.” He continued, “Just because society has changed doesn’t mean this text isn’t relevant to us.” Stein also likes the fact that students meet kids from other schools from all over North America, as well as Canada and Israel. He loves to see “lots of Jewish kids from different backgrounds, all of whom are interested in this type of halakhic thinking, gather together.” Stein added, “They make good friends with other students and keep in touch, which is nice.” At Heschel, the Rabbinic process is often discussed, but students don’t often get to see how dynamic it can be. According to Stein, “seeing issues that come up in our daily lives through a halakhic lens” allows us to better assess moral and ethical tensions and find an optimal balance.

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