Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Orot Israel College Library Receives Bequest from Professor Yochanan Silman z”l

By Rav Ari Shvat - Lecturer, Orot Israel College & Amalya Tsoran - Library Director, Elkana Campus

Orot Israel College’s Elkana campus library recently received a significant collection of books and manuscripts as a bequest from the late Rav Professor Yochanan Silman’s estate, thanks to the generosity of his dear wife Yehudit and as a result of Rav Ari Shvat’s efforts.
Professor Yochanan Silman z”l (5692-5772) was part of a generation of trailblazers who sought to combine Torah and research with faith, fear of Heaven, and a love of the Torah. We hope that his many books as well as his unique vision and teachings will inspire our students to learn more about him.
A graduate of prestigious yeshivot, including Hevron, Ponevezh, and Merkaz HaRav, Professor Silman learned b’chavruta for many years with Rav Dr. Zvi Elimelech Neugroschel, a veteran Orot Israel College lecturer, and he was even offered the position of head of Orot’s Jewish thought department. At a certain point, while still learning in yeshiva, he earned academic degrees from Hebrew University in philosophy and Jewish history.
Professor Silman was a longtime philosophy professor at Bar Ilan University, where he was known for his unwillingness to compromise on either Torah or research. His books and articles – as well as his extensive library – are testament to his expert knowledge of history, the Oral Torah, and many other fields. Professor Silman’s doctorate was entitled “God and Matter in the Light of the Hierarchical Relations in the Kuzari,” and he wrote numerous articles and books, including Philosopher and Prophet: Judah Halevi, the Kuzari, and the Evolution of His Thought, The Voice Heard at Sinai: Once or Ongoing, and Halachic Instructions As Guiding Principles or As Commands. In addition, he edited several scholarly journals and many books, such as The Faith of Abraham: In the Light of Interpretation throughout the Ages.
Many of Professor Silman’s books and articles focused on R’ Yehudah HaLevi, but he was also a pioneer in the field of philosophy of Halachah. In The Voice Heard at Sinai, he used his all-encompassing Torah knowledge together with his systematic thinking to tackle fundamental questions. For instance, was the entire Torah given to Moshe at Sinai, or will it be revealed or developed throughout the generations? Also, what is the difference between the rationalist and Kabbalistic approaches to the mitzvot and their underlying reasons?
Among the collection the Orot Israel College Library received from Professor Silman’s estate were books about general philosophy, ethics, morality, Jewish thought, religion and science, and Jewish history – including the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, Jewish-Christian polemics, and the history of Eretz Yisrael.
We at Orot Israel College are deeply honored to have received such a valuable gift and are extremely grateful to the family for their wonderful generosity.

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