Tahuds Posted October 25, 2010 Share Posted October 25, 2010 I'm using the following statement of purpose for YDS, and I hope the tone is ok. I'm seeking admission for the MAR comprehensive program. In Judaism there is a phrase that serves as a byword for the purpose of the Jew, mip'nei tikkun ha-olam, for the sake of the perfection of the world. This phrase is at the core of Judaism, the idea that it is our duty to make whole, to perfect the world with the aid of G-d. I have taken this idea to the core of my life and studies. It is because of this that I am drawn to graduate study at Yale, though I must admit that seeking to make the world a better place cannot be an uncommon reason for seeking entry to divinity school. I have a strong interest in the development of early Christianity and its relationship with Second Temple Judaism, specifically the manner in which early issues of identity were resolved for the Christian community as Christianity moved away from being a particularly and principally Jewish movement to identifying itself as a wholly separate religion. I believe attending Yale Divinity School would greatly aid my study in this area because of the excellent faculty in this subject, specifically Dean Attridge and Professor Collins. My principle interest however, is in interfaith reconciliation, in which Professor Volf is widely known as a leading figure. His presence, along with the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, make Yale Divinity School my top choice for graduate study as it offers me a unique opportunity to put tikkun ha-olam into practice in the classroom as well as the wider world through. Yale Divinity is also my top choice for graduate study because it is a divinity school, as opposed to a university department of religious studies. I come from a small department of philosophy and religion where the intersection of faith and intellect, as well as the active use of what we are learning, is emphasized. I believe that the academic study of religion should bear more than just intellectual fruits, and that being in a community of faith, especially if it isn’t my own, has led and will lead me to a deeper spiritual life and through that to a richer life in other areas, especially in my awareness of and care for the religious “other.” I hope that through the academic study of religious history and expression at Yale Divinity School I can grow in my ability to understand and evaluate the religious practices of not only yesterday but today. Doing so doing will enable to promote practices that edify what makes us most fully human. Out of the knowledge and understanding I gain I will attempt to advance interfaith dialogue between Christians, Jews, and Muslims and, perhaps more importantly, interfaith understanding. For the past five summers I have worked with the Boy Scouts of America by teaching, among other things, the Citizenship in the World merit badge at a summer long camp and through that work I have tried to show children of many faiths how to recognize and embrace the “other” from a social, political and most importantly, religious context. I have among these young men attempted to raise awareness of the diversity and depth of wisdom contained in faiths outside their own, and how they can meet one another from a position of mutual respect and dignity. Some weeks at camp I am more successful at this than others, but it is important that these young men learn to put aside ignorance and mistrust and seek the common ground that binds all scouts, all faiths, and all of humanity together. This is the message I hope to teach in a college classroom. I believe that it is more important than ever in this climate of so-called Islamiphobia that we in America come to terms with the pluralistic society in which we live, and seriously explore what that means for not only for the nation, but also for each of us in our own faith. I hope specifically to be able someday to work on moving Jewish and Muslim interfaith relations beyond interfaith “tolerance,” where it seems to have stagnated, to a period of interfaith reconciliation, of meeting one another again from a position other than mistrust. That being said, another focus of my academic interest is the intersection of philosophy and religion and how the dialectic method can shape and sharpen thinking in religious matters. This arises out of my background in the method of yeshiva study: of actively listening and critically evaluating texts and the interpretation of those texts by one’s partner in order to find out what the texts and those who wrote them are saying to us. My chief talent that is relevant to graduate study of religion is my ability to be the advocatus Diaboli, the Devil’s advocate, when discussing or investigating other traditions or viewpoints. I am used to being the perpetual outsider, the “other.” In my collegiate career I have always been the only Jew in a principally Christian college and my being the “other” has proved beneficial to me and those in my classes chiefly because I am able to take almost any side in a discussion. By being the “other,” I believe I act as the advocatus Dei by forcing myself and others not to accept the easy answers presented to us by tradition or inculcation but to evaluate critically what we think can be known about the subject matter and our relationship to it. I love doing this; I believe this struggle leads us closer to the truth, which I hope I can discover with the aid of my fellow students. This element of struggle is why I have no interest in going to the London School of Jewish Studies or Hebrew Union College, surrounded by those of a similar background to myself. At heart I try to be a Platonist and, in the tradition of Plato, I believe that Socrates was right when he said the unexamined life is not worth living. I would like the chance to examine life in all its richness and variety with the community at Yale Divinity School. Tahuds 1 Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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