web analytics
July 2, 2015 / 15 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

When The Supreme Court Justices Learned Daf Yom


Did Rabbi Meir Shapiro, zt”l, imagine, when he proposed the learning of a Daf Yomi at the Agudas Yisroel Kenessia Gedola in 1923, that almost 80 years later the Daf would be learned by the two Jewish justices of the United States Supreme Court (one of whom is female) and three other Jewish federal judges at a glatt kosher dinner attended by leading members of the bar in the Supreme Court’s majestic “Marble Palace?” As we celebrate the Siyum Hashas this week and begin again with the rigorous disciplined learning that the Daf prescribes, the historic event deserves to be retold.

The concept of a dinner to be attended by Supreme Court justices to celebrate the study of Jewish Law was the brainchild of Rabbi Noson Gurary of Buffalo. He had been teaching Jewish Law at Buffalo Law School and invited Justice Antonin Scalia, a devout Catholic, to come to Buffalo for a speaking engagement at the school. The event, held in 2001, was a resounding success.

As is always true at public sessions attended and addressed by Justice Scalia, he charmed the audience with his brilliance and wit. Reciprocally, Justice Scalia was captivated by Rabbi Gurary’s dedication and learning. The justice has long been an admirer of Talmudic scholarship, and he has even quoted it in his published opinions. A decision he wrote in 1999 began: “Talmudic sages believed that judges who accepted bribes would be punished by eventually losing all knowledge of the divine law.”

Justice Scalia and I were classmates in the Harvard Law School class of 1960, where we were both officers of the Harvard Law Review. We had a number of vigorous debates over issues of constitutional law; other Review editors viewed them as verbal battles between “the Talmudist and the Jesuit.” His views on the separation of church and state accord with the interests of the Orthodox Jewish community, and he has volunteered to speak at Orthodox Jewish events.

Rabbi Gurary’s dream was to establish a “National Institute for Judaic Law” through which scholars in Jewish Law could work on explaining the legal principles of civil halacha to judges, lawyers, and interested laymen. He discussed his ideas with Justice Scalia, who agreed to lend his support to such a project. For an event to be held in the Supreme Court Building, the sponsorship of a Supreme Court justice is needed. Justice Scalia agreed that his office would ask that facilities at the Court be made available for the opening event of Rabbi Gurary’s “National Institute for Judaic Law.”

Rabbi Gurary came to visit me in Washington to seek my assistance in bringing this dream to fruition. He also visited with other well-known lawyers in Washington including Professor Marshall Breger. We agreed to help, but I must admit that I was skeptical of Rabbi Gurary’s ability to carry out even the first step of his ambitious program – a glatt kosher sit-down dinner in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court Building.

There had been kosher receptions in the Supreme Court Building in connection with events of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists. But never, before 2002, was there a kosher formal dinner with the guests sitting at tables served by a battalion of waiters. There are many restrictions that make such an event exceedingly difficult. And it is, in every real sense, an enormous financial undertaking. The Supreme Court’s rules regarding the use of its facilities prohibit any form of fund-raising.

But Rabbi Gurary persevered. He stopped by my office to tell me he would be visiting to discuss this project with the two Jewish justices, Ruth Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. I was uncertain of the reception they might give him, but he returned with glowing endorsements from both. They promised to attend the dinner and to say a few words.

About the Author: Nathan Lewin is a Washington, D.C., lawyer who wrote the 1983 New York Get Law and the COLPA amicus curiae brief in Avitzur v. Avitzur, the 1983 New York Court of Appeals decision that approved, 4-to-3, the constitutionality of a pre-nuptial agreement requiring the couple to appear before a bet din in case of divorce.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “When The Supreme Court Justices Learned Daf Yom”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
investing-in-gold_4548807_lrg
What Sanctions? Iran Receives 13 Tons of Gold From S. Africa
Latest Indepth Stories
The Marianne boat, carrying humanitarian aid such, as a single and useless solar panel.

The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi

The president described the attack as “an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…”

Donald Trump

“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump.

And whereas at the outset the plan was that Iran would have to surrender most of its centrifuges, it will now be able to retain several thousand.

Now oil independent, US no longer needs its former strategic alliances with Gulf States-or Israel

In addition to the palace’s tremendous size it was home to the “hanging gardens,” which were counted among the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Rather than asserting Jewish rights on Temple Mount or protecting Jewish lives Israel chooses soccer

Nothing in the NEW Paris Proposal differs much from what was offered by Olmert and rejected by Abbas

No longer will delegitimization efforts go unchallenged. That’s a silence we will continue to break.

Increasingly, Sweden is becoming a country where anti-Semitism & supporting terrorism is acceptable.

Rabbi Pfeffer points out that at his site, there are no one-line answers. “We want to show the people we’re interested in their questions,” he says.

The problem with US treatment of Israel did not start with Obama but with birth of Jewish State

The pathetic failure of the Marianne to reach Gaza is the best thing that has happened to Israel since Hamas mis-fired a rocket on its own civilians.

Wonder why Israel has the world’s most insane rules of engagement imposed on its military? Read on..

More Articles from Nathan Lewin
Nathan Lewin

In a 1936 majority opinion, Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland said that the president is “the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations.”

Nathan Lewin

FBI’s undercover agents contacted ORA (Org. for the Resolution of Agunot) pretending to be an agunah

Obama’s approach to evildoers echoes Gandhi’s fatuous and muddleheaded pleas to his “friend” Hitler

Roosevelt sneaked out of the White House through a rear exit rather than meet with the 400 Rabbis

In the Thirties it was common for anti-Semites to call on Jews to “go to Palestine!”

Federal and local laws protect your right to workplace accommodations for your religious observance.

The inauguration of an American president has, since 1937, always begun with an invocation by a clergyman

The late Israeli Supreme Court judge Menachem Elon, was a pioneer of Jewish and Israeli law.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/when-the-supreme-court-justices-learned-daf-yom/2005/03/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: