Meet Maor Lankri, Mechina class of 2014, who recently completed his mandatory military service and shares his thoughts on Judaism and law.
On Judaism, law and everything in between
I believe that there’s been a big change in our approach to higher education today, for two primary reasons. First, there is a question about the need for academic studies and a preference for actual experience, a trend being led by the high tech industries. Second, young people are very unsure about what they want to study. Students frequently change their majors after beginning their studies. And it doesn’t help that every year all kinds of classes open up in different departments and fields, making the choice even more difficult (did somebody say GenerationY?).
Despite this, I’ve known for a long time what I want to study. I came to the world of academia after a long period in the IDF, where I finished my service as a Company Commander. It could be summed up as a period in which the muscles worked a bit harder than the brain. I arrived at the university hungry to learn. I also wanted this to be a time that I could enjoy and would help direct me on the right career path. I decided to find a balance between business and pleasure and chose Law and Jewish Thought (guess which is business and which is pleasure?) at the Hebrew university in Jerusalem.
I chose law because I think it’s the area that can have the greatest impact on the public discourse. At the same time, law lacks any natural self-depth and seeks meaning from other fields like philosophy, economics, sociology and more. For example, when a judge decides to mete out a more severe sentence, in order to set an example, there is a tacit understanding that the severity of a punishment will impact on the choices made by potential criminals on whether or not to commit a crime. In this case, there is a negative correlation, that is, a more severe punishment = less crime. But law does not make these assumptions; these are found in areas like criminology, psychology and sociology. A judge cannot find an answer to this kind of assumption in the field of law; she must look elsewhere. When I’m finished with my studies, I hope to work in some area of public law, perhaps even in the courts, this field is not only interesting, but also central to public discourse.
We all know that beginnings are hard. The hardest part about starting in a new place like a university is the questions you are asked repeatedly when getting to know people – What’s your name? Where do you live? What’s your major? When I tell people that I’m studying Jewish Thought, everyone says “fantastic” or “how great”. And the unspoken question is: Why?
I chose to continue learning because I also think it’s important to study the social sciences and Judaism from an academic perspective, even as a second major since so few people choose this area of study, diminishing its importance. But there is another reason. I grew up in a religious home and I was always interested in existential questions. But I think that a very significant part of my love for Jewish learning came from the Mechina and my time at Hannaton. The open and varied learning, the different opinions and the unique approach to Judaism allowed me to fall in love with learning once again, but this time from a different angle. And now, I’m grateful for the chance to continue on that path of learning.