Monday, February 22, 2010

Shabbat in Haifa

On Shabbat Parshat Teruma, Shana Bet Overseas Students together with Shiur Dalet Israeli students travelled to Haifa with Rav Yair Kahn, Rav Menachem Leibtag, Rav Assaf Bednarsh and their families.

Talmidim stopped for lunch at the Baha'i Gardens on the way up to Haifa. The famous Terraced Gardens were originally planned by Shoghi Effendi and they have recently undergone a massive redesign by architect Fariborz Sahba aimed at putting them on the world's horticultural map. In 2008, UNESCO named the Baha'i Shrine a World Heritage Site.
The students were hosted for Friday night dinner by members of the Merkaz Kehillati Dati Achuza (MAKA) – The Ahuza Orthodox Community Center! Thanks to Dena Slonim and Yvette Gershon for their gracious hospitality in arranging accommodation and Friday night dinner!

Shana Bet students joined Chevraya Bet (high school and college students) of Snif Bnei Akiva Carmel – Haifa for a Friday Night Oneg. They dialogued about offering Israeli citizens living abroad the right to vote in Israeli elections.

Shabbat Morning, talmidim met with The Israeli Minister of Science and Technology, MK Rabbi and Professor Daniel Hershkowitz. Minister Hershkowitz engaged talmidim in a discussion about the flight path of rockets. Israeli scientists observed that rockets waggle in flight. Although it seems contradictory, they discovered that a bit of resistance which should slightly vary the flight path actually helps the rocket fly more efficiently. Minister Hershkowitz applied this lesson to life. Knowledge can be acquired from a great variety of sources. Studying and integrating diverse forms of intelligence actually helps one to stay the path.

Rav She'ar Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Haifa met with Shana Bet talmidim right after lunch. The Chief Rabbi shared his experiences during the Israeli War of Independence. Rav She'ar Yashuv did his military training in Gush Etzion and his commander was HaRav Medan's father, Meir! He was severely injured in the fighting to defend the Old City. The Chief Rabbi explained that he walks with the help of a cane as a result of a wound he took to his leg. When the Jewish Quarter fell, he was captured by the Arab Legion. Together with the survivors of Gush Etzion and the defenders of the Jewish Quarter, he was taken to Amman and spent seven months in the "Mifrak" prison camp in Jordan.

Talmidim had an opportunity to meet some remarkable people and an awesome Shabbat exploring Haifa! This model of including staff, alumni on site, overseas and Israeli students was so successful we hope to repeat it often!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Shevat 5770

It was our great privilege to spend Shabbat Kodesh Parshat BeShalach / Shabbat Shira – in Tzefat Ir HaKodesh. This ancient city was once the foremost center of Torah in the Holy Land: the teachings of the Kabbalah were developed in the hills of Tzfat and Rav Yosef Karo "brought down the light" of halacha, the Shulchan Aruch there.

Shana Alef and Darkaynu talmidim kicked off the Shabbaton Friday morning with a visit to Meron: the Kever of the Rashb"i. Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai lived in this area during the era of the Mishna after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. He was one of the most eminent disciples of Rabbi Akiva, and is attributed with the authorship of the Zohar. In addition, the legal homilies of the Sifre and Mekhilta are attributed to him.

Our new group of MTA talmidim (from South Africa and Australia) met with Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rav of Alon Shevut and founder Halachic Institute of Yeshivat Har Etzion followed by coffee, cake and a historical presentation in the Gush Etzion Winery.

MTA madrich, Elchanan Juravel led Kabbalat Shabbat, the prayer initiated by the Ariz"l in the shul of the Tzaddik HaLavan, and HaRav Mosheh Lichtenstein spoke before Maariv about being in Tzefat and our connection to Eretz Yisrael.

Special guest R' Eli Weber and Shana Alef talmid, Josh Botwinick delivered Divrei Torah at Friday night dinner. Despite the cold weather, dinner was followed by a moonlit tour of the city. Tzefat is actually referred to as Tzefiya in the Talmud, as in the word "Tzofeh," or "overlook." The moniker is apt, since Tzefat is located at the highest point in the Gallil. In face, Tzefat was one of the towns where fires were built to alert people that the new month or a festival was being welcomed. Upon this strategic location the Crusaders built an impressive citadel, "a fortress of very great strength between Acre and the Sea of Galilee." This is now called Metzudat Tzefat, and it is the very place that Shana Alef talmidim found themselves Friday Night of Shabbat Shira. The absolutely majestic view inspired a shared moment of pure "shira" as talmidim sang lichvod Shabbat kodesh.

After the tour, Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Mosheh Lichtenstein, Rabbi Danny Rhein, Rabbi Moshe Aberman, and R' Eli Weber hosted a tish. Eli Weber and his family are spending a year in Israel and Eli (who is an alumnus from 1981) is learning in the Beit Midrash this year. At the tish, talmidim asked questions regarding Jewish education and challenges facing Modern Orthodoxy.

On Shabbat morning, talmidim had three parallel options for Shacharit and shirat hayam. Some talmidim woke early to daven with the Breslover Chassidim. Others joined Rabbi David Yehuda in Beit Knesset "Noam Yehuda". Noam Yehuda z"l was a talmid of Yeshivat Har Etzion who fell in service of his country. Every year Yeshivat Har Etzion talmidim honor his memory by joining his family Shabbat morning for davening, in the shul bearing his name. The third group davened at the Beirav shul which is a Carlebach style minyan.

Davening was followed by a choice of Siyurim or a Shiur by the Rosh Yeshiva. We would like to thank tour guides Reuven Lavi and Asher Altshul for sharing their knowledge and love of the land of Israel. HaRav Mosheh Lichtenstein spoke about the mitzvah of yishuv eretz yisrael.

Rabbi Rhein and Darkaynu talmid, Brendan Stern delivered Divrei Torah at lunch. Talmidim were invited to the Breslov shul for Mincha. Before davening, HaRav Elazar Mordechai Kenig, shlit"a, Manhig of Kiryat Breslov in Tzefat praised talmidim for their level of learning and spoke with them about the importance of preparing oneself before learning.

At Seudah Shlishit, Rabbi Aberman spoke of the unique magnetism of the holy city of Tzefat – the city's seeming ability to unify and bring together all kinds of Jews.

On Motzei Shabbat, talmidim enjoyed Pizza from the local "Mystic Pizza" store and had the opportunity to share their Melave Malka with Yeshivat Har Etzion alumnus from 1989, Rabbi Simcha Mirvis, now a Breslover Chasid. Rabbi Mirvis reflected on his experiences in Yeshivat Har Etzion's Beit midrash as and his learning in the Breslover Beit Midrash. Rabbi Mirvis concluded that we definitely share more in common as a community of learners than we differ.
With our warm regards,
The office

Shana Alef Shabbaton in Raanana

Talmidim were hosted by the Ohel Ari Shul in Raanana. Beit Knesset Ohel Ari is named in memory of IDF Sgt. Ari Weiss H"YD, the son of Rabbi Stewart and Susie Weiss, who fell in battle in 2002 against Hamas terrorists. We thank the Ohel Ari community for its gracious hospitality in welcoming our talmidim for Shabbat and hosting them for Friday night dinner.

Talmidim joined Rabbi Seth Farber, Rabbi of Kehillat Netivot (and an alumnus of Yeshivat Har Etzion - 1986) for a Tish on Friday night. Rabbi Farber is best known as the Founder and Director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center. ITIM helps secular Jews navigate the Israeli religious establishment during critical moments of Jewish life. Rabbi Farber described the work of ITIM and his hope that ITIM will continue to serve as a bridge for secular Jews to Halachik Judaism.
To find out more about ITIM, please visit:

Kiddush and Lunch took place in the home of madrich, Eitan Martin!

Seuda Shlishit was held in the home of madrich, Ariel Brounstein! Rabbi Daniel Beller, Rabbi of Kehillat Shivtei Yisrael (a Yeshiva alumnus - 1982). Rabbi Beller is the founder and director of “Bakehilla”, a community based educational project that seeks to make Judaism more accessible, relevant and personalized to the secular Israeli public. Rabbi Beller urged talmidim to take full advantage of their year of study in Yeshivat Har Etzion which he referred to as a "Palace of Torah" and then challenged talmidim to use this knowledge for the betterment of Jewish communal life world-wide.

After Shabbat, Rabbi Beller wrote the Yeshiva a message,
"It was a joy to be with such wonderful boys. And, for a change,
I did not have to try and inspire people to be interested
as they are already on fire!
I am always willing to do whatever possible
for the institution that gave me so much!"

We thank Shana Alef Madrichim: Ariel Brounstein, Ariel Cohen, and Eitan Martin (all from Raanana) for a wonderful Shabbaton and allowing our talmidim to meet some remarkable people!