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Word Net

yeshiva n : an academy for the advanced study of Jewish texts (primarily the Talmud) [syn: yeshivah] [also: yeshivoth (pl), yeshivahs (pl)]

English

Pronunciation

(US) IPA: /jəˈʃiːvə/

Noun

  1. An academy for the advanced study of Jewish texts.
A yeshiva or yeshivah () (Hebrew: ישיבה, "sitting (n.)" ; pl. yeshivot or yeshivas) is a Jewish institution for Torah study and the study of Talmud. Yeshivot are usually Orthodox Jewish institutions, and generally cater to boys or men. A roughly equivalent women's institution is the midrasha, although the term yeshiva can be used for a mixed or women's institution as well.
The term yeshiva gedola ("senior/great yeshiva") refers to post-high school institutions, and yeshiva ketana ("junior/small yeshiva") refers to institutions catering to boys of high school age. The term "yeshiva" is also used as a generic name for any school that teaches Torah, Mishnah and Talmud, to any age group.
A yeshiva with a framework for independent study and providing stipends for male married students is known as a kollel.

Etymology

Jewish tradition holds that students should sit while learning from a master. The word yeshiva, meaning "sitting," therefore came to be applied to the activity of learning in class, and hence to a learning "session."
The transference in meaning of the term from the learning session to the institution itself appears to have occurred by the time of the great Talmudic Academies in Babylonia, Sura and Pumbedita, which were known as shte ha-yeshivot, "the two colleges."

History

See also: Torah study

Pre-1800s

Traditionally, every town rabbi had the right to maintain a number of full-time or part-time pupils in the town's beth midrash (study hall, usually adjacent to the synagogue). Their cost of living was covered by community taxation. After a number of years, these young people would either take up a vacant rabbinical position elsewhere (after obtaining semicha, rabbinical ordination) or join the workforce.
The Mishna tractate Megilla mentions the law that a town can only be called a "city" if it supports ten men (batlanim) to make up the required quorum for communal prayers. Likewise, every beth din (rabbinical court) was attended by a number of pupils up to three times the size of the court (Mishna, tractate Sanhedrin). These might be indications of the historicity of the classical yeshiva.
As indicated by the Talmud, adults generally took off two months a year (Elul and Adar, the months preceding the harvest) to pursue work, the rest of the year they studied.

The Lithuanian yeshivas

Organised Torah study was revolutionised by Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, a disciple of the Vilna Gaon (an influential 18th century leader of Judaism). In his view, the traditional arrangement did not cater for those who were looking for more intensive study.
With the support of his teacher, Rabbi Volozhin gathered a large number of interested students and started a yeshiva in the (now Belarusian) town of Volozhin. Although the Volozhin Yeshiva was closed some 60 years later by the Russian government, a number of yeshivot opened in other towns and cities, most notably Ponevezh, Mir, Brisk, and Telz. Many prominent contemporary yeshivos in the USA and Israel are continuations of these institutions and often bear the same name.

Types of yeshivot

There are a few types of yeshivot:
  1. Yeshiva ketana ("junior yeshiva") - Many yeshivot ketanot in Israel and some in the Diaspora do not have a secular course of studies and all students learn Judaic Torah studies full time.
  2. Yeshiva High School - Also called Mesivta or Mechina, combines the intensive Jewish religious education with a secular high school education. The dual curriculum was pioneered by the Manhattan Talmudical Academy of Yeshiva University (now known as Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy) in 1916.
  3. Mechina - For Israeli high-school graduates who wish to study for one year before entering the army.
  4. Beth Medrash - For high school graduates, and is attended from one year to many years, dependent on the career plans and affiliation of the student.
  5. Yeshivat Hesder - Yeshiva that has an arrangement with the Israel Defence Forces by which the students enlist together and, as much as is possible serve together in the army. Over a period of about 5 years there will be a period of service starting in the second year of about 16 months. There are different variations. The rest of the time will be spent in compulsory study in the yeshiva.
  6. Kollel - Yeshiva for married adults. The kollel idea, though having its intellectual roots traced to the Torah, is a relatively modern innovation of 19th century Europe. Often, a Kollel will be in the same location as the yeshiva.
  7. Baal teshuva yeshivos catering to the needs of the newly-Orthodox. The best-known are Ohr Somayach and Aish HaTorah.
Traditionally, religious girls' schools are not called "yeshiva." In 1918, under the guidance of Sarah Schenirer the Bais Yaakov system was started, which provided girls with a Torah education, with a curriculum that skewed more toward practical halakha and the study of Tanach, rather than Gemara. Bais Yaakovs are strictly Hareidi schools. Non-Hareidi girls' schools' curricula often includes the study of Mishna. They are also sometimes called "yeshiva" (e.g., Prospect Park Yeshiva). Post-high schools for girls are generally called "seminary."

Prominent yeshivot

Main article: List of yeshivas

Academic year

In most yeshivos the year is divided into three periods (terms) called zmanim. Elul zman starts from the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul and extends until the end of Yom Kippur. This is the shortest (approx. six weeks), but most intense semester as it comes before the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Winter zman starts after Sukkot ("Tabernacles") and lasts until just before Passover, a duration of five months (six in a Jewish leap year).
Summer semester starts after Passover and lasts until either the middle of the month of Tammuz or Tisha B'Av, a duration of about three months.

Typical schedule

The following is a typical daily schedule for Beit Midrash students:
  • 7:00 a.m. - Optional seder (study session)
  • 7:30 a.m. - Morning prayers
  • 8:30 a.m. - Session on study of Jewish law
  • 9:00 a.m. - Breakfast
  • 9:30 a.m. - Morning Talmud study (first seder)
  • 12:30 p.m. - Shiur (lecture) - advanced students sometimes dispense with this lecture
  • 1:30 p.m. - Lunch
  • 2:45 p.m. - Mincha - afternoon prayers
  • 3:00 p.m. - Mussar seder - Jewish ethics
  • 3:30 p.m. - Talmud study (second seder)
  • 7:00 p.m. - Dinner
  • 8:00 p.m. - Night seder - Review of lecture, or study of choice.
  • 9:25 p.m. - Mussar seder - Jewish Ethics
  • 9:45 p.m. - Maariv - Evening prayers
  • 10:00 p.m. - Optional evening seder
This schedule is generally maintained Sunday through Thursday. On Thursday nights there may be an extra long night seder, known as mishmar sometimes lasting beyond 1:00 am, and in some yeshivot even until the following sunrise. On Fridays there is usually at least one seder in the morning and the afternoons are free. Saturdays have a special Shabbat schedule which includes some sedarim but usually no shiur.

Method of study

Studying is usually done together with a study-partner called a chavruta (Aramaic: "friend"), or in a shiur (lecture). The chavruta is one of the unique features of the yeshiva. The young men studying in the yeshiva will spend most of their time with a study partner. The duo should read over the text, discuss it, test each other, ask questions, encourage each other etc. Upon entering the main study of the yeshiva, a first-time visitor will be amazed at the noise level. The learning partners in each chavruta will be almost shouting at each other, generating much noise.

Talmud study

In the typical yeshiva, the main emphasis is on Talmud study and analysis. Generally, two parallel Talmud streams are covered during a zman (trimester). The first is study in-depth (be-iyun) with an emphasis on analytical skills and close reference to the classical commentators; the latter seeks to cover ground more speedily, to build general knowledge (bekiyut) of the Talmud; see The Talmud in modern-day Judaism.
Works generally studied to clarify the Talmudic text are the commentary by Rashi and the analyses of the Tosafists. Various other meforshim (commentators) are used as well.

Jewish law

Generally, a period is devoted to the study of practical halakha (Jewish law). The text most commonly studied is the Mishnah Berurah written by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan. The Mishnah Berurah is a compilation of halakhic opinions rendered after the time of the writing of the Shulkhan Arukh.

Ethics

The preeminent ethical text studied in yeshivot is the Mesillat Yesharim ("Path [of the] Just") by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto. Other works studied include:
Chasidic yeshivos study Hasidic philosophy (Chassidus). Chabad yeshivos, for example, study the Tanya, the Likutei Torah, and the voluminous works of the Rebbes of Chabad for an hour and a half in the morning, before prayers, and an hour and a half in the evening. See Tomchei Temimim.

Bible study

One thing absent from the curriculum of almost all yeshivot is the Bible. It is assumed that all students will be fluent in the Torah and the main classical, rabbinical commentaries on it before they arrive at the yeshiva. Students are required to read the weekly Torah portion by themselves (known as the obligation of Shnayim Mikra. The study of Nevi'im and Ketuvim is not encouraged other than the five Megilloth and Tehillim, of the former it is assumed they are known and the latter are considered to be for women and children to recite or reserved for prayer in times of need.
Some more modern yeshivot, particularly in Israel, occasionally offer a course in one or more of the books of Nevi'im and Ketuvim. The reasons that most yeshivot do not offer or encourage a course of study in Bible are not clear and controversial. The yeshivot contend that they are Talmudical colleges and thus concentrate on the Talmud, but they do also teach Jewish law, customs and ethics.

Haredi Yeshivish (slang)

"Yeshivish" is a word derived from "yeshiva" usually refers to Haredi non-Hasidic Jews that may also mean "misnagdim". Such Jews may be identified by their dress, outlook, and other aspects.
Used in another context, yeshivish can sometimes refers to the culture which has grown out of the American Orthodox Jewish yeshiva system. Used as an adjective, there are several connotations: (i.e.) certain cultural and other quasi-halachic norms of the "olam hayeshivos" (e.g., wearing a black hat, jacket, and white shirt for davening, or an aversion to ostentatiousness.)

Endnotes

Further reading

  • Helmreich, William B. The world of the yeshiva: an intimate portrait of Orthodox Jewry. Free Press, 1982, 412 pages. ISBN 0-88125-641-2.
yeshiva in Czech: Ješiva
yeshiva in German: Jeschiwa
yeshiva in Spanish: Yeshivá
yeshiva in French: Yechiva
yeshiva in Hebrew: ישיבה
yeshiva in Dutch: Jesjiewa
yeshiva in Japanese: イェシーバー
yeshiva in Polish: Jesziwa
yeshiva in Portuguese: Yeshivá
yeshiva in Russian: Иешива
yeshiva in Slovak: Ješiva
yeshiva in Finnish: Ješiva
yeshiva in Swedish: Yeshiva
yeshiva in Yiddish: ישיבה
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