Introducing Har’El Yeshiva

I received an email notice this morning for a brand new Har’EL Yeshiva that will combine the traditional Beit midrash with being a seeker. It will bring Hasidut, creative writing, Moreh Nevukhim, and great books in the Beit Midrash.The Rosh Yeshiva will be Rabbi Herzl Hefter (no ad hominem). Any thoughts?

From the Website -only some of this was in the email.

Over the past 200 years, the world has seen more change than in the previous 5000. These changes pose acute challenges for our faith and traditional way of life, as we hold tenaciously to our sacred traditions while fearlessly engaging a new reality. To deal with those challenges, I am excited to announce the opening of Har’El Yeshiva, a new program for sincere and motivated young men between the ages of 21 and 30 in the Old City of Jerusalem.

(1) What we believe:
The Torah teaches that God created the world and human beings with imperfections. Facing our individual and communal imperfections honestly is the necessary first step to any sort of authentic relationship with ourselves (as individuals), with each other and with God.

We are driven by the conviction that love and devotion to Torah study transforms the individual into a more perfect reflection of Godliness.
At Har’El Yeshiva, we seek to confront challenges openly because we believe that this is our unique responsibility. We believe that love of Torah should develop love of truth and personal growth.

“Existential” Torah
In the post modern era where all authority is suspect, it is insufficient to base religious observance upon obedience alone. Morning seder will commence with the study of Hasidic teachings. This is designed to provide meaningful context for the activities of the rest of the day. We will study the powerful and transformative works of the Mei haShiloah, R. Zadok Hakohen of Lublin and the Sefat Emet. These masters teach that God is present in the human heart. The immediacy of the Divine in the human heart feeds a sense of urgency to facilitate its revelation through the study of Torah, prayer and fear of Heaven. The consciousness of radical Divine immanence provides an authentic traditional framework to absorb the far reaching changes in human society over the last two hundred years.

Students will be inspired to internalize the Torah and make it their own, learning to express themselves creatively. We will encourage our students to draw upon their life experiences to develop their avodat hashem and yir’at shamayim.

Guide to the Perplexed
The Yeshiva will combine intellectual rigor and God-consciousness. This approach is embodied in Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed. Generally, mysticism has a complete disdain for the dry demands of logic and language. But, in his work, Maimonides starts from a place of cool Aristotelian rationalism, and follows a course of rigid reasoning about God’s perfection and about the nature of language. Eventually, he comes to the realization that language and logic do have their limits; that reality and religious experience do outstrip the descriptive powers of language; and that silent reverence of a God that cannot be described is the only appropriate attitude. This course will concentrate on these themes, and on Maimonides’ rationalization of the commandments. In his work, we will see an old-fashioned Aristotelianism that nevertheless reaches the same conclusions that Kant and Wittgenstein would later reach.

Writing workshop
In the creative writing workshop, we will deepen our religious and Jewish identity through the medium of creativity. Each session will begin with learning a short passage from one of the traditional Jewish texts: a midrash, a Hasidic story, a short passage from the Guide to the Perplexed, etc. This text will then be the springboard for the actual writing exercise, which will always try to focus on a Jewish theme. Rabbi Nachman wrote that “the imagination is the cornerstone of faith.” We believe that the imagination can be a gateway for a person to enter the palace of devekut and faith.

Great books
Pursuant to our intention to prepare our students to engage the world, we will integrate the following subjects into the yeshiva curriculum in a way which will not compromise the intensity of the Torah studies. We will produce a reading list of essential books on these subjects. The students will meet regularly to discuss these books. At times students themselves will be responsible to moderate the discussion.
A partial list of great books:
Descartes, “Meditations on First Philosophy”
John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty”
Sigmund Freud, “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life”
Adam Smith, “The Wealth of Nations”
John Kenneth Galbraith, “The Affluent Society”
Ian Barbour, “Science and Religion”
Mircea Eliade, “The Myth of the Eternal Return”
Students will be expected to present to their peers. They will write their presentation for posting on our website.

Read more about Yeshivat Har’El here.

Here is the first dvar Torah that they placed on their web- about the need for a personal calling.

The Sefat Emet says that G-d is continuously calling to each and every one of us: “Lech lecha! – ‘Get thee out!” What differentiates Avraham is that he heard the call.

When we reflect upon the Biblical personalities who hear the voice of God, our first instinct is to think of the call in a literal way, sound waves echoing in the prophet’s inner ear. The Sefat Emet says that this is not so. Rather, God’s voice resonates within each of us, calling us to our spiritual journey. As creatures created in the Divine image, we are charged to attune ourselves to the Divine calling that echoes in our hearts and minds.

One response to “Introducing Har’El Yeshiva

  1. So are they competing for the same audience as other post-college programs (including the BT yeshivas) or do they have a more specific one in mind?

    I am curious as to how Gender studies (one of the great books categories) gets taught in the context of an all male yeshiva with an all male faculty. Is the vision of the post-collegiate spiritual seeker that of the man seeking refuge or engagement? If it is the latter as they claim, how is an all male yeshiva not a radical form of disengagement. Tamar Ross is on the advisory board so maybe I’ll ask her at some point.

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