: ישיבה, "sitting (n.)" ; pl. yeshivot
), or metivta
: מתיבתא)) also frequently referred to as a Beth midrash
, Talmudical Academy
, Rabbinical Academy
or Rabbinical School
is an institution unique to classical Judaism
for Torah study
, the study of Talmud
, Rabbinic literature
are usually associated with Orthodox Judaism
, and generally cater to boys or men, although many modern Orthodox yeshivot also educate girls, though often in separate classrooms and sometimes with somewhat different curricula. A roughly equivalent women's institution is the midrasha
The term yeshiva gedola ("senior/great yeshiva") usually refers to post-high school institutions, and yeshiva ketana ("junior/small yeshiva") can refer to institutions catering to boys of elementary as well as of high school age. The term "yeshiva" is also used sometimes 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.
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."
See also: Torah study
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 Mishnah tractate Megillah 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 (Mishnah, 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, called Yarchay Kalla) 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 yeshivot in the United States and Israel are continuations of these institutions and often bear the same name.
Types of yeshivot
There are a few types of yeshivot:
- 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.
- 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.
- Mechina - For Israeli high-school graduates who wish to study for one year before entering the army.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Baal teshuva yeshivot 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." The Bais Yaakov system was started in 1918 under the guidance of Sarah Schenirer. This system provided girls with a Torah education, using a curriculum that skewed more toward practical halakha and the study of Tanakh, rather than Talmud. Bais Yaakovs are strictly Haredi schools. Non-Haredi girls' schools' curricula often includes the study of Mishna and sometimes Talmud. They are also sometimes called "yeshiva" (e.g., Prospect Park Yeshiva). Post-high schools for women are generally called "seminary" or "midrasha".
In most yeshivot, the year is divided into three periods (terms) called zmanim
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 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.
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 chavrusa (Aramaic: "friend"), or in a shiur (lecture). The chavrusa is one of the unique features of the yeshiva. The partners actively and intensly study the nuances of Talmudic text.
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.
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
The preeminent ethical text studied in yeshivot
is the Mesillat Yesharim
("Path [of the] Just") by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
. Other works studied include:
Hasidic yeshivot study Hasidic philosophy (Chassidus). Chabad yeshivot, for example, study the Tanya, the Likutei Torah, and the voluminous works of the Rebbes of Chabad for an hour and a half each morning, before prayers, and an hour and a half in the evening. (See Tomchei Temimim.)
Hebrew Bible study
Intensive study of the Chumash, meaning the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy with the commentary of Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi 1040 - 1105) is stressed and taught in all elementary grades, often with Yiddish translations and more notes in Haredi yeshivas. The teaching of tanakh is usually done on the high school level. When students eneter the post-high school levels the yeshivas expect that 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 in depth teaching of Nevi'im and Ketuvim is not encouraged other than the five Megilloth and Tehillim but students may do so on their own.
Some 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)
" is a word derived from "yeshiva" usually refers to Haredi
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 Hayeshivot" (yeshiva world) — e.g., wearing a black hat, jacket, and white shirt for davening.
- Helmreich, William B. The world of the yeshiva: an intimate portrait of Orthodox Jewry. Free Press, 1982, 412 pages. ISBN 0-88125-641-2.