web analytics
February 1, 2015 / 12 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

A Graduate Of Eiver’s Yeshiva


These are the generations of Yaakov, Yosef being seventeen years old….

Seventeen years old? We are struck by this information. Why would the Torah deem it necessary to inform us about Yosef’s age? No word, no pasuk, no paragraph is out of place in Torah, so we know the information is necessary and important. But what is its importance? What do we gain by this kernel of biographical information about Yosef?

To understand, it benefits us to first examine the conclusion of parshat Toldot, where Yitzhak advises Yaakov to escape from his brother, Eisav, by fleeing to Padan Aram. In commenting on this passage, Rashi notes that here we learn Yaakov sojourned in the House of Eiver for more than fourteen years studying Torah and only then, at the conclusion of his study, did he continue on to Padan Aram.

Again, we gain a glimpse of biographical information without yet understanding its value to us. Why inform us as to the length of Yaakov’s sojourn? And why was it even necessary for Yaakov to stop at Eiver’s home in order to study Torah? There can be no doubt that, as a child growing up in Yitzchak’s home, he learned and absorbed Torah, chesed, morals and positive values. Indeed, the Torah identifies Yaakov as a scholar.

So why the additional fourteen years of study?

The answer comes when the Torah shows Yaakov wrestling with the angel of God, earning the name Yisrael and demonstrating that we all must wrestle with Torah. From this we understand that to learn Torah demands not only the pure and sanctified environment of a Bais Yitzchak but that to truly “wrestle” with Torah is to absorb it – and transplant its teachings and precepts – in the world at large.

In his father’s house, Yaakov had superior training in pure Torah, in Torah that had meaning in the rarified world of his home and other, likeminded, scholars and students. However, in parshat Toldot, as Yaakov prepares to flee his brother and his father’s house – leaving the protected environment of his home – he would be entering a foreign and threatening world. To survive and flourish in the intimidating environment of Charan, he needed first to wrestle with Torah in Bais Eiver, a place not nearly as safe and nurturing as his own father’s house.

So too, Yaakov foresaw that Yosef would also find himself among gentiles, Egyptians, in a large, intimidating and menacing society. To assure that Yosef would remain steadfast in all the Torah he had taught him even in the most threatening circumstances, Yaakov determined that Yosef, like himself, must be exposed to the same Torah in “foreign” territory. Therefore, all the Torah Yaakov learned in Eiver’s academy he taught to Yosef for fourteen years.

And so we return to the Torah’s biographical note regarding Yosef. Yosef began learning Torah at three, when every child must begin to study Torah. Thus, the Torah speaks of the point at which Yosef was prepared to confront life’s many challenges – at seventeen.

Like Yosef, we must all at some point leave the warmth and comfort of our home; we must all attain the age of “seventeen.” And, like Yosef, we must be prepared to willingly and lovingly communicate Torah in an open, “Torah-less” society.

Torah is a glorious jewel, but it is not a fragile one. It will not only survive beyond the safety of our academies, it will thrive.

A Jew’s ability to live a Torah life beyond the safety and security of “Yaakov’s tent” is the ultimate test of Torah.  Like any test of worth, it is not an easy one. A prominent Torah educator from Jerusalem was asked why he pursued and attained higher academic degrees in prominent universities whereas his sons were discouraged from continuing their general education beyond high school.

“I grew up in the open European society.  My sons live in Jerusalem. What more do they need in Jerusalem other than Torah?”

It is not difficult to understand his thinking. Who could stand against such a pure and untarnished Jewish experience? And yet…there are those who would argue that a great number of Israel’s population might benefit from an open, loving outreach approach. Certainly that is true of the overwhelming majority of American Jews living in Eiver’s society, thirsty to drink from God’s waters but never having been exposed to a genuine and authentic Jewish experience.

How can they gain such experiences but from those Jews who have been nurtured and taught in Yaakov’s tent and then sent out to teach Torah to them, in the world? To teach Torah in the world demands the teacher have the experience and preparation to communicate with all Jews, at their level, in their language, wherever they are – from the secular and assimilated to the ever-growing population of frum drop-outs, Jews who simply walk away from Torah life for countless reasons.

In the early 1980s, I worked to recruit young talmidei chachamim to join what was, at the time, little more than a dream of what would become a Pittsburgh Kollel, one of the very first such community-oriented kollelim in the United States. It was no easy task to convince a minyan of Lakewood scholars to leave the warmth and safety of Lakewood to migrate to the Steel City.

After one of my visits to Lakewood in pursuit of “ten yungeleit,” I asked the saintly Rav Schneur Kotler, z”l, why the vast majority of the outstanding scholars in Lakewood were so reluctant to move from the famed yeshiva to a secular city. “They will accomplish so many positive and beneficial things for Klal Yisrael,” I argued.

The wise and perceptive rosh yeshiva smiled softly and noted that for many of the yeshiva’s graduates, particularly those who have been in the yeshiva for a number of years, the yeshiva is like a warm and comforting womb, from which it is traumatic to exit.

“You know,” the rosh yeshiva went on, “it is not easy for a newborn to leave the mother’s womb after having been completely taken care of with all of one’s needs for nine months.”

The analogy is apt. There comes a time when, despite accompanying trauma and loud cries, the newborn must emerge from its mother’s womb, attain its own independence and eventually make its own contribution to the world at large. It is only when the Yaakovs and Yosefs of our current day are able to make the purposeful transition from the secure and untroubled tents of their fathers and make their way in the tumultuous and demanding societies in need of their counsel, guidance, and care that we will know their upbringing was significant and purposeful.

However, it is not Torah knowledge alone that ensures the transition is successful. There is a spark, a quality, that is required if one is to motivate and challenge a Jew to reach out and touch the soul of a fellow Jew with one’s own talents and abilities – the ability to embrace and maintain one’s youthfulness, one’s sense of wonder and constant renewal. In other words, the ability to remain a na’ar.

Yosef always maintained his youthfulness, his sense of renewal. Reb Aharon of Karlin explains that Yosef is the epitome of na’ar hayiti v’gam zakanti – “I was young and I have grown old.” Even as I have grown older, become more mature and seasoned, I have maintained the same excitement, vigor and enthusiasm as in my youth.  To maintain such an approach, one needs to retain a sense of renewal about life.

The Talmud notes that Jews use a lunar calendar while the nations of the world make use of a solar one. The reason, says the Sfat Emet, is because the nations of the world accomplish certain goals and missions and then their sun sets. They rise and fall. Jews, on the other hand, are compared to the moon because even as tasks are accomplished, they are able to renew their sense of excitement and vigor, just as the moon that emerges anew even from perceived darkness.

Of course it is easier to remain within the confines of Yitzchok’s academies and neighborhoods, never having to confront the challenges and threats of Eiver’s needs. But the easy path has never been the path for the Torah Jew. It was not for Yaakov. It was not for Yosef. The easy path, the one that clings to comfort and security, leads to disaster. It leads not only to the disintegration of large numbers of the American Jewish community, but is also disabling many in our ostensibly well-secured kehillas.

When one attains the age of “seventeen,” after having been raised and nurtured by Yitzchaks and Yaakovs, and is willing to remain a perpetual na’ar, then it is time to throw open the tent flaps and enter the world. Frightening? Yes. Challenging? Without question. Worthwhile? Absolutely. To walk the path of Yaakov and Yosef is to realize benefits never-ending and rewards eternal.

Am Yisrael is waiting for you.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran is an educator, author and lecturer. He can be reached at e1948s@aol.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “A Graduate Of Eiver’s Yeshiva”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Arab attackers in Jerusalem smashed the windows on an Egged bus traveling to the Western Wall in the Old City.
Egged Bus Attacked Traveling to Western Wall in Jerusalem
Latest Indepth Stories
Eli Weiss

Shepherding in the Shomron isn’t your usual kind of shepherding – despite his business-minded beginnings, Eli has discovered that a strong ideological impetus powers the job.

Resnick-013015-Pilot

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Eller-013015

His entire existence was about spreading simcha and glorifying G-d’s name on a daily basis.

IRAN-US-POLITICS-MILITARY

An Israeli strike could theoretically damage Iran’s nuclear program; only US can terminate program

At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting Israel and start living in Israel

“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”

Though Zaide was the publisher of The Jewish Press, a big newspaper,I always remember him learning

Speaker Silver has been an extraordinary public servant since his election to the Assembly in 1975 and has been an exemplary leader of that body since 1994.

He spent the first leg of his daylong visit to the French capital at Hyper Cacher.

Drawing Congress into the Iran nuclear debate is the last thing the White House wants.

Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.

Obama’s foreign policy is viewed by both liberals and conservatives as deeply flawed

Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.

Why does the Times relay different motivations and narratives for jihadists in Europe and Israel?

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Safran
Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

It’s easier to take Jews out of galus than to take galus out of Jews – Chassidic master

Two dreidels from the author’s extensive collection.

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

It is difficult to remain faithful in galut, the ultimate Rorschach test for all Jewish generations

Racheli Frankel: “I didn’t think they were thrown just anywhere. The tears of Hebron embraced them”

Yes, God judges, but His judgment is that of a loving father who longs for his child’s quick return.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

What defines kana’ut these days? Throwing rocks at passing cars on Shabbos? Burning an Israeli flag on Yom Ha’Atzmaut?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-graduate-of-eiver%e2%80%99s-yeshiva/2011/11/23/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: