Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Whether in the context of yeshiva day school or yeshiva gedola or the yeshiva world, the word “yeshiva” evokes commitment to Jewish learning and a life informed by Judaism in every way. With its derivation from the Hebrew word “to sit,” yeshiva can be seen to connote continuity through hunkering down: Torah scholars and their disciples and the even younger students of those disciples securing the Jewish future through the study of our holy texts, and families adhering to Jewish values over the caprices of the latest generation.

When the first yeshivas were established in Roman-controlled Judea and the Jewish communities of Bavel, however, they were a revolutionary response to the dire circumstances of the Jewish people. They allowed for the continued dissemination of Torah knowledge and rulings on practical halacha, but the positions and debates among the rabbis recorded in the Mishnah and Talmud reflect the dynamic thinking of the intellectual and spiritual leaders of the Jewish people.


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Rachel Kohn is a freelance writer based in Chicago. Follow her on Twitter at @RachelKTweets and see more of her work at