Tuesday, September 17, 2019

the simcha of coming into the land

"V'haya ki tavo el ha'aretz..."  Ohr haChaim comments that "ain 'v'haya' elah lashon simcha."  The biggest simcha is coming into Eretz Yisrael.  It doesn't matter who won the election or how many seats any party has -- sometimes we forget the bigger picture, namely, we have a country where we can hold elections and govern ourselves for the first time in 2000 years.  For 2000 years we have been waiting for simcha like this.
 What is it about the experience of learning in yeshiva/seminary in Eretz Yisrael that transforms students who  may have been disinterested in high school into students who are excited and inspired?
Rather than offer my own theories, I thought a better idea would be to bounce the question off my daughter who is now learning in Eretz Yisrael and get her reaction.  So what makes seminary different?  Here was her short, off the cuff answer after about 2 weeks into her program:

"They [the teachers] are a lot more involved and people can ask any question they want and they wont be like "oh we cant talk about that now.  They actually start discussions and try to answer your questions.

They also have a lot more personality and try harder to relate to us..."

I could write a whole peirush Rashi on just those comments, but I'll let them speak for themselves and just add one thing.  If you ask your typical high school morah what she is trying to teach, the answer I think would be something along the lines of X number of perakim, or the Rambans on this or that perek, or some sefer in Nach, etc.  The curriculum boils down to a list of facts to be absorbed and spit back.

I would argue that even in the best case scenario, a student can learn a bunch of those facts really well and sadly, still know very little about Judaism.  Facts and information don't really inspire and are often not really relevant to the challenges of every day life in an obvious way.  They have to be woven into a framework that is meaningful, that provokes, that inspires, that gives direction and that encourages a student to go stretch their thinking.  That is what the gap year does for a lot of kids, and that's why it makes such a powerful impact.


  1. "The biggest simcha is coming into Eretz Yisrael."

    the spies entered the Land,[and took of its first fruit (Bam. 13:20, bikurei anavim), and presented that fruit to Aharon*, the kohen in their day; they even had firsthand experience of The Declaration (D. 26:6-8),] yet where was the joy?

    Moshe could be said to have been provocative, to have tried to inspire, to have given direction to the people, but was he all the while standoffish**?

    hear now Yehoshua, the new man at the helm, as entry to the Land is at hand: 'go'shu hei'na!' (3:9), and only then, 'shma Yisra'el...'.

    *among others (13:26)

    **standing closer to G-d than the klal? and/or why else?

  2. Yeah, the year-in-Israel thing did serious damage to HS. They don't care enough about informal education, thinking that no matter how little they inspire, it'll be fixed in Israel. And so formal curriculum outweighs that kind of chinukh in their priority scheme.

    Meanwhile, the 1 yr program figures that it takes until about Dec or Jan before much of the student body gets tired of playing around and start really listening to the message. And after they go home for Pesach (why?!), the last month and a half feels like "it's basically finished".

    So all that inspiration is not happening from Middle School through the gap year, but in a mere 4-5 months!

    I got a kick out ouf your daugher's "won't be like 'oh we...'" Using the word "like" to ambiguously refer to either a stated position or one conveyed by body language. The quotative like is a new coinage. (And for some reason, usually in present tense even when the atittude was in the past. "Then I went back to the store, and I'm like, 'You sold me a lemon!'")