Issue 8.1: The Beit Midrash

Editor’s Thoughts: The Dark Corner of the Beit Midrash

We express gratitude before you, God, our God and the God of our fathers, that you have established our portion with those who dwell in the beit midrash, and have not established our portion with those who sit in corners (Prayer of Rav Nehuniah Ben Ha-Kaneh, Berakhot 28a)[i] In the Yeshivah is ... Read more →

Mikdash to Midrash

“This Sefer Torah should not leave your mouth, and you should delve into it day and night, in order that you will observe all that is written in it, so that you will be prosperous in your path and be successful (Yehoshua 1:8).” Hashem issued this charge to Yehoshua during the first moments ... Read more →

The Ancient Beit Midrash and the Modern Academy: An Exploration of Origins and Methodology

If you were to visit a Geonic yeshiva during the months of Elul and Adar you would find a situation not too dissimilar from a modern beit midrash. There would be students hearing a lecture from a teacher, all of them having a set place to sit. Everyone would be studying the designated masekhta ... Read more →

Bein Adam le-Havrutato? Arguments and Insults in Halakhic Literature

Over the course of Elul the yeshiva put a strong emphasis on Hilkhot bein adam le-haveiro. There were various shiurim quoting numerous sources from gemara, Rishonim, and others, about the importance of mutual respect and common decency. But strikingly, when we look at the texts from which these ... Read more →

The First Beit Midrash: The Yeshivah of Shem and Eber

The first historically known beit midrash probably began during the era of the Second Temple. The Pharisees, unlike the Sadducees, emphasized that Torah learning, and not only temple service, was a vital aspect of Jewish life. Thus, physical centers of Jewish learning slowly became the heart of ... Read more →

If Men Were Angels

1. “The Torah was not given to the ministering angels” On February 6, 1788, James Madison, the “father of the American constitution,” published Federalist No. 51, in which he outlined his plan for limiting the power of the federal government. “If men were angels, no government would ... Read more →

Havruta or Death: An Analysis of Havruta Learning in Light of Hegel’s Lord and Bondsman Dialectic

I Talmud Torah and its practice in the Beit Midrash may count as the ultimate mitsvah,[1] but as a means of avodat Hashem it focuses on rigorous intellectual activity. The traditional Jewish method for pursuing talmud Torah stands in stark contrast to standard academic methods. The western ... Read more →

Kedushat Beit Midrash and Beit Keneset: An Enlightening Comparison

When asked to picture a Jewish study hall in your mind’s eye, what mental images arise? Do you imagine a soaring edifice of majestic beauty? Is its interior a breathtaking and brilliant room with gilded walls of silver and gold? Or perhaps you are perceiving a more humble structure composed ... Read more →

Reflections on Havruta Learning

When[i] one walks into a beit midrash, s/he is greeted by the thunderous and discordant sound of countless pairs of people fiercely arguing with one another, each offering up their own idea for how to best decode the perplexing, and often-times daunting, ancient text that sits opened before ... Read more →