Wednesday, July 4, 2018

5 Reasons to Spend a Semester in Yeshiva

Written By: Tzvi Freedan

Dear Rabbi,
I’m an undergrad at a private college, doing really well and working hard to get into graduate school. I’m also very active with Chabad on campus. My Chabad rabbi has been bugging me to take off one semester to study in a yeshiva “some time before graduate school.” It’s still not clear to me what yeshiva is all about, and definitely not clear why I should take off in the middle of my studies to go there.
—A Student

Dear Student,

Before there were universities, there were yeshivas. There were people who sat around in yeshivas the whole year, discussing and studying and discussing some more. And then there were people who worked the farm or traveled afar to sell their merchandise, and then turned up at the yeshiva whenever they had a chance, to join in the study and discussion. Jews were always a literate society, and every Jew was expected to be involved somehow in the learning going on in the community.

Traditionally, most of the study in yeshiva was in pairs—two companions poring over a text together, debating its details to achieve clarity and full knowledge. A lecture is generally full of lively give-and-take between students and teacher.Traditional Jewish learning is all about asking good questions, as well as collaborating with others to come up with solutions.

That’s why a yeshiva, unlike a college library, is a rather noisy place. In many ways, the methodology of study in yeshiva is way ahead of that applied in most educational institutions.

Today, there are all sorts of yeshivas. Some specialize exclusively in Talmud. Others diversify, studying practical Jewish lawhistory, ethics, Kabbalah and chassidic thought, etc. There are yeshivas dedicated to young men and women such as yourself, who just want to take off a semester to enrich their Jewish souls, and then get back home and finish their degree.

Chabad has a number of such yeshivas, and that’s the general thrust in these places—to give students a strong background, skills to build upon and the inspiration they need for a lifetime—and then get them back on track into their careers. Only that now, the bright lights of their Jewish soul are shining.

Now that I hope I’ve given you some vague idea of what a yeshiva is, let me provide you with 5 reasons why you should attend:

1.    It's an Investment
This could be the biggest investment you’ll ever make.
You’re bright enough to know that your future’s not made of money alone. The biggest investment you’ll ever make in your life is the person you’ll marry. Out of marriage comes a home, a family, eternity. You need to build a portfolio that can get you a great spouse and build a beautiful family. Add those yeshiva months to your portfolio, and you’ve moved up several notches on the Jewish marriage market.

2.    You'll Gain Skills
You can pick up the basic skills for a lifetime.
One semester isn’t enough time to learn one-zillionth of what you want to know, but it’s long enough to get you some basic skills so you can continue back home.

You’ll learn what books contain what, how to open a Talmud and get an idea of what’s flying in there, what sort of problems require an expert rabbi to solve, and how to dazzle your guests with some fascinating words of Torah at your Shabbat table. You’ll have some of the classic answers to fundamental questions under your belt, and you’ll know where to look for more.

Perhaps even more important: You’ll have the tools, the learning and perhaps even the wisdom to help you get through those bumps and crashes so unavoidable in life.

3.    You Plan to Start a Family
Get respect from your kids.
You may not have even started thinking about it, but you likely will want to send your kids to a school where they’ll learn Torah part of the day. When they have a question or need help with homework, guess who they’re going to ask? And if they see their parents enjoy learning Torah, guess how that will influence their attitude to school?

4.    It's Your Wealth
Cash in on your inheritance.
Jews have been bantering about ideas in yeshivas for thousands of years. And Jews are bright people.

Over these millennia of study, debate, creativity and more debate, we’ve built a ginormous structure, a palace of wisdom, ideas, practical guidance and approaches to knowledge. It’s a magnificent blend of harmonies, an intricate web of wisdom, an edifice of incomparable beauty—and the entire estate is yours, just waiting for you to come and pick up the keys.

Without ever entering a yeshiva, you could still enter your estate. You might make it into the front, and even explore around a little. But if you want to feel at home in your rightful home, you need that immersive yeshiva experience.

5.    You'll Get Inspiration:
Get the blast of a lifetime.
Imagine yourself in an environment where everyone around you is aflame with the fire of Torah. Torah is alive. You can dissect an animal, a philosopher, a poem or a book, an atomic particle or a mathematical equation—and all have one thing in common: when dissected, they are dead.

No one comes out of a philosophy class singing and dancing. But they do when they dissect Torah. Because Torah is alive—every cell of it, no matter how you cut it.

Imagine Shabbat in an environment where Torah is the driving force of life. You can’t. You have to be there. But years down the road, when you’re desperate for that inspiration to keep you going, you’ll close your eyes and see yourself back there again. From that experience you’ll draw eternal life.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Worthwhile Way To Spend Your Time?

It is obvious that today’s world is fast moving. Every piece of information is available in our pockets, people can talk face-to-face with their friends on the other side of the world, and kids hover around on electric gadgets.  We are living in a 1950’s science fiction novella.  

This seeps into our subconscious, and many people find themselves moving from experience to experience, while still finding it difficult to take in the moment.  With all of our advancement, and the benefits that comes along with it, we also suffer the pitfalls of not being fully attached to our reality.  

This issue, however, is something that can be worked on, believe it or not, by dedicating time towards learning in Yeshivah! A person can begin to develop a sensitivity towards how we spend our time, while learning Torah.  

Time is a space in which we live our lives, and it is divided up into moments; and, it is within these moments that life is experienced.  It is easily missed, but when it is experienced you know that you have been a part of it.  The instances that make up the definitive events of our lives often take place in the most subtle and mundane experiences.  Simply commonalities, such as the way two friends greet each other with a side-ways handshake.  Picking up on these subtleties and enjoying them requires that we be attentive to our present surroundings.  

Investing time in authentically learning about one's heritage, identity and the benefits of dedicating time to discuss ones connection to Judaism, is difficult to describe in words, or replicate in any other setting. The positive impact of dedicating time and 'taking time out' to learn can allow us to live in a more conscious way.

The delusion of the world passing us by can be terrifying.  Learning Torah in a full time manner places a person at odds with the expectations that are placed on us in the outside world.  It is, in a true sense, a stepping out of the paradigm that is set for us by the world and our society.  In doing so, it becomes possible to really live in the moment.  

For example, a person is inevitably going to be faced with challenges or discomfort in their life.  It is possible to deal with this in one of two ways; we can run away from the discomfort into some sort of distraction or we can face the discomfort head on.  By choosing the latter, we are given a space to grow.  

The Yeshiva environment creates a space where a person can learn how to dive into the uneasiness and mine out the pieces of gold that are hidden beneath it. In other words, gaining practical tools in how to deal with life's challenges. What an unbelievably worthwhile way to spend ones time, gaining skills that will help one succeed in every aspect of life. Who wouldn't be interested in such a meaningful en-devour? Actually taking time out, to be able to deal with ones time and those special moments that are the sum total of our lives. 

Written by current student, Ben Shannon


Ben has been studying at the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem for the past two years, gaining all that he can from the amazing teachers and mentors.  We want to congratulate him on becoming the most recent Post High School Program, shliach. Ben is an avid writer and we hope he will be a frequent contributor to the Mayanot Blog! 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Partnering With Amazing Leaders

We are so honored to work with such incredible Rabbi's 
and educators, who make such a positive impact. 

Rabbi Chaim Lipskier (kneeling, bottom left) 
with the group of students from the May Birthright Israel: Mayanot trip.

Rabbi Chaim Lipskier, co-director of Chabad at the University of Central Florida, returned home tired but happy after leading his 18th Birthright Israel trip. More than 700 students have joined Rabbi Lipskier on the Birthright Israel: Mayanot tours over the last nine years, while another 600 have gone on trips organized by Chabad of UCF.

The 10-day trip travels all around the Holy Land, seeing ancient and modern sites, taking in Israel's history, culture, politics and stunning natural beauty. The intensive tour gives the participants a deep insight into their Jewish identity and its connection to the Jewish homeland.

Rabbi Lipskier joined the trips to act as a spiritual leader, while expert Israeli tour guides taught the students about the history and meaning of the sites they visited, from museums to beaches, and deserts to archaeological digs. The groups also spend a meaningful and restful Shabbat in Jerusalem.

"My experience as a participant on Mayanot Birthright was one of the most special experiences I've ever had as a young Jewish woman." said Sadie Weintraub, who went on Birthright with Rabbi Lipskier in May. "Being able to spend Shabbat at the Kotel added not only the connection to my Judaism, but also to the land of Israel."

Rabbi Lipskier encourages students to take part in the transformative Birthright Israel trip, and many of the participants are inspired to become active in Jewish life on campus on their return.

"The Mayanot trips are always wonderful experiences and it's great to get to know the students so well and see them learn and grow," said Rabbi Lipskier, "But the most important thing is the lasting impact that it has on so many participants, giving them an inspirational grounding on which they can build a lifelong commitment to their Jewish Heritage."

Mayanot works in partnership with more than 250 Chabad on Campus centers around the world to provide Birthright Israel trips.

Rabbi Lipskier is already looking forward to his 19th trip, planned to take place this winter.

To find out more about Mayanot's many trip options, click here.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Your Glowing Reviews

We reached out to our amazing Facebook community of students and alumni and requested our followers share their experiences at Mayanot with us. Here are a few of the glowing reviews we received. (Yes we are shamelessly self promoting, but we knew our readership would appreciate these, almost as much as we do!!!)

Thank you to everyone that responded and shared their experiences with us!
To view all 50 recommendations or write a review yourself, click here.

Mayanot Women's Program is not a one-time experience, but a place that continues to provide warmth, support, and family for the rest of your life. I came to Mayanot at two different times in my life, and I was amazed to find that it completely adapted and was able to fill the role that I needed it to during those different times. Mayanot allows for a lot of independence and flexibility in Jewish studies, and therefore attracts the most incredible, dedicated, curious girls to the program. 

The staff and teachers are supportive, unique, and approachable (and often funny!), and they're so talented at what they do - not just teaching, but also guiding young women who come from such different backgrounds and are heading down different paths, but all are exploring their Jewish roots. Mayanot continues to be a place that I go back to every chance I get, whether to sit in on a class, visit a friend or teacher, or pop in for one of the social events. More than any one thing, it's the general spirit of Ahavat Yisrael, love of your fellow Jew, that makes Mayanot such a welcoming, positive, and uplifting organization.
-Meital Boim 
It's all about the people at Mayanot. The director of education, Rivka Marga, treats other with an incomparable love and warmth. She is the voice of reason to thousands of alumni and students who continue to turn to her for advise long after we've left the Mayanot doors. 

Freidy Yanover, the Dean of Student Affairs, came to the scene with expertise in chassidus and teaching women in a deeper and more thoughtful way than most of us have experienced before. She pays attention to every student in the class and is able to teach a class to students of various levels while making everyone feel comfortable yet challenged. 

Mayanot hires only the creme of the crop in terms of shluchos (counselors), and they really make the program what it is. The shluchos work day and night to enhance the student's learning experience, making nightly activities, farbrengens, bonding sessions, seder niggunim, and more. 

And of course, the students, who come from every single type of background imaginable, from being the only Jew in a tiny rural town in Georgia to being a convert from a South American country to growing up Modern Orthodox in LA to growing up Chabad in Crown Heights. Learning from and with the other students is a totally unique and special Mayanot experience. 

Mayanot is an incredible oasis of love and acceptance and challenging, honest Jewish learning in Jerusalem.

-Bracha M. 

Mayanot was the most meaningful experience of my entire life! The faculty and staff members are warm, inviting, and SUPPORTIVE!!
-Sophia B. 

Mayanot is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I have never seen a program as dedicated and caring for theirs students. Every part of the program is geared towards the students so that they will have the most meaningful time possible.

Mayanot gives the students an authentic Jewish experience, while respecting the level of observance of every person and not pushing anything on them. Mayanot is a life changing experience and one of the most incredible non-profits out there!
-Faigy D. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Experiencing the Holiday of Shavuot

The Repairing Process, A Metaphor For Shavuot: 

Imagine that you have just inherited a house.  The side panels are beaten up from the wind.  Walking into the back yard, it becomes pretty clear that some of the windows are going to need to be replaced.  When you step up the front steps onto the deck, one of the steps breaks under your foot.  Inside, the couches in the living room are worn out and barely staying together.  In the dusty kitchen, you notice that the antique oven is rusted over and the table is barely standing on its three and a half legs.  Topping it all off, there is a hole in the ceiling of the upstairs bedroom, which has resulted in the room becoming acquainted with all four of the seasons.  With all the work that needs to be done, maybe it would have been better not to have been given the house at all.  
Without the proper funds, there is not a chance that the house will be in livable condition.  Out of nowhere you get a call from your Dad and he tells you that he is willing to back the project, on the condition that you do the work.  Over the next few days you collect the supplies and commence the project.  Every day you show up, and, little by little, what seemed at first to be a dilapidated mess, begins to look like a home.  Some days a friend comes by to help, other days it is just you.  Either way, each day there is clear progress.  Whenever you feel like giving up you are able to look back at what the house looked like and how far it has come.

The last task is to get the electricity running; however this is a costly bit, so you call your Dad again.  He has seen all the progress that you made and sends an electrician by to get everything running.  Before turning on the lights for the first time you realize that there would be no better way of experiencing this moment than with your closest friends.  At nightfall you and your companions flip on the switch for the first time.  All of the panels are freshly painted and the windows are crystal clear.  Instead of moldy chairs, there are couches.  A smell of freshly baked Challah floats out of the kitchen and the fixed table is covered with an assortment of cheese cake.  The ceiling has been fixed upstairs and the house is comfortably inhabitable.  Moreover, it is a place that you are able to have guests. 

Making It Practical, Shavuot Insights:

After the Jewish people had suffered years of forced labor coming out of Egypt, after Pesach (Passover) was a bit like inheriting a beat-up house.   We have inherited our relationship with Hashem (G-d) from our forefathers; Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.  This profound unity with Hashem has to be revealed from underneath the hardship and trauma of slavery.  During the Counting of the Omer (the time in between Passover and Shavuot) is when we begin this process of repair. This is each individual’s process of cleansing and refining his or her emotional faculties. This procedure enables a person to be a proper vessel to receive the Torah.

Matan Torah (receiving the Torah) is the revelation from Hashem.  It is only once we have prepared ourselves and made ourselves into vessels which are fit to receive this G-dly expression, that we actually do.  By setting each of our individual houses in order, we receive this G-dly revelation.  We are then able to go forth and truly affect change in the world by revealing that truly we are all part of a single Home.  

While at Mayanot, I have felt a part of a single home and am very grateful for the experience of being here for the second time, for Shavuot, after learning at Mayanot for the last two years. I am very familiar with the process of repairing and rebuilding through receiving Torah, in my own life,  and I hope we are all able to receive the Torah together this year. 

Written by: Benjamin Shannon, Current Mayanot Men's Program Student 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Young Jewish Professionals, Jerusalem: Joins the Mayanot Ranks

Over the last 20 years, the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies has aimed to fill the gap in experiential and text based Jewish education. As a mission statement and organizational motto, Mayanot’s main goal is to connect young Jews from around the world to their land, their people and their heritage. Today, Mayanot’s newest division, affiliated with Chabad Young Professionals (CYP) International, joins the ranks.

Founded in January 2018 by Rabbi Levi and Rebbetzin Aidel Margolin, Mayanot Young Professionals (aka, YJP Jerusalem) focuses on engaging alumni from our Men's and Women's Learning Programs as well as Birthright Israel participants who now call Israel home, whether long or short term.

In addition, YJP Jerusalem puts a strong focus on English speaking Olim and people on long term programs living in Jerusalem. Their target market, young English speakers aged 25-40, has welcomed the new division with great enthusiasm. In just four months, YJP’s events and Shabbat meals have been attended by more than 500 people.

“We've been hosting people for Shabbos, Chanukah, Purim and more, in the almost two years we've been married,” said Levi. “We noticed a gap in the system in Israel’s capital city and we set out to fill it.” Filling that gap officially began on March 1st with a Purim Seuda at Jerusalem’s Machane Yehudah Market.

The Purim event, attended by more than 140 people, offered guests the opportunity to perform the four Purim mitzvot - seuda, megillah, mishloach manot and matanot l’evyonim. That’s something many attendees, even those from more traditional homes, admit they may not have done. That, Levi says, “is the most important barometer of success for YJP”.

For Aidel, the launch of YJP Jerusalem signals a unique shift in Jerusalem. “We saw from the get-go, at our Purim Seuda, that people are thirsty for something more, something engaging and hands-on” said Aidel. “And with the crowd of nearly 120 at the Lag B'omer BBQ, we're certain these numbers will continue to impress.”

The Margolins have many ideas going forward, some modest and humble, like a monthly Rosh Chodesh gathering for women, or a Chassidus class once a week. Other ideas, Levi admits, will be designed to wow the Holy City. For instance, a Mega Shabbat Dinner for 500+ guests.

The goal of YJP, as Levi explains, is to offer relevant and engaging Jewish programming on a social, religious and cultural level. “We want to create a community, a place for people to meet and mingle and take the relationship beyond the program or event.”

Up next? A Shavuot late night learning with wine and cheese coupled with a walking tour of Jerusalem’s early neighborhoods and a private, sunrise Minyan overlooking the Kotel.

YJP Jerusalem can be contacted via email at or by WhatsApp and phone at +972-52-872-2886. Stay tuned and visit for more information. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Annual Women’s Alumni Reunion

This past Monday, Mayanot celebrated the third annual Mayanot women’s alumni reunion in Israel, with a gathering of over thirty women. Both alumni and current students were in attendance. The diverse group of alumni comprised of women from five different continents and various years of Mayanot, including the first semester of the program, in 2008.

Our esteemed teacher, Mrs. Gila Lowell, who has been educating Mayanot women since the program’s inception, discussed Pesach Sheini and our constant ability to imbue our lives with a renewed sense of meaning and inspiration. She dove into the text and shared ideas from Tanach (Bible), based on the concept of second chances and rousing our desire for self growth and leadership in today’s day in age. 

The level of nostalgia for the textual ‘inside’ learning was palpable from all the women in attendance. Mayanot teaches academic level learning skills that are particular to accessing traditional texts in the original Hebrew, and it was amazing to see the women innately dive in.

View The Short Event Clip Here

“The Torah is here to teach us lifelong lessons that we can apply to our lives in a practical way. This story, like so many others, has so much to teach us about how to engage G-d in dialogue”, shared Gila. “When I encounter something in Halacha (Jewish law) that I find challenging, I can gripe about it or I can wrestle with it and engage! If you’re trying to make a dwelling place for G-d in the lower worlds you’re going to get dirty, but that’s part of the work, our job here is to wrestle with it and endeavor to make a difference.

In true Mayanot fashion, the ideas were deep, relatable and relevant for the diverse group of women. Sparking in-depth questions and discussions regardless of age, situation or life status, everyone could gain insight and take away something relevant, regardless of their particular circumstances.

The evening began with a beautiful round of introductions from all the women who were meeting for the first time, and ended with an intimate farbrengun (Chassidic gathering) with Rivka Marga Gestetner, Director of Education for the Women’s Learning Program, sharing ideas about personal relationships and development.

Rivka Marga, for the third consecutive year, opened up her home with a beautiful food spread and a welcoming atmosphere. “It’s a unique pleasure to host these events and reconnect with alumni. Every year of Mayanot brings a different group of women with such exceptional experiences. It’s wonderful to see how everyone has grown”, she shared.

Rivkah Katz, a current Mayanot student and social media intern declared, “It was so amazing to meet alumni from all the different years of Mayanot and see how connected they all remain to each other and the other women from their years of learning. I hope to stay as connected to the women at Mayanot, as they have all impacted my life tremendously.”

Mayanot is grateful to all those that came out Monday night to join and contribute to the learning. Directly from the mouth of our cherished teacher Gila, “May we be blessed to have the courage to admit our lack and begin to work on it from an authentic place of vulnerability, humility and growth.”