Sometimes, knowing something is not enough. If you want to truly understand, you must live it–do it with your own two hands, witness it with your own eyes. And learning Torah is no exception.
Rabbi Avi Grossman, who holds a BS in Biology from Queens College, an MBA from Jerusalem College of Technology in Israel, a teaching certificate from the David Yellin Academic College of Education in Jerusalem, and has smicha from Beis Medrash L’Talmud and from Rabbi Abba Bronspiegel, has been an educator for the last ten years.
This September, he will be opening a new English-language program called Torah L’Maaseh, for men ages 18-25. When I spoke to Bat-Chen Grossman, the coordinator for the yeshiva (and Rabbi Grossman’s wife), I was impressed with the yeshiva’s philosophy, which is elegant in its simplicity, yet shockingly under-utilized.
Like the name suggests, Torah L’Maaseh is a hands-on Jewish learning program. It is the first English-language program that works in conjunction with an Israeli yeshiva–in this case Yeshivat Ramot–to give the students an immersive Israeli experience. The students eat and learn and live with their Israeli counterparts at Yeshivat Ramot, become familiar with Israeli culture, and make Israeli friends. An intensive ulpan program is built into their curriculum. When discussing this aspect of the yeshiva, Mrs.Grossman emphasized that the institution does not push aliyah or army service, but they chose this specific configuration in order to create an environment conducive to those choices, should the students wish to decide on such a course of action. Additionally, both students who stay in Israel, and those who return to their communities abroad, will have forged lifelong bonds with their Israeli peers.
This is just the beginning of all the steps the faculty has put into place to create a program that allows their students to succeed, not just in Torah learning, but in all aspects of their lives. Mrs. Grossman explained that the students will take turns preparing breakfast and dinner for their peers (lunch is a catered meal). There will be weekly meetings held in which they are given the opportunity to discuss, and offer suggestions to improve, their yeshiva life. They are also given free rein regarding what they wish to learn during beit midrash hours. They are adults, and the faculty is dedicated to treating them as such.
Lastly, but certainly not least, the curriculum involves frequent outside-the-beit-midrash learning experiences. Other than the typical trips around the country, common to many yeshivas, the students at Torah L’Maaseh are also given the opportunity to harvest their own arba minim, make their own tzitzit, bake their own matzot, learn to take terumot and maasrot, kasher utensils, and much more. What better way to fully understand the halachot than to actually implement them in their daily lives?
Intellectual honesty is the backbone of the program’s learning philosophy. What they are offering is simply the opportunity for a guy with a solid learning background to sit and learn what he wants to know, and then get up and live what he learned. No politics, no pushing one specific hashkafa. Just Torah.
If you would like to learn more about the program, please visit their website at torahlemaaseh.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.