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Beth midrash

Beth midrash

A beth midrash (Hebrew: בית מדרש ‎, or beis medrash, beit midrash, pl. batei midrash "House of Learning") is a Jewish study hall located in a synagogue, yeshiva, kollel or other building. It is distinct from a synagogue, although many synagogues are also used as batei midrash and vice versa.

"Beis midrash" is also the name of the undergraduate-level program in Orthodox yeshivas in the United States, for boys over 12th grade.

The Arabic term "Madrasah" is derived from the same Semitic root and refers to any type of educational institution.

Early rabbinic literature, including the Mishnah, makes mention of the beth midrash as an institution distinct from the beth din and Sandhedrin. It was meant as a place of Torah study and interpretation, as well as the development of halakha (the practical application of the Jewish Law).

The origin of the beth midrash, or house of study, can be traced to the early rabbinic period, following the Siege of Jerusalem (70 C.E.) in which the destruction of the Temple took place. The earliest known rabbinical school was established by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai at Yavneh. Other official schools were soon established under different rabbis. These men traced their ideological roots back to the Pharisees of the late Second Temple Period, specifically the Houses of Hillel and Shammai, two "schools" of thought.

By late antiquity, the "beth midrash" had developed along with the synagogue into a distinct though somewhat related institution. The main difference between the "beth midrash" and "beth hakeneset" (synagogue) is that the "beth hakeneset" is sanctified for prayer only and that even the study of Torah would violate its sanctity while in the "beth midrash" both Torah study and prayer are allowed. For this reason most synagogues designate their sanctuary as a "beth midrash" so that in addition to prayer the study of the Torah would also be permitted.

Generally, there are either benches or chairs and tables, on which books are placed. In Lithuanian Yeshivos the Beit Midrash will have shtenders (standing desks resembling lecterns).

A characteristic beth midrash has many hundreds of books, including at least several copies of the entire Talmud, Torah, siddurim (prayer books), Shulchan Aruch, Mishneh Torah, Arbaah Turim and other frequently consulted works.

In modern times, "batei midrash" are typically found as the central study halls of yeshivas or independent kollels, both institutions of Torah study. The location and institution of study are often interchanged, so in popular parlance, yeshivot are sometimes referred to as batei midrash. A beth midrash may also be housed in a synagogue, or vice versa. In antiquity, this is a matter of debate (see below). Many batei midrash originally serve the community but attract a yeshiva in the course of their existence.

Nowadays there are also virtual "batei midrash" that allow self-study reading articles, listening to classes or attending lessons by live video conferences.

For more information, see George Foot Moore's Judaism, as well as the more recent works of Jacob Neusner. Also, Lee I. Levine's The Rabbinic Class of Roman Palestine in Late Antiquity, as well as the relevant articles in Dan Urman and Paul V. M. Flesher's edited volume, Ancient Synagogues: Historical Analysis and Archaeological Discovery.

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Bet Midrash, Congregation Shearith Israel

America's First Jewish Congregation

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Bet Midrash

Each Monday night, we invite the community to immerse themselves in prayer, learning, eating, and discussing together. Beginning with evening services, Bet Midrash attendees are invited to enjoy a delicious dinner, engage in a stimulating class with Rabbi Hidary for a first hour, and then continue studying a choice of varying texts in small breakout groups. For questions, contact Rabbi Richard Hidary.

8:00 pm - 9:00 pm | BREAKOUT GROUPS

1) Stories of the Babylonian Talmud Meira Wolkenfeld

Meira is a graduate of the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies at Stern College and is pursuing a phD in Talmud at Yeshiva University's Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.

2) The thought of the late Leo Straus (September 20, 1899 – October 18, 1973), and his students, the ‘Straussians,’ German-Jewish expatriate founder of an influential school of American conservative thought Rabbi Ira Rohde

Rabbi Rohde has served as Hazzan of Congregation Shearith Israel since 1990. He received Rabbinic Ordination and a Cantorial diploma from Yeshiva University and pursued Jewish, music and general studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University.

3) Nefesh Ha-Hayyim by Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin Phil Getz

4) How was the Talmud created? An Academic Approach to the Formation of the Talmud Dr. Josh Eisen

Phil is the Religion & Philosophy Editor at Palgrave Macmillan. He studied history and philosophy at George Washington University and Oxford, and learned at the Israeli Yeshivot, Mevaseret Tzion and Har Etzion.

Questions? Contact Rabbi Richard Hidary at rhidary@shearithisrael.org.

Please follow our weeky emails for schedule changes or cancellations.

The Fall Semester is sponsored by Josh Eisen.

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Shearith Israel’s “Omer Board” dates back to the Mill Street Synagogue of 1730, and may indeed go back to the early years of the Congregation’s history.

The West Eleventh Street cemetery, the second historic cemetery of Congregation Shearith Israel, was consecrated on February 27, 1805.

Bet sefer bet talmud beit midrash eitz

Eitz Chayim Hi: Women and The Hachnassat Sefer Torah

One day last year, I received a stream of videos over Whatsapp. The mashgicha ruchanit of my school in Israel, the Beit Midrash for Women at Migdal Oz, had sent me video recordings of the Hachnassat Sefer Torah at Migdal Oz. I teared up as I watched the videos of current students as well as my former teachers and madrichot dancing a new sefer Torah up the hill to its new home in the Beit Midrash. It was the day before Shavuot, the day on which we celebrate the giving of the Torah, and I watched my Rosh Beit Midrash, Esti Rosenberg, dancing in ecstasy. With the the sun setting over the hills of Gush Etzion, she celebrated the Torah alongside the women of the Beit Midrash, rejoicing for one of the first times since the end of her period of avelut for her father, HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l. Although I was not able to be there in person, watching the videos made me feel connected to my time spent learning Torah in the Beit Midrash, to my teachers, and most importantly, made me feel a sense of pride and love of Torah.

Last week, I received videos of a different Hachnassat Sefer Torah . This time, it was from a male friend on Wilf Campus, who was watching the dancing on Amsterdam Avenue in honor of the Chag HaSemikha . However, watching those clips did not evoke the same reactions as those I experienced upon receiving the videos from the celebration at Migdal Oz. When I watched the videos from Migdal Oz, I felt a sense of belonging, a homesickness to learn in my midrasha again mixed with pure happiness. In contrast, when watching the simchat hatorah of the hundreds of attendees at the Chag HaSemikha , I could not help but feel like an outsider. Watching these videos, I did not feel as if I was being transported to the event, dancing along with fellow Torah pupils and YU students. I was all too aware that even if I had found myself in Washington Heights that day, the opportunity would not have been open to me.

I was reminded of something I have felt on many an occasion throughout my time at YU. I was reminded that as much as I am a student at Yeshiva University, my relationship to the Yeshiva is not reciprocal. As much as I long to be part of this community of students, of people who love Torah with their whole being, I am not. The Hachnassat Sefer Torah was another instance that reminded me of this fact.

On a technical level, there was no promotion for the event on the Beren Campus. When I walked around the Wilf Campus in the weeks leading up to the event, I saw large banners promoting the Chag HaSemikha . The walls were plastered with portraits of RIETS musmakhim from years past. When I asked my friends at Wilf what they knew about the event, one forwarded me an email from the Mazer Yeshiva Program email system, letting the men know about changes in scheduling that day and invited them to dance at the Hachnassat Sefer Torah . Although there was no formal invitation issued to the undergraduate men, my friends said that there were multiple announcements made in the Glueck Beit Midrash about the Chag HaSemikha and the Hachnassat Sefer Torah and that people knew about it.

Thinking about this event made me feel left out of my own community. The Hachnassat Sefer Torah was a celebration of our community’s values and although I am a student of Yeshiva University and am committed to Torah on the same level as my male counterparts, YU forgot about me. The lack of mechitza or women’s section at the event implied that not only were we not invited, but we were not expected to be in attendance. It felt as if no one had even considered the possibility that we would want to partake in the festivities. This is not just about the Hachnassat Sefer Torah . It is just one example of how the women of YU are constantly left out of the Yeshiva . President Joel often remarks that the uptown campus is built around a classical Lithuanian yeshiva. He outright acknowledges that women are not included in that model. We don’t have regular access to roshei yeshiva, we don’t have the learning opportunities that the men have, and we don’t have anything close to the Glueck Beit Midrash structure on the Wilf campus.

I, and many other women, chose to attend YU out of a desire to live and learn in a place that takes Torah seriously. My hope was to continue learning Torah on a serious level and with proper support after my year in Israel. I saw YU as a place that could foster my spiritual development and as a bastion of Torah U’Madda and women’s Talmud Torah. Unfortunately, as a female student, I have not felt that I have gotten what I wanted out of YU. I have taken great classes, forged amazing friendships and built good memories, but I have not experienced the Torah atmosphere I expected. I do not feel the support or encouragement of YU in my Torah learning.

I am calling upon the administration to undertake a cheshbon hanefesh and consider how women can be full members of the yeshiva. Ways this could be accomplished include making roshei yeshiva regularly available to women on the Beren Campus (not just occasional shiurim), reconsidering the women’s undergraduate Jewish studies curriculum, trying to help solve the problem of the Beren Beit Midrash being used as a library or celebrating the accomplishments of GPATS talmidot to the same degree that those of RIETS students are celebrated. I don’t know the best solution, but if YU wants to stand by their motto of “Nowhere But Here,” they must consider how to integrate half of the school into the yeshiva’s mission. This is an issue of the women’s spiritual development, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to be magdil Torah u’maadirah.

Bava Mezia 59a-b: The Bet Midrash and Divine Law: Center for Online Judaic Studies

Babylonian Talmud Bava Mezia 59a-b: The Bet Midrash and Divine Law

The following passage in the Babylonian Talmud highlights the human element in the interpretation and application of the divinely written Torah. Even God, as it were, accepts the authority of the Rabbis to interpret the law.

We learned elsewhere- 79 “If he cut it into separate tiles, placing sand between each tile-Rabbi Eliezer declared it clean, and the sages declared it unclean; and this was the oven

of ‘Aknai.” 80 Why [the oven of] ‘Aknai?—Said Rav Judah in Samuel’s name- “[It means] that they encompassed it with arguments as a snake, 81 and proved it unclean.”

It has been taught- On that day Rabbi Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument, but they did not accept them. Said he to them- “If the halakhah agrees with me, let this carob-tree prove it!”

Thereupon the carob-tree was torn a hundred cubits out of its place. Others affirm, four hundred cubits.

“No proof can be brought from a carob-tree,” they retorted.

Again he said to them- “If the halakhah agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!”—whereupon the stream of water flowed backwards.

“No proof can be brought from a stream of water,” they rejoined.

Again he urged- “If the halakhah agrees with me, let the walls of the schoolhouse prove it,” whereupon the walls inclined to fall.

But Rabbi Joshua rebuked them, saying- “When scholars are engaged in a halakhic dispute, what have you to interfere?”

Hence they did not fall, in honor of Rabbi Joshua, nor did they resume their upright position, in honor of Rabbi Eliezer; and they are still standing thus inclined.

Again he said to them- “If the halakhah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!” Whereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out- “Why do you dispute with Rabbi Eliezer,

seeing that in all matters the halakhah agrees with him!” But Rabbi Joshua arose and exclaimed- “It is not in heaven.” 82

What did he mean by this? Said Rabbi Jeremiah- That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because You have long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, ‘‘After the majority must one incline.” 83

Rabbi Nathan met Elijah (the prophet) and asked him- “What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do in that hour?—He laughed [with joy],” he replied, “saying, ‘My sons have defeated Me, My sons have defeated Me.’’’

It was said- On that day all objects which Rabbi Eliezer had declared clean were brought and burnt in fire. Then they took a vote and excommunicated him. 84 Said they, “Who shall go and inform him?”

“I will go,” answered Rabbi Akiva, “lest an unsuitable person go and inform him, and thus destroy the whole world.” 85

What did Rabbi Akiva do? He donned black garments and wrapped himself in black, and sat at a distance of four cubits from him.

“Akkiva,” said Rabbi Eliezer to him, “what has particularly happened today?”

“Master,” he replied, “it appears to me that your companions hold aloof from you.” 86 Thereupon he too rent his garments, put off his shoes, removed [his seat] and sat on the earth, 87 while tears streamed from his eyes. The world was then smitten- a third of the olive crop, a third of the wheat, and a third of the barley crop. Some say, the dough in women’s hands swelled up. 88

A tanna taught- Great was the calamity that befell that day, for everything at which Rabbi Eliezer cast his eyes was burned up. Rabban Gamaliel too was traveling in a ship, when a huge wave arose to drown him.

“It appears to me,” he reflected, “that this is on account of none other but Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus.”

Thereupon he arose and exclaimed, “Sovereign of the Universe! You know full well that I have not acted for my honor, nor for the honor of my paternal house, but for Yours, so that strife may not multiply in Israel!”

At that the raging sea subsided. 89

78. Trans. I. Epstein, The Babylonian Talmud (London- Soncino Press, 1935-52), 35 vols.

79. Mishnah Kelim 5-10.

80. The issue concerns whether after cutting an impure oven into pieces and reassembling it in this manner, it remains susceptible to ritual impurity (as would a complete oven) or if it is not susceptible to impurity like a broken oven. Cf. Lev. 11-35.

81. Aramaic ‘akhna’ means “snake.”

84. For refusing to accept the ruling of the majority of sages.

85. If Rabbi Eliezer should choose to, he could call down divine wrath just as he had received divine support for his halakhic view.

86. For they have excommunicated you.

87. As a sign of mourning as is required of one who is excommunicated.

88. Became spoiled.

89. The continuation of the story in the Babylonian Talmud is an amoraic addition to the tannaitic material presented here.

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Beth midrash

bet sefer bet talmud beit midrash eitz

  • Judaism and Christianity
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A beth midrash ( Hebrew : בית מדרש ‎, or beis medrash, beit midrash, pl. batei midrash "House of Learning") is a Jewish study hall located in a synagogue , yeshiva , kollel or other building. It is distinct from a synagogue, although many synagogues are also used as batei midrash and vice versa.

"Beis midrash" is also the name of the undergraduate-level program in Orthodox yeshivas in the United States, for boys over 12th grade. [1]

The Arabic term " Madrasah " is derived from the same Semitic root and refers to any type of educational institution.

History

Early rabbinic literature , including the Mishnah , makes mention of the beth midrash as an institution distinct from the beth din and Sandhedrin. It was meant as a place of Torah study and interpretation, as well as the development of halakha (the practical application of the Jewish Law).

The origin of the beth midrash, or house of study, can be traced to the early rabbinic period, following the Siege of Jerusalem (70 C.E. ) in which the destruction of the Temple took place. The earliest known rabbinical school was established by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai at Yavneh. Other official schools were soon established under different rabbis. These men traced their ideological roots back to the Pharisees of the late Second Temple Period, specifically the Houses of Hillel and Shammai, two "schools" of thought.

By late antiquity, the "beth midrash" had developed along with the synagogue into a distinct though somewhat related institution. The main difference between the "beth midrash" and "beth hakeneset" (synagogue) is that the "beth hakeneset" is sanctified for prayer only and that even the study of Torah would violate its sanctity while in the "beth midrash" both Torah study and prayer are allowed. For this reason most synagogues designate their sanctuary as a "beth midrash" so that in addition to prayer the study of the Torah would also be permitted.

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