By Elisheva Cohen, Contributing Writer
Torah has always been a central pillar of Yeshiva University. The very name, Yeshiva University, as well as the dual curriculum, connotes the importance of Torah learning at YU. It was not until this past year, however, my junior year at Stern, that I truly felt as Devarim 30:14 says,“The matter is very near to you — in your mouth and in your heart — to perform it.” According to Rashi and others, the pasuk (verse) is referring to Torah. Yes, I took many Judaic classes my first year at Stern, but it was not until my second year that Torah became a tangible presence on campus — that Torah opportunities filled my schedule day and night.
“The Torah is not in the heavens” and “neither is it beyond the sea,” says Devarim 30:12-13; it is within our reach. Much of this reality at Stern, of tangible Torah, can be attributed to the combined effort of many people who have worked and continue to work tirelessly to spread Torah on campus. The amount of Torah opportunities available to Beren Campus students surged this past year and continues to expand and grow. Multiple shiurim (Torah lectures) are offered each day from Monday through Thursday at varying times and across many topics, including — mussar (character development), halacha (Jewish law), emunah (faith), Gemara, Tanach (Bible), and the parsha (Torah portion). The shiurim continue at night with “Torah with the Roshei Yeshiva” on Mondays, night seder on Tuesdays, and quite often, guest speakers. Aside from the scheduled shiurim, the kol shel Torah (call of Torah) can be heard emanating in the beit midrash from multiple small chaburot (learning groups), many run by students, such as the Mussar Va’ad or Tanya Time. At the same time, GPATS women, women in the Graduate Program for Advanced Talmudic Studies, can be found pouring over a gemara or halacha sefer (book on Jewish law), learning with an undergraduate, or helping someone navigate the beit midrash.
Not only can Torah be heard in Stern by voice, but also in writing, in its many Torah publications, including a weekly parsha newsletter, Hi Sichati, and Kol HaMevaser, a joint Jewish thought publication with Yeshiva College. Another major catalyst in spreading Torah on campus is the Beren Bekiut Program, an incentivized bekiut (proficiency) learning program launched last year. Through this program, a student is able to learn in one of four tracks — Halacha, Tanach, Mishnayot, and Gemara — and after successfully taking tests on the Torah she learned, she receives a gift card to Yeshiva University’s seforim sale. This program caters to all students, with two tracks this year for mechina students (see emails and flyers for more info.) All of the opportunities mentioned above, as well as many not mentioned, have created a Torah–filled environment at Stern beyond the classroom, and it only continues to grow.
Is there more to work on? Certainly. Steps are being taken on a daily basis to improve and refine Stern’s Torah opportunities, to make the beit midrash more accessible, reach a wider audience, and further spread the kol shel Torah on the Beren Campus and beyond. These efforts are vital to the continued growth of Torah learning at Stern. At the same time, however, we have to appreciate the plethora of Torah-learning opportunities at hand. The challenge is not to continue adding new shiurim and chaburot but to take advantage of the treasures at our door and carry the Torah with us, as part of our being. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein beautifully encapsulates this point in his idea on each person’s responsibility to be a shliach l’kabbalah (messenger to receive) and shliach l’holacha (messenger to transmit). On the one hand, Rav Lichtenstein teaches, we have to be messengers to receive. We have to be open and ready to soak in the Torah of our teachers and make the most of the classes and Torah opportunities around us. On the other hand, when learning Torah, we have to keep in mind that we are not only learning for the present, but for the future, to carry the Torah with us and spread it, to be a shliach l’holacha. We need to be open to receive in order to be ready to give.
The Torah is available. In the words of the Rambam, “The crown of Torah is set aside, waiting, and ready for each Jew…whoever desires may come and take it” (Rambam Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:1). With Torah filling our halls, classrooms, and beit midrash, let us all be ready to “come and take it.”