June 19, 2024
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Coby Farkovits Reaches New Heights At Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah

What drew you to Migdal HaTorah?

I visited for a day last year, but even before that, Migdal always stood out to me as the place I wanted to go to. The philosophy options are unparalleled, allowing me a platform to develop my Judaism and really understand my faith. I didn’t think I could get that anywhere else. Then, when I visited last year, I instantly felt like it was a good environment full of people I could form lifelong friendships with.

What part of the environment last year stood out to you so much?

Everyone was just super kind, some of the friendliest people from my visit day are my shana bet fellow students this year and my good friends. Plus, that one day of hearing debates, conversations and sometimes arguments in the beit midrash sold Migdal to me as the kind of place I could learn a lot from. The environment is really conducive to growth because everyone kind of thinks the same way but comes to different conclusions and is invested in different topics. It has been really helpful to not only broaden my horizons and learn about new topics, but also to help talk my own ideas out and develop my beliefs.

Why is philosophy important to you?

I think it is vitally important to understand why it is that you do what you do, especially when it comes to the most important parts of your life, like belief in God. To me, the most important part of faith is that you hold that faith because you have thought about it, not just because you have been told to. Rambam writes that there is a mitzvah to know that God exists rather than to just believe, and he describes that mitzvah to be not only that you believe in God but that you understand what God’s existence implies and how logically it could be no other way. How else can you do that other than philosophy?

Cool. So how does Migdal provide the “philosophic Judaism” that you wanted?

Well, for starters, they just straight up offer a quarterly philosophy course that every student will get to take at some point during the year. I don’t know if any other yeshiva has that. We study subjects like arguments for God, physics and logic as well as read important philosophers like Rambam, Sadia Gaon, Bachya Ibn Bekuda, Plato, Aristotle and more. This course has been instrumental in helping me understand the universe, defend my beliefs and follow the mitzvah to know, not just to believe, God exists. In addition, outside of the core courses like iyun, various shiurim, and whatever courses you are taking that quarter, the schedule is very open with lots of time for chavrutot to study what you want. You can pursue any topic that interests you and the beit midrash has books on nearly every subject, plus the rabbis are happy to help you.

That sounds incredible, are there any rebbeim you really connect with?

Rabbi Sklar is very friendly and outgoing and he lets me be me, so we have really formed a bond. All of the rebbeim here are like that though, but I am in Rabbi Sklar’s iyun shiur so I have gotten the most time with him.

That’s great to hear, have there been any favorite classes?

Rabbi Siscovic once gave a shiur on the nature of the soul that I really enjoyed. It did not feel like a lecture; it felt like a conversation. I have only recently gotten into philosophy, so being able to discuss these topics with someone incredibly knowledgeable was awesome, especially when we can tie it into Judaism and refine my beliefs. It was also in the beginning of the year, so it helped show me the Migdal vibe.

How else did your year shape you?

I figured out who I wanted to be, what kind of people I want to spend time and energy on, and which people I can have constructive debates with without arguing. A good debate is really helpful for me to figure stuff out, but it needs to be productive. I have learned how to defend my Judaism, I made lifelong friends and I know resources I can go to if I ever have any questions—rebbeim, books, friends, websites—and I have a larger knowledge base.

What do you appreciate about living in Israel?

At Migdal they treat me like an adult so I can grow into an adult. I love the freedom I am given to make my own plans, live in an apartment and use public transit in a different environment. I am able to go out and be an adult by myself which I wasn’t able to do in America.

Where is your go-to place to relax?

My apartment or a park; Modiin has so many. There are parks all the way down for the 20 minute walk from my apartment to the local mall. And that’s just on this one street! I also like heading up to the water tower for the incredible view of Modiin.

What has been the highlight of your shana aleph?

Going to Dubai and learning about the history of Muslims and Jews in the region. Our community does not often talk about the potential for Jews and Muslims to get along so it was really informative to learn the broader context of our historic relations in the midst of the war in Gaza.

How has this year prepared you for Rutgers and beyond?

Independence, time management skills, learning skills, socializing skills, reaching out to teachers and generally being proactive.

That’s great to hear. What advice would you give to yourself from a year ago and why?

Go to Migdal. Like, honestly that’s it. A year ago I knew what I was doing and was making the right choice without my help.

What advice would you give to an incoming shana aleph student?

Maximize your time in yeshiva. When you’re there, make sure to talk to the rebbeim; they are all brilliant and here to help you. Your year is up to you. Make the most of it.


Sam Savetsky, of Bergenfield, is a shana bet student at Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah in Modi’in. For interview inquiries, he can be reached at [email protected].

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