July 18, 2024
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Devin Berman Is Loving His Year at Lev HaTorah

Devin Berman is studying at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah in Ramat Beit Shemesh. He grew up in Fair Lawn, attended Yavneh for elementary school and Frisch for high school. His family davens at Shomrei Torah, where he previously was the gabbai in the youth minyan. In recent summers he’s worked as a counselor at Moshava Ba’Ir and Gan Israel.

His next stop? Smith School of Business in University of Maryland.

Why did you choose to study at Lev HaTorah?

One of my rabeim at Frisch, Rabbi Burry Klein, told me such amazing things about Lev HaTorah in our meetings. He would speak of how Lev is a very warm environment, that many of the rebbeim live on the same block as the yeshiva and would often invite students into their homes for Shabbat meals, along with weekly melave malkas. The students are also known to be kind, outgoing and genuine.

Aside from the people, the facility is gorgeous. Every night I get to sit on my apartment’s mirpeset (porch) and watch the beautiful sunset. I could not have imagined a better environment.

What kind of goals do you have for the year?

Like most gap year students studying in yeshiva, one goal I had coming in was to answer my religious questions, like “why do bad things happen to good people?” and “what are the reasons behind all of the mitzvot?”

But I also had many other goals. For example, one thing I wanted to do was experience living in Eretz Yisrael. Following in the footsteps of our forefathers and physically living in Israel is extremely special. I also wanted to make sure I felt comfortable with my Judaism before going off to college. Devoting a year to study the various aspects of Judaism, including Halacha, philosophy, and Gemara, at this critical juncture of my life is imperative to my development as a Jew and also as a man.

I also wanted to gain experience living away from home. With college around the corner, this is an excellent opportunity for me to practice living without the comfort of my family so near by.

What have been some of the highlights of your year so far?

One of the highlights has been spending the holidays in yeshiva. Celebrating the chagim with the students and rebbeim has helped me raise my level of connection to Hashem immensely.

I also really enjoy the hikes and other tiyulim we go on. “Getting onto the playing field,” as Rav Mordechai Kaplan says, is incredible. It has helped me see the land in a whole new light.

The number-one moment for me happened at one of Lev’s Thursday night programs. A guest speaker asked us why, when a siddur falls, do we all run to pick it up and kiss it, but when a Jew falls, whether physically or spiritually, do we not always run to pick him up? This question has helped me put into perspective what it means to be a Jew. We must always be there for each other, ready to assist those who need us

What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?

The biggest challenge has been to say goodbye to my family, and to come to grips with the fact that I won’t be going to school with all of my childhood friends anymore. Fortunately, it has been very easy to make new friends at Lev, and better yet, I still get to see my high school friends at least once a week.

How has your year been different from your expectations?

One fear that I had was that I would be thrust into the middle of a foreign country, not knowing anything about the culture. To my surprise, the adjustment has been far easier than I imagined. Living near New York City, I had to master the public transportation system, thus making the transit system here very easy to pick up. However, it is tough having to rely on other people, whether it be cab drivers or bus drivers, to drive me around any time I want to go anywhere. It reminds me of the days before I got my driver’s license. I definitely miss driving myself!

Also, looking at the daily schedule definitely made me feel intimidated coming in. Never in my life have I had a daily routine with so much Torah learning in it. At first I was nervous it would be too much. However, I soon learned that with the help of the great rebbeim here, the learning has become one of my favorite parts of the day.

Where is your favorite place to go for weekends/Shabbat so far?

My favorite place to stay is at my friend’s house in Efrat. My good friend, Ephraim Najman, made aliyah from Teaneck in 2014 and I haven’t been able to see him often since then. Being in Israel for the year has made it so easy for us to reconnect.

Who is a teacher at Lev HaTorah you connect to especially well?

One figure I connect to very well is Rav Jonny Friedman. He, being a Lev alumnus, has much to offer when it comes to how to succeed in yeshiva. I meet with him often to either learn or to just shmooze. He is always willing to answer any questions I have and has become a kind of big brother to me here.

Which is one of your favorite classes at Lev HaTorah?

My favorite class has to be my morning Gemara class taught by Rav Netanel Leibowitz. Rav Netanel brilliantly blends his prolific knowledge of Torah with his incredible sense of humor to create a meaningful and inspiring class every morning. Every day I walk out of the classroom inspired and yearning for the next day’s shiur.

What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?

I look forward to continuing on the path I have started. I am confident that with the help of my rebbeim and peers I will be able to achieve great things this year, and will be set up to continue doing great things in the future. I also hope to continue traveling the country and visiting the sites I have learned about as a child. Lastly, I hope to continue building meaningful relationships with as many people as I can. I know that if I remain committed, all of this is possible.

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