April 17, 2024
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Gershon Engel Is Growing at Eretz HaTzvi

Gershon Engel is studying at Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi in Jerusalem. He was born in Queens, but moved to Teaneck at the age of 8, attended Yeshivat Noam for the remainder of elementary school, and TABC for high school. His family davens at Sha’arei Tefilah.

His next stop? Brooklyn College.

Why did you choose to study at Eretz HaTzvi?

Eretz HaTzvi was a very appealing option to me for a number of reasons, but I suppose I can narrow it down to three main ones. There are a wide range of different afternoon shiur choices, and the talmidim have a lot of control in determining their own personal schedules. We could choose to devote our time toward Tanach, machshava, gemara bekiut or Halacha, and the shiurim on these topics are treated with a high level of rigor and intensity.

Also, despite the fact that Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi is deeply committed to Modern Orthodoxy, and every staff member is staunchly Dati Leumi, the faculty is very diverse and all have different outlooks within that framework, which allows for each student to develop his unique perspective and hashkafa under the tutelage of the rebbeim here. (The rebbeim all come from radically different yeshivas: Gush, Chaim Berlin, Maale Adumim, Torah Vodaas, Or Etzion, Telz and more.)

In addition, most of the staff has also spent time studying science or the humanities, which allows one to truly live in a Torah U’Mada environment. One of our roshei yeshiva, Rav Dr. Dovid Ebner, leads a poetry chabura every week. Rav Berman often employs his knowledge of computer science to help work through the more difficult Kabbalah in his weekly Nefesh Hachaim shiur, and there are countless other examples of how this comes into play.

What kind of goals do you have for the year?

My goals going in to yeshiva were pretty simple. I want to take time to try to learn as much Torah as I can, and enhance my skills in various specific areas of learning.

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

Choosing a year highlight is difficult, but I think davening selichot with thousands and thousands of Jews at the Kotel might top the list. Although while obviously it’s not a perfect comparison, it felt almost like witnessing the Beit Hamikdash, to see so many Jews together in one place davening together.

What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?

The biggest difficulty about going away for me consisted of simple things, like missing my home and family. My mother’s cooking is obviously unattainable in Israel, and I have yet to experience any meals to live up to such standards.

How has your year been different from your expectations?

Keeping a normal sleep schedule has been much more difficult in Israel, as I simply have much less time to do things during my day, something I didn’t really think about before I arrived.

I also thought the students here would be much more homogeneous. I was very surprised to realize that the yeshiva has many different students, all with different worldviews, interests, and ways of thinking. There are talmidim who wear black velvet kippot, talmidim that wear kipot srugot, talmidim who wear american suede kippot, etc. The sheer variety of different types of kids here was definitely not something I expected.

It is a very international yeshiva as well, and it may be unsettling at first to learn with kids from TABC, Flatbush, DRS, MTA and HAFTR together with kids from countries all around the globe like Australia, South Africa and Switzerland. But the initial shock of spending time with kids who are so distinct from each other, and come from such radically different backgrounds, gradually morphs into something that makes the year all the more enriching.

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

I don’t have a specific Sshabbat for this question. I have many relatives in Israel, and the Shabbatot I use to take time each week to spend with them and get to know them better are definitely the most enjoyable ones.

Which is one of your favorite classes at Eretz HaTzvi?

Sugyot in Seder Moed is definitely one of my favorite shiurim. The shiur is a two-hour Gemara afternoon shiur option taught by Rav Simcha Krauss, a massive talmid chacham and former student of both Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Hutner. In addition to commanding the sources at his fingertips, he teaches the sugyot in a way that is extremely Brisker and analytical, and yet at the same time focuses on the underlying philosophical messages of the Gemara as well.

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

I am most looking forward to hopefully getting to a point where I can look back and see how much I have grown and developed over the course of the year.

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