May 15, 2024
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Gush Goals With Natan Horowitz

Natan and his Gush family.

Natan Horowitz is currently on a religious and intellectual voyage at Yeshivat Har Etzion, or Gush as it’s commonly known. He lives in Bergenfield and went to the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge, New Jersey for elementary school before graduating from MTA. His family davens at Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield, where Natan has worked as a youth leader.

Why were you drawn to Gush and what makes it different from all the other programs you were considering?

It offered more integrated programming with its Israeli program and also offered a wide range of Torah study. I would have access to very good teachers in Gemara, Tanach, machshava, halacha, hashkafa—basically everything under the sun.

You mentioned that you were very drawn to the integrated programming with Israelis; do you want to talk a little bit more about why that is important to you?

For me, learning Torah in Hebrew and becoming fluent in the language is very important. Both because it gives you much greater access to learning Torah, Tanach and mefarshim, and because as a Jew, I believe that Hebrew is our language and Jews should know it. Being with Israelis helps me achieve that [language] goal. I also believe that Jews are a nation, and therefore we should understand all parts of our nation, not just the little communities we come from. Since Israel contains the largest portion of Jews in the world, we shouldn’t just completely ignore that whole population of Jews. Israel definitely has a very different culture than America and it’s good to be exposed to that as well.

What’s your favorite class so far?

Outside of regular shiur, Rav Nachman Leibtag is certainly one of my favorites, or more favorite; I definitely like his class. He really does a good job at integrating all parts of Torah, not just what we are learning in class, and making the connections. He’s also very good at making things that might seem more archaic look more practical. And he has a great sense of humor, so there’s that too.

Natan visiting the Kotel for the first time this year.

What were your expectations going into Gush and how have they differed from your actual experience there?

I knew coming in that it was going to be very serious learning, and it’s maybe even more serious than I was expecting; the schedule is packed. I don’t have older siblings who went to yeshiva, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I expected it to be a place where one could really grow in Torah learning and I think they really try to help you with that.

So would you say that Gush is helping you meet the goals you had for the year?

I wanted to get more breadth in my Torah learning so that I should be able to excel in learning Tanach, halacha and machshava, as well as Gemara. My rebbe, Rav Moshe Taragin, told us not just that we have to learn all of Torah but to find a balance of how much learning each topic is best for each of us. And that certainly is a new goal, to find what balance works for me.

Outside of learning, what else have you done in Israel that you enjoyed?

We stopped in Neve Daniel at a lookout point where on a clear day you can see all the way to the Mediterranean sea, all the way to Jordan, north to Yerushalayim and south to Hebron. We learned that when the Avos traveled, this would be their main highway, and we understood the geographical importance of the area.

What does a typical Shabbat look like for you?

Usually there are two Shabbatot per month with food and programming in the yeshiva, and we’re advised to stay in because that way yeshiva is more than just a place to learn, but also the place to build community and have friends. On the third week we go out, and since I have a lot of family and family friends everywhere, I’m excited to visit them all and see a lot of Israel. I already went to my aunt and cousins in Efrat.

How do you think Gush fits your personality and your own philosophical outlook?

I’m a very big believer in religious Zionism. Here is really a place where everything about it is infused with religious Zionism. The yeshiva itself was built as a memorial for people who lost their lives as the last line of defense for Yerushayim during the War of Independence. Almost everybody who comes to Gush usually has a religious Zionist upbringing and there are a lot of Israelis with the same mentality here.

Natan learns from Rabbi Eli Weber, head of the Gush overseas program.

How do you think this year will prepare you for the rest of your life?

My rebbe says he doesn’t just want us to go to shiurim and listen to shiurim and maybe set up chavrutas once in a while; rather, he wants us to be the type of people who prepare and give shiurim, and arrange chaburot. That is definitely a level I want to attain, a level where I can prepare shiurim and look up sources on my own. The mitzvah of Talmud Torah really is to teach Torah, not only learn it. I hope this year will help me reach that level.


Sam Savetsky of Bergenfield is a shana bet student currently studying at Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah in Modi’in.

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