Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Torah MiTzion- On the educational vision of Gush
Although Rav Kook died more than 30 years before the founding of Yeshivat Har Etzion, commonly known as Gush, I’d like to think he would have greatly impressed by the yeshiva. Even before Rav Kook made aliyah from Eastern Europe, he wrote of the importance of teaching all Torah with an emphasis on ethics and morality. In Gush, he would have seen this vision implemented.
Rav Kook suggested that in teaching Torah without showing the ethical and moral underpinnings behind it, yeshivos were driving away the most ethically sensitive students of his generation. By being exposed to Gemara without being taught the ideas behind it, Rav Kook believed that the students left for other destinations, real or conceptual, where they hoped to discover the great ethical and moral ideas needed to help reform mankind.
Looking around today, it seems like we need to implement Rav Kook’s ideas even more. The vast majority of yeshivos have become gemara factories, where no other Torah is taught. Seldomly is mussar studied and when it is, it is without the vitality that is needed to make it effective. In the rare cases where aggadeta is studied, it is approached with a level of superficiality that misses the mark. Students leave yeshiva having learned many blatt gemara, but without a sense of the ideas that serve as the underpinnings for the gemara they have learned.
I was not fortunate enough to study at Gush, although its Torah has had a profound effect on me. The first time I read Rav Amital’s writings, I was almost brought to tears, as his deep ethical sensitivity came through in each of his essays. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein’s writings are not only deep and profound, but also emphasize the morality and sensitivity that made him a true gadol. Through their talmidim, I have come to appreciate a yeshivah that teaches the nuance through which Torah must be learned. Although the talmidei hayeshivah have various approaches to many issues, and that is not by chance but by design, what I see in them, indeed what seems to me, as an outsider to be at heart of the yeshiva, is a sense that Torah is not Torah if it remains in the beis medrash. Indeed, in different, but complementary ways, both Roshei Yeshivah, taught through their actions, both great and small, that the Torah, and those who study it, must bring peace to the world.
With Rav Aharon’s recent passing bringing his Torah and gadlus to a broader audience, it is my hope that we will not only learn from his greatness in Torah, but also from his, as well as Rav Amital’s vision for how Torah should be taught and lived.