Online Torah

Beit Hamidrash

The Image of a Religious Zionist Yeshiva Graduate

By: Rav Yuval Cherlow

One of the most troubling questions is what should be the image of a graduate of a Hesder Yeshiva. It is very difficult to answer such a complex question which touches every aspect of one´s life. I will therefore refer to...

The Image of a Religious Zionist Yeshiva Graduate - Rav Yuval Cherlow

One of the most troubling questions is what should be the image of a graduate of a Hesder Yeshiva. It is very difficult to answer such a complex question which touches every aspect of one's life. I will therefore refer to the source in which I found answers to my questions - the Oral Torah - and I will also refer to the Gamarah to answer the first three questions that a man is asked when he has to account for his actions in the world to come. I will be referring to a person who did not continue studying in a yeshiva permanently and who does not teach Torah.

The first question that is asked is "did you negotiate faithfully?" I learn from this that the first expectation of a yeshiva graduate is that he will merge the yeshiva world with his business world. In practice this means that he is not deceitful, he serves clients with the utmost integrity, he is extremely honest, he does not charge for anything that is not owed to him, he does not transgress any of the laws regarding fraud and interest, he provides his customers with the best service available, he is G-d fearing when talking about his competitors and rivals and is totally moral and ethical in all his business dealings. In doing so, the yeshiva graduate puts into practice what he learnt in yeshiva, because one of the main Torah principles is perfecting the world by our own handiwork. We sometimes forget this principle - we learn in the Bet Midrash that belief in the Torah is through emotional devotion to the Creator of the World. These ideas are very comforting during the period one spends in the Bet Midrash, but a person has to remember to apply these principles in every day life - and he needs to occasionally return to the spiritual high he experienced in the Bet Midrash. Applying these principles of Chazal are one of the main aims of religious Zionism.

It is a great glorification of Hashem's name if one were to find a direct link between G-d fearing people and business integrity. It would be admirable if people would see a G-d fearing person and say how great it is that he studied in Yeshiva; not because he gives wonderful shiurim and can talk about Halachic details, but rather because he brings G-d's glory down to Earth by performing honest business practices and negotiates with integrity. Ideally, we need to aspire to reach the level that Yeshiva graduates would represent honesty and truth in the business world - that the time that they determine is real time, the price that they set is fair, they do not charge for anything not due to them etc. If we could achieve this aspiration - that there is a direct link between faith and honesty - then we have achieved one of the major goals of the Yeshiva.

The second question asked is "did you set time aside for the study of Torah?" Tosefot and much later HaRoeh z'l, stated that there were two aspects to this question. The first aspect is that the yeshiva graduate needs to diligently study Torah . Our yeshivot are built on the principle of being cut off. In other words we are 'banished' to the world of Torah study (most of the yeshivot are located in far out places - Golan, Atniel, Yerucham, Maalot, Naharia, Shilo etc). The principle of this separation is that one's spirituality level will be lifted and one will immerse himself completely in the world of Torah study without any distractions. However, the higher the spiritual level is when we are in yeshiva, so the harder the fall, once we leave the yeshiva walls. We are unable to bridge the gap and it is for this reason that many yeshiva graduates, Hesder and non-Hesder, do not learn Torah. The second aspect to this question is consistency. Every yeshiva graduate needs to ensure that he has a regular session of Torah study. Not occasional shiurim, like on Hoshana Raba and Shavuot or on special occasions, but rather on a regular basis. A yeshiva graduate needs to learn a page of Gemarah in an organized shiur, he needs to go to a Halacha shiur once a week and he needs to find a way to learn Tanach on a regular basis. Consistency reflects a deep devotion to the concept of Torah study. Serving Hashem is not done on and off and is not pushed off every time someone's sister's brother's aunt is getting engaged or if he is slightly pressured at work. Just as we learn that setting aside a fixed time for prayer is essential, so does this concept exist for Torah study; and a yeshiva graduate needs to see this as an essential part of his life.

The third question relates to awaiting redemption. In Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda z'l's Bet Midrash, we learnt that one must actively await the redemption, not passively. This Bet Midrash, which is the main spiritual source of all our yeshivot, guided us and directed us about how to await the redemption of the Land of Israel and resettling the land. Those who settle the land will be blessed because they remind everyone of our connection to the Land of Israel and our forefather's heritage. However, a vast majority of the yeshiva graduates do not go and live in Judea and Samaria or in the Golan. This fact does not make them exempt from actively awaiting redemption.

We learn from the words of the Prophets that an essential part of awaiting redemption is charity and justice. "ציון במשפט תיפדה ושביה בצדקה".. This concept was even translated into Halacha and Rambam learnt from this sentence that a Sanhedrin could be established even before the coming of Mashiach - because without it, Mashiach will not come. Israel's redemption is dependant on charity and justice. This includes helping those who are in need. It is very disturbing that until today, no charity organization has been established by yeshiva graduates (except for a brief period of the Betzedek organization). Lawyer yeshiva graduates have not established an office for free legal advice, accountants have not offered their services to charity organizations at no cost, doctors have not acted without borders, garage owners have not been considerate of large families etc. Israel's redemption needs to be built from the foundations through to the roof. Our prophets teach that 'foundations' means helping individuals recover from sorrow and distress. Hesder yeshivot and other yeshivot need to lead this campaign of actively awaiting redemption by constructing a society which is based on these charitable foundations. A yeshiva graduate needs to be a personal example of charity and justice and by doing so, build a nation from its foundations. It is about time that such a framework is established. It will start 'small' - by taking on two missions a year, completing them, learning from the mistakes and proceeding forward.

Even building an extra floor is considered actively awaiting redemption. This refers to building a Torah nation. We have stopped striving for such a nation and we have left this work to the politicians. Upon leaving the Bet Midrash, it is our duty to make this ideal a reality: by bringing people closer together, teaching Torah to secular people, making the Bet Midrash attractive to ourselves and others, being more outwardly modest, fighting for the sanctity of the family, consumer pressure in the advertising sphere etc. It begins with self-improvement and following a life based on Halacha and morality, and compounds in our contributing to the establishment of the State of Israel based on Jewish values.

When a man goes up to heaven, he is asked other questions too, but we will first answer these three.