YESHIVOT


The name yeshivah was applied to institutes of talmudic learning of three distinct kinds:

(1) the academies in Ereẓ Israel and Babylonia in which the Mishnah was studied by the amoraim and which produced the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud (see *Talmud, Babylonian and *Talmud, Jerusalem);

(2) the academies of Sura and Pumbedita which in the geonic period were the central authoritative religious bodies for world Jewry;

(3) local institutions for the pursuit of talmudic studies which developed in the post-geonic period. This article deals with the third category only; for the others see *Academies.

The Yeshivot in Islamic Countries and in Western and Central Europe to the 15th Century

The first yeshivot outside Babylon and Ereẓ Israel were already established during the time of the geonim. *Pirkoi b. Baboi in the eighth century testifies to their existence in North Africa and in Spain, and in the tenth century yeshivot arose in the Maghreb – in Fez, in Gabès, in Sijilmassa, and in Tlemcen. The Kairouan yeshivah, where *Ḥushi'el b. Elhanan, regarded as its founder, and *Jacob b. Nissim were active, became especially famous. In Egypt there was a renowned yeshivah in Fostat headed by *Elhanan b. Shemariah, and he and other heads of yeshivot in Egypt were termed reish bei-rabbanan ("head of scholars") or rosh ha-seder ("head of the order"). In Egypt an effort was even made to revive the geonate and during the 12th century the head of yeshivot in Fostat bore the title *gaon. *Maimonides, who gave public discourses in Fostat, may have headed a yeshivah. There were still important yeshivot in Egypt in the 16th century, headed by *David b. Solomon ibn Abi Zimra, Bezalel *Ashkenazi, and others.

The yeshivot of Ereẓ Israel moved to Damascus after the *Crusades and remained there until the end of the 12th century. There was also an important center of talmudic study in *Aleppo. The largest yeshivah in Oriental countries, headed by the last of the geonim, was in Gabhda, where there were also nine small yeshivot.

In Spain yeshivot are mentioned as existing in Lucena and in Barcelona in the middle of the eighth century, but definite evidence of them exists only from the tenth century onward. In the middle of that century *Moses b. Ḥanokh founded a large yeshivah in Córdoba, where he was succeeded by his son, Ḥanokh. The yeshivah of Granada was headed by *Samuel ha-Nagid and after him by his son Joseph. The yeshivah of Lucena attracted many students from outside Spain and continued to exist for some 250 years. Among its pupils were Jonah *Ibn Janāḥ and *Judah Halevi, among its later heads Isaac ibn Ghayyat, Isaac *Alfasi, and Joseph *Ibn Migash. The *Almohad invasion brought about the ruin of the yeshivot in southern Spain and they were replaced by the great yeshivot of Aragon and Castile.

The yeshivot of Barcelona and Toledo flourished in the time of Solomon b. Abraham *Adret, *Asher b. Jehiel, and *Nissim b. Reuben Gerondi, continued to exist until the persecutions of 1391, and exercised great influence upon the yeshivot of France and Germany. Subsequently, and until the expulsion, there were many yeshivot in Spain and by a resolution of the leaders of the communities of Castile in 1432 the duty was even imposed upon every rabbi to establish a yeshivah in his community. At that time the yeshivot of Isaac *Campanton and Isaac de *Leon in Toledo, Isaac *Aboab II, and of Samuel de Valensi became well known. Even Joseph *Jabez, who castigates the scholars of his generation for their secular outlook on life, admits that at the time of the Spanish expulsion the number of yeshivot in Castile was greater than it had ever been.

The first yeshivah in southern France was at *Narbonne, apparently founded in the tenth century. Among its heads (in the 12th century) was *Abraham b. Isaac, author of Ha-Eshkol. When *Benjamin of Tudela visited Lunel he found there an important yeshivah, whose pupils, although from other towns, were supported by the local community. The pupils of the yeshivah of Posquières were maintained at the personal expense of its head, *Abraham b. David. The yeshivot at *Béziers, Marseilles, and Montpellier also gained a great reputation. A vivid description of the method of learning in the yeshivot of Provence has been preserved in the work of *Jedaiah b. Abraham ha-Penini, who studied in the yeshivah of Béziers. In northern France the pupils and descendants of *Rashi headed the yeshivot – Jacob b. Meir *Tam at Ramerupt and *Isaac b. Samuel at Dampierre. Students were attracted to them from afar, even from the Slavonic countries. According to one tradition 60 scholars of the Dampierre yeshivah took part in the halakhic discussions which served as the basis for the *Tosafot. There were also important yeshivot in Orleans, Falaise, Sens, Coucy, and Chinon. The yeshivah of *Jehiel of Paris had 300 students. *Moses b. Jacob of Coucy relates that the students of the French yeshivot were so assiduous in their studies that they even slept in their clothes. The expulsion of the Jews from France in 1306 put an end to the yeshivot there; on their return an effort at revival was made by Mattathias Treves, who founded a yeshivah in Paris after 1360, but it did not succeed.

In Germany the yeshivah of R. *Gershom b. Judah in Mainz, to which pupils came even from Spain, was especially renowned. His pupils continued his activity both in Mainz and in *Worms. In the 11th, and still more in the 12th-13th centuries, there flourished the yeshivot of Speyer, Regensburg, Bonn, and Paris. The students made their way on foot, a custom preserved also in the following generations, and they were welcomed by the Jews of each locality with great honor. After the destruction of the *Rhine communities in the persecutions accompanying the *Black Death (1348–49), Austria became the center for study of the Talmud, and pupils began to stream to the yeshivot of Vienna from the north and the west. As a result of the activity of Isaac Or Zaru'a it became a Torah center as early as the 13th century, as did Wiener-Neustadt, where Israel *Isserlein was active, and Krems. In Prague, Bohemia, there were already yeshivot in the 12th century, headed by pupils of Jacob Tam, but their main flowering was from the end of the 15th century.

In Italy teaching institutions for Talmud existed at a very early period, and some scholars ascribe to Italy a special historical function in the chain of handing down the teaching of Oral Law in Europe. However, both the problem of its relationship to the Torah of Ereẓ Israel as well as of its influence upon the yeshivot of Europe that arose after it have not been sufficiently clarified and are subjects of dispute. In any event there was already a yeshivah in Venosa in the ninth century. Yeshivot, important in their time, existed then and in the tenth century within the Byzantine possessions in the south – at Oria Otranto, and Bari – and also in central Italy at Lucca – from where the *Kalonymus family brought the study of the Talmud to Mainz – and subsequently at Siponto and at Rome. The Jewish centers in the south were destroyed in the later Middle Ages and the northern ones declined in standard. A new impetus to the study of Talmud in Italy was given in the 15th–16th centuries by the arrival of the exiles from Germany and France.

[Simha Assaf]

The Shifting of Yeshivah Centers in the 15th–18th Centuries

Although the political and economic position of the Jews in Germany, Austria, and Spain became increasingly precarious, the yeshivot continued their activities and even increased in number. Yeshivot such as those headed by R. Jacob *Moellin (Mainz), R. Jacob *Weil (Nuremberg, Augsburg), R. Isaac Canpanton (Castile, Spain), and R. Israel Isserlein (Krems, Austria) attracted large numbers of students. However, there was a continuous shifting of the Jewish population to southern and Eastern Europe and study centers moved to Italy, Bohemia, and Poland-Lithuania. R. Moses *Muenz (Minz) opened a yeshivah at Poznan (Poland), and R. Joseph *Colon at Pavia (Italy). R. Jacob *Pollak of Nuremberg moved first to Prague and then to Cracow, students flocking to him wherever he went.

The 16th and 17th centuries witnessed a large concentration of yeshivot and widespread Torah learning in Poland-Lithuania. Among outstanding yeshivah heads were R. *Shalom Shakhna (Lublin), R. Moses *Isserles (Cracow), R. Solomon *Luria (Ostrog, Lublin), R. Judah *Loew (Prague, Poznan, Nikolsburg), R. Mordecai *Jaffe (Prague, Grodno, Lublin), R. Joshua *Falk (Lvov), R. Samuel *Edels (Ostrog), R. Isaiah *Horowitz (Ostrog, Prague), R. Yom Tov Lipmann *Heller (Prague, Vladmir-Volynski (Ludmir), Cracow), and R. Menahem Mendel *Krochmal (Nikolsburg). In Lithuania, important yeshivot were at Brest-Litovsk, Pinsk, and Slutsk. This illustrious stage in the history of the Ashkenazi yeshivah was summed up, if somewhat exaggeratedly, by R. Nathan *Hannover in his Yeven Meẓulah: "There were yeshivot in each and every community." During the same period, yeshivah centers sprang up in Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Ereẓ Israel. Important institutions were headed by R. Judah *Minz (Padua; see Elijah *Capsali's vivid account, in: REJ, 79 (1924), 28–60), R. Joseph *Ottolenghi (Cremona), and later by R. Moses *Zacuto (Mantua). Renowned yeshivot were also maintained at Venice and later at Leghorn. The influx of refugees from Spain into the Levant caused a marked upsurge in the study of the Talmud there as is evident by such famous heads of yeshivot as R. Elijah *Mizraḥi (Constantinople), R. Joseph *Taitaẓak and R. Samuel di *Medina (Salonika), R. *Levi b. Ḥabib and later R. Jacob *Ḥagiz (Jerusalem), R. Jacob *Berab and R. Joseph *Caro (Safed), R. *David ibn Abi Zimra (Jerusalem, Cairo). Yeshivot of importance were also supported by the Smyrna community.

After the 1648–49 massacres (see *Chmielnicki) the Polish-Lithuanian yeshivot declined, though they were still attended by students from Western Europe. Scholars from Eastern Europe were increasingly to be found as rabbis and heads of yeshivot in German communities, such as Frankfurt on the Main, Fuerth, Hamburg-Altona, Halberstadt, and Metz. Famous heads of yeshivot in these communities in the 18th century included R. Jacob Joshua *Falk, R. Zevi *Ashkenazi, R. Jonathan *Eybeschutz, R. Raphael *Kohen, and R. Phinehas *Horowitz. The Prague yeshivah continued to flourish under R. Ezekiel *Landau, and yeshivot were established in Hungary (Eisenstadt, Pressburg). The Sephardi yeshivah Etz-Ḥayyim in Amsterdam made a special name for itself, while the yeshivot in the Ottoman Empire were declining steadily. In Italy R. Isaac *Lampronti attracted many students to his yeshivah in Ferrara. By the close of the 18th century the *Haskalah in the West and acute impoverishment in the East had caused many yeshivot to close, and the number of students at the surviving ones was lower than ever.

Organization and Inner Life

Prior to the 16th century, the Ashkenazi yeshivah had only been loosely affiliated with the local community, being mostly the semiprivate undertaking of the scholar who headed it. Almost every talmudic scholar who attained the position of a rabbi would open a yeshivah and he was responsible for meeting its financial requirements. The well-to-do students paid for their studies and upkeep, while the poor ones were supported by communal charity. Many communities paid special taxes to the city for the right to have students from other places at the local yeshivah.

Gradually the yeshivot became more closely connected with the communal administration. By the middle of the 16th century a new type of "community yeshivah" (yeshivat ha-kahal) had crystallized, while the former, semiprivate type continued to exist side by side with it, usually supported by wealthy rabbis or by laymen through charitable trusts. The communal yeshivot were subject to the rules (takkanot) laid down by the general councils of entire areas, defining their administrative and scholastic functions in the minutest details, such as the universal duty of the communities to maintain and support yeshivot; qualifications of yeshivah heads; admission of students; curriculum; supply of books; graduation of students; distribution of meals for students among members of the communities. In Spain rules regulating the organization of yeshivot had already been promulgated by the Council of Valladolid in 1432. In Italy and Germany numerous little synagogues were endowed by wealthy donors where masters were "enclosed" (hence their name: Klaus in German and Hesger in Hebrew) with a small number of students. There was also a tightening of social relations between the yeshivah and the community. While students usually conducted separate prayer services with the rabbi, local religious traditions were binding on the yeshivah congregation, and in matters of rabbinical jurisprudence arising in the community the rabbi consulted senior members of his yeshivah (benei yeshivah), and local legal cases were brought up for discussion in the plenum of the yeshivah.

Masters and students were in constant personal contact. Many students were "wandering scholars," moving from one yeshivah to another, urged on by necessity or thirst for knowledge. The youngest were aged 13, but the middle-aged, married baḥur was not exceptional. At some yeshivot the students organized some form of self-government. Many of them tried to supplement their material resources by teaching young children, copying manuscripts, acting as cantors in outlying communities, and even engaging in some moneylending. While yeshivah students were not known for committing excesses and outrages like university scholars, there were occasional outbursts of merry-making. Their life was devoted to high moral and intellectual ideas, yet it was not somber and other-worldly.

Curriculum

The subject matter of instruction at the Ashkenazi yeshivot was almost exclusively the Oral Law as expounded in the Talmud and its commentaries and supercommentaries of the French-German school. Few traces can be found of formal Bible lectures. This was not universally considered satisfactory, and it came under sharp attack from Sephardi scholars, at whose yeshivot much more time was devoted to Bible and aggadic literature. Nevertheless, the advocates of the Ashkenazi curriculum stressed its greater relevance to religious practice and effectiveness for developing the intellect. However, the private scholarly interests of students were more diversified. In the 15th century a favorite preoccupation was the typically humanistic study of *minhagim, the local customs and traditions, and students also recorded in great detail the religious practices of their masters. Later this gave rise to a systematic study of codificatory literature (*posekim), and in Italy, where the pope had banned the Talmud in 1559, this became the central part of the curriculum. At the Etz-Ḥayyim yeshivah in Amsterdam senior students were required to write responsa to set questions on topical matters of halakhah. Kabbalistic studies, though increasingly popular, never became part of the formal Ashkenazi studies, as they did in Italy and in the Levant. Secular studies were practically unknown at the Ashkenazi yeshivot, although in Renaissance Italy suggestions were made for combining Torah with the study of science. The academic year was divided into two semesters, with few vacations and holidays. Gradually the vacations were prolonged, especially in the autumn, as masters and their students visited the trade fairs (see *Markets and Fairs) where scholars used to convene to discuss matters of academic and public interest.

For methods of study see *Pilpul.

Degrees and Graduation

The first grade attained by a young yeshivah student was that of baḥur, and upon reaching a certain degree of academic independence he was made a meshuḥrar. A student of many years' standing and high scholastic merit was given the title of ḥaver. Toward the end of the 14th century the academic and rabbinical title of morenu was introduced and the rules of graduation and ordination (*semikhah) were stabilized. This had become necessary in order to safeguard the academic standard of the rabbinate against the perils of dispersal and migration. However, as soon as semikhah was formalized, a process of institutionalization set in, enabling mediocre scholars to attain rabbinical authority and privilege, a fact which was much lamented by leading rabbis. Here and there semikhah became a source of income for rabbis, and it was necessary for communities and general councils to issue takkanot defining the conditions under which a student could be known as morenu. By the end of the 16th century the titles of morenu and ḥaver lost their purely academic character and were increasingly used as symbols of social status.

Despite persecution, dispersion, and changing social and economic conditions, the ideals of Torah study persisted throughout the Middle Ages. Study was one of the supreme modes of worship, and the central position of scholars and scholarship in the communities made the yeshivah one of the main pillars of Jewish life.

[Mordechai Breuer]

Lithuania and Russia

Documentary evidence exists of yeshivot in Lithuania and Belorussia in the 16th century. By a resolution of its first assembly in 1622 the Council of Lithuanian Jewry obliged every community with a rabbi to maintain a yeshivah with a suitable number of pupils. The large communities were authorized to supervise the implementation of the resolution. An agreement between the rabbi and his community on a limitation of the number of pupils was of no validity. The pupils of the yeshivah were maintained by the members of the community, who made themselves responsible for providing for the material needs of the students not as became customary later on a daily basis ("essen teg," literally "eating days") but for a period of two to four weeks. Jews in the neighboring villages were also obliged to help maintain the yeshivah pupils. "Between terms" (from the 15th of Av to the first of Ḥeshvan, and from the 15th of Shevat to the first of Nisan), the pupils lived in the homes of the village Jews. As this caused them to slacken in their study of the Talmud, in 1639 the council limited the students' stay in the villages to the months of Nisan, Elul, and Tishri. Subsequently this practice was abolished completely. The communities also undertook the obligation of supplying the yeshivot with copies of the Talmud and other books. The Lithuanian yeshivot, which were mainly concentrated in the regions of Grodno (Brest-Litvosk), Vilna, and Minsk (Pinsk, Slutsk), never reached the level of the Polish yeshivot and in the 18th century continued to decline. According to the testimony of Joseph Krinki, a pupil of Ḥayyim of Volozhin, the yeshivah in Zamet, which in the past had been a center of Talmud study, ceased to exist.

A new era in the spiritual life of the Jews of Lithuania, however, was inaugurated by *Elijah b. Solomon, the Gaon of Vilna, whose pupils established a network of yeshivot in Lithuania and Belorussia. The most important of these was founded in 1802 in *Volozhin, near Vilna, by Ḥayyim of Volozhin (see Ḥayyim *Volozhiner), the Gaon of Vilna's most distinguished pupil. Only talented students with a good grounding were accepted. Ḥayyim continued the Gaon's method and like him was opposed to the method of pilpul prevailing in the yeshivot of Poland. His successor, his son Isaac, made great efforts to make the yeshivah acceptable to the government. From 1854 until its closure by the government in 1892, the yeshivah was headed by Isaac's son-in-law, Naphtali Ẓevi Judah *Berlin (the "Neẓiv"), during whose time its standard rose. The number of students from all parts of Russia and even beyond reached 400. To maintain the yeshivah and needy students, emissaries were dispatched to all the communities of Russia, and even to the United States. From the yeshivah of Volozhin came most of the rabbis and talmudic scholars of Russia in the 19th century. As a factor against the inroads of Haskalah it had a great influence on the spiritual life of the Jews of Russia, as a result of which the representatives of the Haskalah fought against it fiercely. The Russian government, which regarded the Haskalah movement with greater favor, treated the yeshivah with suspicion and several times ordered its closure. The yeshivah was indeed reopened several times after the death of Berlin in 1893, but it never regained its previous eminence. Alongside it there existed other large yeshivot in the towns of Mir (Minsk region), Vilna, Minsk, etc. In the 1870s and 1880s the yeshivot of *Slobodka and *Telz (Telsiai) were founded. The number of their pupils exceeded 300 and they were in some degree intended to make good the deficiency caused by the closure of the Volozhin yeshivah. The Telz yeshivah, headed by Eliezer *Gordon (d. 1910), was distinguished by its rational method of study and the strict arrangement of its studies. The students were obliged to complete five classes of shi'urim. In the yeshivah, Keneset Israel (not to be confused with the Keneset Yiẓḥak institute in the same town), founded in Slobodka by disciples of Israel (Salanter) *Lipkin, members of the *Musar movement, particular stress was laid upon the learning of musar, prayer with devotion, and the fulfillment of precepts. This approach aroused opposition for fear that the stress on the devotional and ethical teaching of the Talmud was likely to limit its intensive study. However, in the last decades before the Holocaust the system prevailed in most Lithuanian yeshivot. Mention must also be made of the yeshivot of Lomza, Radzyn, Novogrudok, Slutsk, Malch, and Bryansk. The adherents of the Chabad ḥasidic movement maintained a yeshivah in Lubavich with 400 pupils and had branches in other towns. The curriculum of the ḥasidic yeshivot naturally devoted considerable time to ḥasidic doctrine.

The new trends in the spiritual life of the Jews of Russia found an echo among the youth in the yeshivot. In many places the masters endeavored to keep the students from any contact with secular literature, and in Slobodka in particular there was strict supervision. The movement toward acquiring general culture did not touch the ḥasidic yeshivot at all, perhaps since most of them were in small towns far from the cities. Money for their maintenance was collected by emissaries who were at the same time wandering preachers. Apart from the large yeshivot there existed in several localities small yeshivot for the local youth supported by the community and the neighborhood. Since married students were not accepted in the yeshivot and the codes were not studied in them, those married students of the Talmud who wanted to become ordained for the rabbinate would unite in *kolelim. Such kolelim existed in Volozhin (in a branch of the yeshivah), in Eishishok, Minsk, Vilna, and other places. An exceptionally high standard was attained by the Perushim kolel in Kovno headed by Isaac Elhanan Spektor (d. 1897), which in the 1890s had more than 200 students. Both the members of these kolelim, whose studies lasted from three to four years, and their families, were adequately supported.

In the last decades before the Holocaust the tendency developed to admit other Jewish studies (Bible, Hebrew, etc.) besides Talmud into the curriculum as well as secular studies. One such reformed yeshivah was founded in Lida, in 1905 by Isaac Jacob Reines, with the intention not only of providing general culture for rabbis and teachers but also of furnishing students who intended engaging in business with comprehensive Jewish knowledge. It had about 300 pupils. The yeshivah founded in 1905 by ḥayyim *Tchernowitz (Rav Ẓa'ir) in Odessa was meant to be an advanced school for Jewish studies and an academy for rabbis, equipped with the apparatus of modern scholarship. The scientific method was practiced in all branches, even in Talmud. In its early period *Bialik and *Klausner were lecturers there, in addition to Tchernowitz. After the Bolshevik Revolution all the yeshivot in the Soviet Union were closed. Until the Holocaust yeshivot remained in Lithuania in Slobodka, Telz, and Ponevezh (Panevezyas); in Poland they remained in Mir, Kletsk, Baranovichi, Radzyn, Warsaw, and elsewhere. In Lublin a large yeshivah was opened under the leadership of Meir *Shapira.

[Simha Assaf]

Yeshivot in the 20th Century

From the beginning of the 20th century it became clear to Orthodox Jewry that only an orderly and organized religious education could serve as a protective barrier against the spread of general cultural trends and the new social movements of the time. As a result, at the very time that the influence of Torah in the life of the individual and the community was being undermined, yeshivah learning and education, which had previously been a matter for the religious intellectual elite only, became an accepted and widespread feature in the life of the young men of Orthodox Jewry as a whole. With the improvement of the economic status of the Jews in Europe and the United States and the improvement in methods of communication and in means of propaganda, the possibilities of establishing a material basis and organizational framework for the subsistence of rabbi and students were created. Consequently the number of yeshivot and their students continued to increase. The improvement in their economic situation and the general recognition of their importance freed them to a great extent from dependence upon the community and its institutions, and in consequence the importance and the personal influence of the heads of the yeshivot rose; through their many students who were dispersed throughout numerous communities, they became the leaders of the whole of Orthodox Jewry, and their influence was greater than that of the rabbis of the communities. In ḥasidic Poland, too, at the beginning of the 20th century there was a large increase in the number of yeshivot affiliated to the courts of the different *ẓaddikim despite the special standpoint of *Ḥasidism on this question. During this era, particularly between the two world wars, the yeshivot of Lithuania attained a position of hegemony in Torah Judaism.

The quantitative growth and the rise in social status which are among the prominent external marks of yeshivot in the 20th century brought with them many changes in the structure and essence of yeshivot in the Jewish world, leading to a change in the very connotation of the whole concept. However, the increase in the number of yeshivot and the growth in the number of students brought in its wake a decline in the average standard of the pre-yeshivah preparation, and in consequence also in the standard of studies at the yeshivah itself. Spiritual movements in Orthodox Jewry, like the different trends of musar and Ḥasidism, on the one hand, and the increasing need for the acquisition of general spiritual values under the pressure of modern life on the other, all brought about a strengthening of the educational basis in the yeshivot, and this, to no small degree, at the expense of the instructional basis. Although the basic structure remained the same, the large yeshivot increasingly assumed the character of places of education in Judaism, while higher studies were mainly connected with kolelim. One of the conspicuous consequences of this process was the founding of the "minor yeshivot" designed to provide their pupils with a level suitable for regular study in the standard yeshivot. These yeshivot constituted a kind of intermediate stage between elementary and higher education, and the age levels of the students were roughly between 13 and 18. As in the large yeshivot, study was in principle self study but it took place under the continuous and intensive supervision and guidance of teachers and supervisors.

The Holocaust brought the yeshivot of Eastern and Central Europe to an end, but in a number of Western countries which had no yeshivot or where yeshivot had ceased to exist a number of large ones were established. From the mid-20th century the greatest number of yeshivot, and the most important of them, was centered in Israel and in the United States, but they were also found in many other Western countries (e.g., in *Gateshead, England). The *Chabad movement was especially active in this direction, establishing yeshivot in France, Australia, and North Africa.

Yeshivot in Ereẓ Israel

Israel became the greatest center of yeshivot, having the greatest number of yeshivot and students since the talmudic era. In Israel there were also to be found the greatest number of diversified types of yeshivot each of which had a character of its own.

(1) The yeshivot of the old yishuv, the oldest in the country, pertained to the very structure of this yishuv and were to a great degree connected with the kolelim and with the system of the ḥalukkah. They provided talmudic education for large numbers. Most of the students were of mature age, some continuing their study during their whole lifetime. Generally speaking about 20 to 30 men, mostly married, were concentrated in such a yeshivah and they received a minimal material support. In most of these yeshivot the system of study was undefined. The larger yeshivot of this type, with hundreds of students (like Eẓ Ḥayyim, or Ḥayyei Olam in Jerusalem), had a character similar to that of the ordinary large yeshivot, and tuition was given in Yiddish. With this type should be connected a number of yeshivot that studied Kabbalah.

(2) The Sephardi yeshivot, the largest and oldest of which was Porat Yosef in Jerusalem, still followed the old Sephardi pattern of study, strong stress being placed on the preparation of religious functions for Oriental communities all over the world.

(3) The central yeshivot, removed from Eastern Europe to Israel (like Slobodka-Hebron), or whose heads reestablished them with the same composition and names, the same applying to the large ḥasidic yeshivot transferred from their center in Poland.

(4) Yeshivot Hesder, yeshivot which combine Israel army service with intensive yeshivah studies. In 1991 there were 3,300 students in the program. In that year the program was awarded the Israel Prize in recognition of its students excelling in the study halls and in the IDF's elite combat units.

An important aspect of yeshivot in Israel were the kolelim which developed greatly and in which the young men continued their studies after marriage and at a higher level. These kolelim were dependent on the large yeshivot and were an important factor in raising the level of studies in the whole yeshivah. From these kolelim, unlike those of the old yishuv, the scholars passed after five to ten years to serve as rabbis, dayyanim, or teachers at yeshivot. Some of them worked at preparing manuscripts of rabbinic works for publication, in a scientific manner. A number (like Merkaz ha-Rav and Kol Torah in Jerusalem) gave all the tuition in Hebrew but in most the official shi'ur was still given in Yiddish, even though most of the learning was conducted in Hebrew.

Another very important change was the attempt to combine secular studies within the framework of the classical yeshivah and at a parallel standard. The idea first arose among German Orthodoxy (see A. *Hildesheimer; S.R. *Hirsch) as an expression of the aims of Torah im Derekh Ereẓ ("Jewish with secular learning"), but without any connection with the activity and programs of Orthodox proponents of the Wissenschaft des Judentums or the various types of rabbinical seminary. Chiefly in Ereẓ Israel – and later in the State of Israel – numerous new types of yeshivah were created which combined the classical learning within their compass with various and diversified forms of secular studies organized according to the pattern of the different general schools and subject to the general directions, inspection, and examinations of the state Department of Education. The essence of the attempt and the most successful were the yeshivot tikhoniyyot ("high school yeshivot") which finally emerged as the minor yeshivah in which the instruction during the first half of the day was devoted to Talmud with secondary school studies in the afternoon. The talmudic studies in these yeshivot were dominated by the Lithuanian system of study. The success of the attempt brought about its diversification into combinations of "vocational yeshivot" and "agricultural yeshivot," etc. Many minor yeshivot and yeshivot tikhoniyyot existed in Israel, and most of the pupils continued in the large yeshivot. The first yeshivah that began to move in this direction was the yeshivah of Ha-Yishuv he-Ḥadash (the "new settlement") in Tel Aviv, established by Rabbi M.A. *Amiel, in which only the evening hours were devoted to secular studies and a fifth year was added to make it possible for the students to take the state matriculation examination. A greater, more direct influence was achieved by the yeshivah of the *Bnei Akiva movement (see *National Religious Party) in Kefar ha-Ro'eh, which became the pattern for about 20 other yeshivot. These yeshivot competed with the religious grammar schools and even encroached upon them. From the teaching standpoint, the two parts, the sacred and the secular, remained uncombined but side by side, but educationally a successful combination was achieved. On the establishment of the State of Israel the heads of the yeshivot came to an agreement with the Ministry of Defense that their students would be exempt from military service, on grounds of recognition of the duty to help in the spiritual rebuilding of Judaism after the Holocaust. This agreement had no legal validity but was an ad hoc arrangement according to which the yeshivah students were regarded as receiving deferment for the duration of their studies. The arrangement was viewed with mixed feelings by the public, even including religious circles, and many yeshivah students interrupted their studies in order to do their military service. In a number of yeshivot there existed various arrangements that combined yeshivah studies with active service, particularly in the framework of *Naḥal.

Most yeshivot in Israel were administratively combined under a loose roof organization, called Va'ad ha-Yeshivot; about ten yeshivot with around 500 students were connected with the Iḥud ha-Yeshivot of the *Neturei Karta. Few yeshivot were definitely associated with a specific religious political party, but most of their heads and students were close to *Agudat Israel and supported it. Those yeshivot closer to the National Religious Party served as a factor inclining their party in a more conservative direction.

The arrangement whereby the State of Israel supported a limited number of yeshivah students (originally 400) designated "professional religious scholars," granting them draft exemptions as well, has mushroomed into a system where the great majority of ultra-Orthodox men (some 80,000 in 2006, half married) study full time. The economic and social consequences of maintaining such a "society of scholars," in the phrase of Menachem Friedman, are a subject of constant debate in Israel.

Yeshivot in the United States

There were large yeshivot of the kind traditional in Eastern Europe, some being actually the original yeshivot transferred there with their students during World War II. Also, many large yeshivot, whose main creation was in the United States, became an important factor in Jewish life there. *Yeshiva University was a valuable contribution of American Jewry to the development of the yeshivah. In this institute the yeshivah studies were no different in quality from the European version and at the same time it contained a large university. This yeshivah brought an important change in the situation of Orthodoxy in the United States, succeeding in raising a new generation of rabbis and spiritual guides who brought about a revival of Orthodox Jewry and had a great influence throughout the whole of the United States. Another great American yeshivah institute is the Beth Midrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, with 3,000 students in the early 2000s. Founded in 1943 by R. Aaron *Kotler on the rigid Lithuanian model that demanded full-time study, it now offers a Bachelor (and even Master) of Talmudic Law degree which allows students to go on to graduate school. Thus, unlike their Israeli counterparts, the American "Litvaks" are able to ultimately enter the job market in high-paying professions ranging from law and medicine to high-tech industry.

[Adin Steinsaltz]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Guedemann, Gesch Erz; Assaf, Mekorot; N. Isaacs, Study as a Mode of Worship (1925); L. Ginzberg, Students, Scholars and Saints (1928). POST-GEONIC PERIOD: Islamic Countries: S. Goitein, Sidrei Ḥinnukh bi-Ymei ha-Ge'onim u-Veit ha-Rambam (1962); Provence: Z. Benedikt, in: Tarbiz, 22 (1951), 85–109; I. Twersky, Rabad of Posquieres (1962), 19ff.; Italy: A. Marx. in: Sefer ha-Yovel… L. Ginzberg (1945), 271–304; M.A. Szulwas, in: Horeb, 10 (1948), 105–28; Roth, Dark Ages, ch. 8; France and Germany: M. Guedemann, in: MGWJ, 13 (1964), 68–70, 97–110, 384–95, 421–44; E.M. Lipschulz, in: Sefer Rashi (1956), 188–212; Urbach, Tosafot, ch. 1, 13; S. Schwazfuchs, Etudes sur l'Origine et le Developpement du Rabbinat au Moyen-Age (1957); J. Katz, Tradition and Crisis (1961), ch. 18; I.A. Agus, in: Studies and Essays in Honor of A.A. Neuman (1962), 1–16; Roth, Dark Ages, ch. 9–10; M Breuer, in: Zion, 33 (1968), 15–46; S. Rozman, Sefer Zikhron Kedoshim li-Yhudei Carpatoruss-Marmarosh (1968; Yid.), 149–63. EASTERN EUROPE: I.H. Weiss, Zikhronotai (1895); J. Trachtenberg, in: Jewish Education, 11 (1939), no. 2; I. Fishman, The History of Jewish Education in Central Europe from the End of the Sixteenth to the End of the Eighteenth Century (1944); H.H. Ben-Sasson, Hagut ve-Hanhagah (1959), ch. 11. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Friedman, Haredi Society: Origins, Trends, and Processes (Heb., 1991); W.B. Heimreich, The World of the Yeshiva: An Intimate Portrait of Orthodox Jewry (1999).


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.