Elliot Dickman is studying at Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi in Jerusalem. He grew up in Livingston, though he and his family also lived in Palo Alto, California for a few years. He attended JKHA for middle school, and TABC for high school. In the summers, he attended Camp Dora Golding.
His next stop? Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he’ll be majoring in animation and visual effects, probably with a focus on virtual and augmented reality.
Why did you choose to study at Eretz HaTzvi?
I chose to come here for a couple reasons, but it was mainly the yeshiva’s focus on combining Torah study with secular learning. Most of the rabbeim here studied at Gush, and many also have degrees in science or liberal arts from secular universities. This creates an environment in which we can learn Torah through a lens of Western thought, such as Greek philosophy or English literature.
What kind of goals do you have for the year?
I mostly came into this year with the goal of improving my ability to pick up a new text and be able to analyze it from different angles and truly understand the subject. While absorbing information is important, the ability to learn something new on my own will be far more valuable, and I think it’s important to learn how to learn, before attaining knowledge itself.
What have been some of the highlights of your year so far?
Just a few months into the year I’ve already had so many amazing experiences. The various tiyulim that we’ve been on really stand out as having been inspiring and exciting. Going to Hebron and being able to see Jewish structures from thousands of years ago, and to look at the history of the area in the context of the current geopolitical situation was incredible. We also hiked Yam l’Yam, a total of about 60 miles over a few days, and, aside from being a great bonding experience, it was amazing to be able to see and walk through so many different places that the Torah mentions.
What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?
The biggest difficulty of this year is definitely the lack of good pizza in Israel. Pizza is a staple of the American gustatory experience, and the pizza here simply does not hold up to American standards.
How has your year been different from your expectations?
I didn’t really come in to this year with any particular expectations of what it would be like. That having been said, it’s pretty amazing to see how different culture is in Israel than in America. One aspect which stands out the most is the lack of emphasis on materialism in Israel. For most people I’ve met here, money and physicality are much less of a factor in their lives than for most people in America. It’s also amazing how Judaism is fundamental to every aspect of life in Israel, and how it’s built into the political and economic structure of Israel as a nation.
Where is your favorite place to go for weekends/Shabbat so far?
I’ve been to quite a few places for Shabbat this year, but I always enjoy visiting old friends. I know a few people who I was good friends with years ago in America, who have since made aliyah. Going to them for Shabbat usually makes for a memorable weekend.
Who is a teacher at Eretz HaTzvi whom you connect to especially well?
One teacher I especially connect with is Rav Aviad Tabory. I have him for my Gemara shiur, and the wealth of Torah knowledge that he possesses is incredible. One of the reasons I particularly connect with Rav Aviad is that he uses a very analytic methodology when analyzing Gemara, and everything is looked at from a fundamentally Brisker perspective. I really appreciate and enjoy that reductionistic approach to Torah and Talmud study.
Which is one of your favorite classes at Eretz HaTzvi?
One of my favorite classes is definitely Machshavat Yisrael, a philosophy class taught by Rav Joshua Amaru. We analyze a variety of philosophical texts, from foundational works such as Aristotle’s “Metaphysics” and Rambam’s “Moreh Nevuchim” to more contemporary works from the likes of Rabbi Lamm and Rav Soloveitchick. Using these texts, we can discuss how Jewish philosophy evolved over time, and how Judaism developed from within the context of our relationship to God and the Torah, and the way Judaism views God and ideas of mysticism.
What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?
I’m looking forward to continuing my learning for the rest of the year. There’s a lot of potential to grow in the next few months, and the rest of this year is one of the only opportunities I’ll have to take advantage of all of the resources I have with me here in yeshiva.