Sunday, August 25, 2019

(l-r) Liam Schaechter, Yosef Mehlman, Tani Greengart and Binyamin Broth welcoming a new sefer Torah to the Gush. (Credit: Yaacov Davidowitz)

Tani Greengart is studying at Yeshivat Har Etzion (the Gush) in Alon Shvut. He grew up in Teaneck and attended TABC for high school. His family davens at Beth Aaron, and he is a former JLNJ summer intern.

His next stop? Rutgers University.

Why did you choose to study at The Gush?

There are plenty of excellent yeshivot in Israel now, and I probably would be reasonably happy at many of them, but I think that Gush’s world-class rebbeim, intellectual mindset and (most of all) tight-knit chevra make it the best place for me to improve my learning and avodat Hashem.

What kind of goals do you have for the year?

As the oldest child in my family, I truly had no idea what I was getting into when I boarded the plane—I had some vague ideas about immersing myself in an all-Torah environment but nothing more specific than that. The first couple of months were a big adjustment, but once I became accustomed to the rhythm of yeshiva, I began to spend more time contemplating what I’m doing here. Two of my current goals for yeshiva are to improve myself personally and religiously and to prepare myself to learn Torah seriously in college and beyond.

What have been some of the highlights of your year so far?

Yom Kippur davening in yeshiva was special—the roar of nearly a thousand people screaming the midot harachamim at the top of their lungs was awe-inspiring. But the most unique part was what came after Neilah ended: hundreds of people poured into the aisles with the last vestiges of their energy, singing and dancing to celebrate God’s forgiveness.

What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?

The yeshiva day is extremely long and arduous, and getting enough sleep to keep my brain functioning all day has been a challenge. Ever since I discovered the glorious post-breakfast power nap, my cognitive health has been much improved, but there are still times in afternoon seder when I am simply too tired to learn anything intellectually demanding.

How has your year been different than your expectations?

Going in, I had a vague expectation that everyone in yeshiva would be very serious and introverted, constantly concentrating on Torah learning. And there certainly are some people like that, but I discovered that Gush has its fair share of more colorful personalities as well. The only difference is that everyone here is very committed to Torah—it is not uncommon for the “class clown” to pipe up in the middle of a chabura: “Hey, that’s a Gemara in the third perek of Ketubot, right?”

Where is your favorite place to go for weekends/Shabbat so far?

Honestly, I very much enjoy Shabbat in yeshiva. It’s very relaxed and a welcome contrast to the intensity of the rest of the week. But spending Shabbat with a family, especially one with lots of kids, is always nice. It’s a welcome taste of home.

Who is a teacher at The Gush who you connect to especially well?

One thing I’ve come to appreciate about Gush is the wealth and sheer volume of talmidei chachamim in the beit midrash who are open to answering questions. I have discussed Tanach interpretation with Rav Menachem Leibtag, spiritual growth with Rav Moshe Taragin and personal hashkafa with Rav Tzvi Kaye, my current ra”m (shiur rebbe). Even my fellow talmidim are helpful resources—whenever I have trouble understanding the language of a Gemara or sefer, I can turn to whomever happens to be sitting next to me in the beit midrash. More often than not, he is able to explain it to me.

Which is one of your favorite classes at The Gush?

It’s difficult to choose just one. I love Rav Leibtag's Chumash chug (class), where we hear sometimes-funny jokes and learn that everything we thought we knew about Chumash is wrong. (We also learn the true meaning of Chumash.) Another one of my favorites is Rav Ezra Bick’s chug on tefillah, where we examine different forms of philosophy and theology and see how we can apply them to enhance our davening.

What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?

I hope that by the end of the year, I will be able to learn the Gemara and rishonim on a topic and craft a conceptual framework of the sugya all on my own, without the guidance of a shiur. Potentially teaching a chabura on what I learn would be a fulfilling way to give back to the yeshiva.