chapter  32
12 Pages

THE YESHIVA

Yeshiva life is a life of an ongoing conversation, a conversation that takes place in the Beit Midrash-a large, simple study hall-where students sit and study.1 In the famous and big Yeshivas the Beit Midrash holds a few hundred students whose ages range from 16 to 40 years old or even older. The conversational mode of study is created through the institution of the havruta (in which students are divided into pairs). The pairs or partners spend twelve hours a day or more reading together the Talmud and its commentaries, exploring its meanings and debating its complexities. Thus the choice of one’s partner is one of the most crucial decisions in the intellectual life of a Yeshiva student. The discursive mode of study is not restricted to the individual partner; questions and answers circulate across the Beit Midrash. It is very common for students to move around in order to discuss a problem with another havruta who has earned a reputation in the study hall. Since the whole Yeshiva studies the same tractate from the Talmud, the Beit Midrash becomes a microcosm of a cross-generational give and take. Young and old often discuss the same problem, which circulates around the hall as the issue of the day.