Beth Hatalmud Rabbinical College
- There are two yeshivas with the name Beth Hatalmud. For the article that deals with Beth Hatalmud in Jerusalem, see Bais Hatalmud.
Founding and mission
Bais Hatalmud was founded in 1950 by students of the Mir Yeshiva in Belarus, which survived the Holocaust by escaping to Japan and ultimately found refuge in Shanghai where the yeshiva spent the war years. One of the deans of the Mir Yeshiva in Poland, Rabbi Avraham Kalmanowitz, managed to escape to America in 1940 and established a yeshiva in Brooklyn in 1946 that he called the Mir yeshiva. However, when the Mir student body arrived in the U.S. from Shanghai, they did not join the yeshiva founded by Rabbi Kalemanowitz. Some of the most distinguished students of the yeshiva held that although the yeshiva that Rabbi Kalmanowitz established was called the Mir Yeshiva, that yeshiva was not at all the same yeshiva that existed in Poland, and that the actual Mir Yeshiva was the one that went to Shanghai and arrived in America after World War II. They held that the Mir Yeshiva was more than just a name. In their view, a yeshiva, was a world unto itself with its own culture and values, and it was these things that made a yeshiva what it was. In fact this was one of the main points that was stressed in the original Mir yeshiva in Poland. It was therefore decided by those students to establish a new institution in America that would serve as the continuation of the original Mir yeshiva. The Mir yeshiva was the only yeshiva in Europe to survive the Nazi destruction of European Jewry, and the founders of this new yeshiva wanted to re-establish in post-war America a yeshiva in the mold of the great Lithuanian yeshivas. They called this new yeshiva Bais Hatalmud, which means The House of the Talmud.
The mission of this yeshiva was to have it be to be just as the Mir yeshiva was in Poland, to keep on what was established and built there and to preserve and uphold the way that things were in the original yeshiva. A very important aspect of the original yeshiva was a concept that was called living within the "walls" of the yeshiva. The idea of the proverbial "walls" of a yeshiva is that a yeshiva is its own world and culture. What is held to be important and what is respected and strived for within the yeshiva, is completely different than that of the outside world. Thus the proverbial "walls" of the yeshiva separate the world of the yeshiva, and those within it, from the world outside.
Bais Hatalmud was established to be a continuation of the Mir Yeshiva in Poland. Unlike other yeshivas in America which were shaped and formed to fit the American mentality of its students, Bais Hatalmud stressed the fact that the yeshiva's roots were the Mir Yeshiva in pre-war Europe and placed an emphasis on maintaining the spirit and values of that yeshiva.
Although Bais Hatalmud is a relatively small yeshiva, it is one of the most prestigious talmudic institutions in America. A very substantial portion of its students continue on with the study the talmud for the rest of their lives, either in the capacity of Talmudic professors or serving as deans of other yeshivas. An extraordinary percent of the prestigious yeshivas that have been established in recent years are headed by graduates of Bais Hatalmud.
Bais Hatalmud has an undergraduate division and a post graduate division. In the post graduate division students eventually move on from the subjects that are being studied in the yeshiva, which are limited to civil jurisprudence, and form groups where they study other parts of the Talmud. Some scholars can study for two decades or more mastering many of the topics discussed in the Talmud. The undergraduate division is unique and unlike other undergraduate yeshivas. In other undergraduate yeshivas the main instruction is done through lectures and the students are only expected to have the ability to be able to prepare the material to the extent necessary to understand the lecture. At Bais Hatlmud however the students do all of the studying on their own. Thus, a student graduating the undergraduate program of Bais Hatalmud is able to fully analyze any subject of the Talmud on his own. This kind of study is possible because the undergraduates study in the same study hall as the post graduate students with whom they interact and with whom they are able to discuss the more difficult aspects of the subject which they are studying.
A month after Rabbi Aryeh Leib Malin's marriage in 1948, a meeting was held in his home to establish Yeshivas Beis Hatalmud. The founding chaburah included, Rabbi Bezalel Tannenbaum, Rabbi Levi Krupenia (R"Y Toras Emes Kamenitz), Rabbi Leib Shachar, Rabbi Leizer Horodzhesky, Rabbi Simcha Zissel Levovitz, (Rabbi Yeruchom's Levovitz son), Rabbi Shmuel (Charkover) Wilensky, Rabbi Chaim Wysokier, Rabbi Binyomin Paler, Rabbi Avrohom Levovitz, Rabbi Sholom Menashe Gottlieb, Rabbi Yisroel Perkowski, Rabbi Baruch Leib Sassoon Rabbi Aaron Zablotsky and Rabbi Binyomin Zeilberger,zt'l.
Rabbi Aryeh Leib Malin, along with Rabbi Chaim Wysokier served as the Roshei Hayeshiva. After the passing of Rabbi Malin, Harav Chaim Wysokier remained alone at the helm of the Yeshiva. Later on, Rabbi Wysokier bequeathed his leadership of the Yeshiva to a close student of the late Rabbi Malin - Rabbi Naftoli Kaplan. Rabbi Kaplan thereby assumed the leadership of the Yeshiva. The "Elders" of the original "chabura" continued influencing the yeshiva for many years. This included - Rabbis Shalom Menashe Gotlieb, Binyomin Zeilberger, Harav Yisroel Perkowski ztl. Today, Rabbi Naftoli Kaplan continues to lead the yeshiva. R'Yehuda zaliberger, R'Chaim Weinstein, R'moshe Baron, R'Chaim Lieb Perkowski continue to influence the yeshva.
In addition to the undergraduate and post graduate divisions, Bais Hatalmud also has a two-year preparatory program for students that are sixteen and seventeen years old. This division was headed by Rabbi Shaul Brus who died in 2007, and is currently headed by Rabbi Brus' son, Moshe Mendel Brus. Rabbi Brus studied under Rabbi Boruch Ber Leibowitz in the Kamenitz Yehiva in Lithuania prior to World War II. Rabbi Shaul Brus had a unique approach to instructing young students in the talmud. Instead of training them how to study and analyze the text, his approach was to teach the students how to think. In place of studying the actual text he would discuss the general subject, introducing the students to the deeper concepts in talmudic theory and having them discuss these ideas using the Socriatic Method.
Rabbi Brus would especially use the work of Rabbi Boruch Ber Leibowitz, Birkas Shmuel, which covers in great depth and detail theories and approaches to understanding the Talmud and the Rishonim on areas of civil jurisprudence. The work Birkas Shmuel is very difficult to understand, even for accomplished Talmudic scholars. Students who studied under Rabbi Brus are of the select few that were trained to properly understand the Birkas Shmuel.