Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the balance between Chavruta and Shiur at Nishmat?
A day at Nishmat has three units- morning Seder, which is always a combination of Chavruta and Shiur, afternoon Seder, where students choose among a wide range of Shiurim, and night Seder, which is also a mix of Chavruta and Shiur.
Classes with Chavrutot begin with a small introduction with the teacher, then a Chavruta portion where students learn in pairs in the Bet Midrash while being guided by teachers and tutors. After the Chavruta portion, students will meet with the teacher to discuss the material and hear a Shiur.
What topics are taught at Nishmat?
Morning Seder at Nishmat focuses on Torah She’beal Pe. Three days a week students learn Gmara B’Iyun, and twice a week students learn Halacha B’Iyun.
Afternoon classes cover a broad range of topics- from Parshat Hashavua with Rabbanit Chana Henkin, to Women and Halacha, to contemporary Jewish philosophy, and much much more. Schedule click.
Two nights a week, Night Seder focuses on Gmara or Tanach Bekiut, and one night a week students have a choice between several Jewish philosophy classes.
What is the balance between classes in Hebrew and classes in English?
Learning Ivrit b’Ivrit with Israelis is a huge part of your year at Nishmat. Your Hebrew will get exponentially better as you are exposed to a fresh perspective on Torah learning that will be new and exciting. For that reason, almost every slot during the week will have a Hebrew course in which you will be a full participant. That said, because you are coming to learn the most you can and sometimes that is easier done in your native language, our schedule includes a selection of extraordinary classes given in English. Each student shapes her own schedule and determines the balance of Hebrew and English that works best.
What opportunities exist for independent learning?
Independent learning is a big priority for us at Nishmat, and we make sure there are many opportunities for our students. Three main independent learning venues are guided individual Bekiut or research projects, mentorships, and Chaburot.
In addition to attending classes and Chaburot, Nishmat students take on individual Bekiut learning projects in Tanach, Machshava or Mishna. Under the supervision of a faculty mentor, each student maintains her pace in independent learning.
All students have personal questions about Emunah, Tefilla, and Jewish ethics. This type of learning requires individual attention and is best done in a small group or one on one.
Chaburot are informal groups of 5-10 students who meet with a Rabbi or teacher to study a text and discuss questions on a personal level.
How many levels are there for each class?
Nishmat students come from a broad range of learning backgrounds. Some students come to us with advanced Talmud skills, others have barely opened the Gemara. In order to challenge each student at the level appropriate for her, we have four levels of Talmud class, and three of Halacha.
Advanced Gemara focuses primarily on Rishonim and Acharonim, Chakirot and Halacha. Advanced Shuirim are in modern Hebrew, and the pace and level of the shiur is demanding. Intermediate Gemara focuses on acquiring textual skills in Gemara and primary Rishonim: Rashi, Tosfaot, the Rosh, and the Rif. Classes emphasize the conceptual, literary and philosophical implications of the texts. Intermediate shiurim are conducted in Hebrew. Beginners’ Gemara teaches students essential foundational skills in Talmud study. Students learn how to read, translate and analyze primary texts, Rashi and Tosafot. Beginners’ Gemara is taught in English.
Advanced Halacha focuses on the development of Halacha from the Gemara through the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries. The class addresses practical halachic questions, but focuses as well on meta-halachic issues relevant to the halachic process
Intermediate Halacha focuses on learning and understanding practical Halacha L’Maaseh of Hilchot Shabbat. Students study the Mishna Brurah in depth and learn to follow the development of the Halacha from its sources in the Gemara.
Beginners’ Halacha explores a series of halachic questions, from Bein Adam Lamakom to Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, from blessings and Tefilla to the laws of lending and repaying debts. Each unit touches on different layers of the halachic process, culminating with the practical Halacha.
Is there flexibility in choosing classes?
At the beginning of each semester, every student is given a fully empty schedule for her to personalize. After hearing about all of the class options, she determines the best classes for her with assistance from the head of the program. In the afternoons, students can opt to learn independently in the bet midrash.
Are most classes textual?
Most but not all classes are textual.
The learning at Nishmat is primarily textual: studying sources inside, without initially being provided answers and interpretations. Classes are dynamic, with students asking questions and challenging the teachers and one another.
Do students have a curfew?
At Nishmat, we prefer not having a curfew. We trust and expect our students to act responsibly and maintain the year’s Torah learning priorities. Past experience has taught us that a curfew of 12:30 AM is helpful in Elul zman, when students are establishing their learning norms. Following Elul zman, we will work out the policy together with you.
Is there a dress code?
We ask that you pack with respect for the norms of the school in mind: shirts with sleeves that reach within a tefach of the elbow and skirts that cover the knee.
Be’ezrat Hashem, next year you will learn both halachic and hashkafic texts relating to צניעות, a concept that touches on the most basic questions of identity and self-expression. In keeping with Nishmat’s tradition of respect for informed diversity, we expect you will study the sources and find your own place within the range of halachic perspectives. Please remember that at all times during your year at Nishmat we expect you to behave in a way befitting a student in our Bet Midrash.
Does Nishmat have Chessed activities?
Each Nishmat student has a two-hour slot each week dedicated to a Chessed project on or off campus. Examples include running a bat mitzvah program for girls, helping elderly neighbors with Shabbat preparation, and Bikur Cholim. Nishmat has a full-time Chessed coordinator who trains and accompanies students throughout the year, making sure each student has the appropriate chessed project.
Chessed, however, is not confined to a two-hour slot! We nurture a caring, supportive environment in the Bet Midrash in which students look out for one another and step forward to volunteer for the community.
Tiyulim and Shabatot
How often are tiyulim and organized Shabbatonim?
Shabbatot are approximately every three weeks. They are either Shabbatot Midrasha–with the whole Midrasha on the Nishmat campus–or special Shabbatot just for Shana Ba’aretz. The Shana Ba’aretz Shabbatot are all over the country in a variety of communities geographically, culturally, and hashkafically. Some favorite Shabbatot include Yerucham, Tzfat, Kibbutz Maale Gilboa, Yad Binyamin, and Eilat. Tiyulim or trips are approximately twice a month and include a variety of cultural events and activities. We have three large Midrasha-wide tiyulim over the course of the year; one down south, one up north, and one in the center of the country. Additionally, there are other half-day or whole-day hikes covering different areas of the country. We also visit different sites of interest; such as, The Palmach Museum, The Israel Museum, Archeological Digs, and Music, Art, and Dance Events. We believe that it is imperative that you experience many facets of Israel–it greatly enhances your year of learning. These experiences will bring Israel to life from our Biblical heritage to our modern connection. Students are often amazed by the connection between their learning and the Land of Israel. One recent student said “I came to Nishmat for the incredible learning, but I was blown away by the amount and significance of tiyulim and shabbatot that Nishmat organized. It really helped shape my year and beyond.”