Frequently Asked Questions
What is the focus of learning at Nishmat?
At Nishmat, we seek to help students develop both the skills and love of learning that prepare them for a lifetime of Talmud Torah. Students engage in a range of intensive, thought-provoking shiurim that push them to develop the full range of skills that are necessary for deep, serious Torah study. They also have the freedom to create a schedule that enables them to pursue those areas of Torah study most meaningful to them.
Students devote three mornings a week to Gemara shiur, in which they delve into a masechta in depth. There are four options of Gemara shiurim, each of which has a different style and derech halimud. Some focus on peshat in the Gemara, while others include extensive analysis of Rishonim. This allows students to find the right shiur for them, whether they enter Nishmat with extensive Gemara background or with very little Gemara background.
During the remaining two mornings, students choose between Halacha B’Iyun and Tanach B’Iyun. Halacha B’Iyun focuses on tracing the development of areas of Hilchot Shabbat from their sources in the Gemara through Acharonim. Tanach B’Iyun focuses on exploring themes in Tanach, such as leadership, sin and redemption, and human psychology, through the lens of parshanut and literary analysis. Both Halacha and Tanach are intensive, textual shiurim that include both chavruta and shiur. Students who choose to focus on Tanach B’Iyun also participate in a Halacha L’Maaseh shiur one afternoon a week.
Afternoon shiurim cover a broad range of topics, from Parshat Hashavua with Rabbanit Chana Henkin, to Divine Justice in Tanach with Rav Yoel Bin Nun, to courses in halachic topics, Midrash, the philosophy of halacha, and Machshevet Yisrael. In night seder, students choose among shiurim and chaburot in topics in Tanach, Gemara, and Jewish Philosophy. We help each student craft the schedule that helps her pursue her own goals and interests in Talmud Torah.
What is the balance between chavruta and shiur at Nishmat?
A day at Nishmat is comprised of three units: morning seder, which is always a combination of chavruta and shiur; afternoon seder, when students choose among a wide range of shiurim with different styles and topics; and night seder, which is also a mix of chavruta and shiur. Classes with chavruta include a short introduction by the teacher, a chavruta portion during which students learn in pairs in our beautiful Bet Midrash while being guided by teachers and tutors, and shiur.
What is the balance between classes in Hebrew and classes in English?
Learning b’Ivrit with Israelis is a significant, valuable part of your year at Nishmat. Your Hebrew will improve exponentially as you are exposed to a fresh experience of Talmud Torah that is challenging and exciting. For that reason, almost every slot during the week will have a Hebrew shiur which you may choose to take. That said, because you are coming to learn the most you can and sometimes it is beneficial to do that in your native language, our schedule also 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 for her. The opportunity to choose one’s own balance of Hebrew and English shiurim represents Nishmat’s belief in supporting each individual student in charting her own path of growth and learning.
What opportunities exist for independent learning?
Independent learning is extremely important to us at Nishmat, and we make sure that there are many opportunities for our students to pursue independent learning projects and to participate in small-group learning. Students have the opportunity to take on individual learning projects with the guidance of a faculty member. They are also encouraged to participate in chavrutot and chaburot with other students and with faculty members about questions and topics in Torah and emunah that are meaningful to them.
Life at the Midrasha
What opportunities exist for chesed?
Each Nishmat student has a two-hour slot each week dedicated to a chesed project on or off of the campus. Examples include running a bat mitzvah program for girls, helping elderly neighbors with Shabbat preparation, and bikkur cholim. Nishmat’s chesed coordinator makes sure that each student has an appropriate chesed project. Chesed, 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.
How often are tiyulim and organized Shabbatonim?
Shana Ba’Aretz students engage in a special Shabbaton approximately once a month, visiting communities around Israel. Additionally, we take multi-day tiyulim to Eilat and Tzfat, and participate together with the rest of the midrasha in three more multi-day tiyulim over the course of the year. There are also a variety of half- and whole-day hikes and trips throughout the year to different areas of the country and to cultural events and museums. We believe that experiencing the many facets of Israel is an important part of your year, which enhances your learning and your connection to Jewish history and destiny.
What about Shabbatot?
There are organized Shabbat programs, in the midrasha or in another community in Israel, once or twice a month. On other Shabbatot, you are free to visit friends or family or to ask for home hospitality with a member of the Nishmat faculty or student body. We are always happy to help you make Shabbat plans. Additionally, you are always welcome to stay in your apartment at Nishmat during any time of the year; your apartment is your home, and our campus never closes.