Three rebbeim from Mesivta Ateres Yaakov visited Eretz Yisrael this past week to “check up on their investments” in their respective yeshivos. The assistant menahel, Rabbi Yossi Bennett, together with twelfth-grade rebbeim and Israel advisors Rabbis Elysha Sandler and Yehuda Orlansky, embarked on a whirlwind of activity that filled their schedule while in Israel. They went straight from the airport to begin visiting the many yeshivos hosting MAY alumni. Their talmidim were eagerly waiting for them and showered them with ear-to-ear smiles and warm embraces. The talmidim individually sought to impress their rebbeim with their achievements and accomplishments, their notebooks and libraries. It was truly a fitting welcome to Eretz Yisrael.
The weeklong trip was a nonstop excursion from yeshiva to yeshiva; over 20 different yeshivos in all, over 100 talmidim, from the early hours of the morning–davening Shacharis together with various yeshivas–until well past midnight. The MAY rebbeim met privately with each talmid, their roshei yeshiva, mashgichim, and current rebbeim, to ensure that each talmid’s needs were being met and that their particular kochos were being properly cultivated. Each yeshiva visit also gave the rebbeim an opportunity to scout each institution for MAY’s current and future talmidim. This is necessary since new yeshivos emerge annually and even established yeshivos revamp their programs.
The culmination of the already indescribable trip was the Shabbos spent together with over 80 talmidim at Yeshivas Ohr Yerushalayim, the annual host for this event. Five years of Mesivta Ateres Yaakov alumni gathered for a Shabbos of chizuk in Moshav Beit Meir and spent what many talmidim referred to as “the best Shabbos they’ve ever had” together with their rebbeim. The entire weekend was saturated with inspiration. From the enthusiastic tefillos, to the leibedik meals, and all the heartwarming divrei Torah and learning in between–it was the perfect mix of ruchniyus and gashmiyus. Divrei chizuk by the tefillos, talmidim making siyumim, older bachurim delivering prepared chaburos, a Shabbos afternoon shiur from a rebbe, or just the casual walks and warm reminiscing–everyone was both inspiring others and being inspired at the same time.
The program spanned from Friday afternoon until after the spirited dancing following Havdalah, but the highlights of the Shabbos were the four-hour Friday-night oneg and two-hour shalosh seudos, where each talmid gave over something from his own heart and mind. This, together with inspirational words of guidance and encouragement from the rebbeim, the heartfelt lively singing, the spontaneous dancing, and the great noshing, brought everyone together and was mechazek rebbe and talmid alike.
Reflecting on the Shabbos, Rabbi Sandler commented, “The diversity among the talmidim is very apparent; each progressing at his own pace along their distinct paths towards individual goals. Yet equally apparent was the deep-rooted camaraderie and reciprocal admiration that they share with each other, recognizing each other’s struggles and taking pride in their accomplishments. Not only did each of the 80-plus bachurim respectfully listen to their fellow talmid’s words of chizuk and divrei Torah, they often made reference to each other’s remarks and made a point of both raising and praising each other when they could. I am so proud of who they are and who they continue to become.”
The Shabbos left all in a reflective state of mind, more focused on their goals and confident of their ability to overcome all forms of adversity. In addition to mentally and emotionally equipping them for the future, it also reminded them of the solid foundation that unites them and which prepared them for who they are now–the formative years of nurturing and growth at Mesivta Ateres Yaakov. v