Two rebbeim from Mesivta Ateres Yaakov visited EretzYisrael this past week to “check up on their investments” at the yeshivos of their former talmidim. Twelfth-grade rebbeim and Israel advisers Rabbis Elysha Sandler and Yehuda Orlansky 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. Each talmid sought to impress their rebbeim with their achievements and accomplishments, their notebooks and libraries. It was truly a fitting welcome to EretzYisrael.
The weeklong trip was a non-stop excursion from yeshiva to yeshiva (over 20 different yeshivos in all, with more than 100 talmidim) from the early hours of the morning–daveningShacharis together with various yeshivos–until past midnight. The MAY rebbeim met privately with each talmid, his rosheiyeshiva, mashgichim, and current rebbeim to ensure that each talmid’s needs were being met and that his particular kochos were being properly cultivated. Each yeshiva visit also gave the rebbeim an opportunity to “scout” the institution for MAY’s current and future talmidim. This is necessary since new yeshivos continue to emerge annually and even established yeshivos revamp their programs.
The culmination of the already incredible trip was the Shabbos spent together with over 80 talmidim at Yeshivas Ohr Yerushalayim, the annual host for this event. Five years’ classes 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 ruchnius and gashmius. Divreichizuk, older bachurim delivering prepared chaburos, a Shabbos afternoon shiur from a rebbe, or just the casual walks and warm reminiscing–everyone was inspiring others and being inspired at the same time.
The program spanned from Friday afternoon until after the spirited dancing following Havdallah, but the highlights of the Shabbos were the 4-hour Friday night oneg and 2-hour shaloshseudos, where every 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 mechazekrebbe 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 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 divreiTorah, they often referred 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.