A Special Siyyum

2 Jun
Yeshivat Har Etzion (www.haretzion.org). Obtai...

Yeshivat Har Etzion (www.haretzion.org). Obtained with express written permission from Yeshivat Har Etzion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last August I arrived at Yeshivat Har Etzion amid the excitement of starting a new adventure and making aliyah. Every student arrived and established their goals for the year, but one group would not assemble in yeshiva until after the Sukkot vacation.  The word from continuing students was, ‘I can’t wait for the Darkaynu guys to arrive.’  As promised, Yeshivat Darkaynu and its students eventually joined us with goals  and challenges of their own. From Darkaynu’s website:

Yeshivat Darkaynu is a new and innovative program developed for religious young men with special needs who are looking for the perfect way to spend a year in Israel. The program is designed for students who want to continue their learning, develop vocational skills, build independence, improve self-esteem and expand their love of Israel and the Jewish people.

While Gush is known for its devotion to the intellectually rigorous study of Torah, it does not receive enough recognition for the significance of Darkaynu. Relatively easy is the task of sitting for hours and pouring over pages of text and formulating theories and ideas of the substance found within, only to have an all-star rabbi confront you with a contradictory or supplementary theory. Much more difficult is the ability to step back from the process of learning and apply the values of Torah to the people in our lives, greeting those around you with pleasantness and treating ones neighbor as you would like to be treated. Yeshivat Darkaynu provides both of these opportunities to its students as well as to the students of Yeshivat Har Etzion. These fabulous young men live among and learn with us, sharing meals, holidays, and goofy yeshiva moments, we are better for their presence and hopefully they are better for ours.

One Darkaynu student in particular has a special reputation. Davey (not his real name) is known to the entire yeshiva. With his prodigious memory and far reaching hearing, he is almost always ready to engage you in conversation. He will ask you questions that you would prefer not to answer. In my case, “aren’t you too old to be in yeshiva? how do you plan on going to the army when you’re so old?” have been frequent topics of conversation. We are there for him on his good days, and try to offer comfort when he is in difficulty. He has committed himself to learning Torah, and last week finished the mishnah of Masechet Beitza, which he had learned in hevruta. Traditionally, when finishing a body of work, a small celebration, a siyyum, is held to mark the occasion and to look forward to the next goal. In Davey’s case, completing the text was challenge enough, and there was a massive turnout to hear his comments as he concluded the relevant mishnayot. First and second year Anglos, other Darkaynu students, Israelis, pre and post-Army, some of the alterim (old guys), all made sure to grab a seat. By the time Davey made his dramatic entrance and began speaking, there were no seats remaining. Although I can not tell you exactly what he said, I can say that we were hanging on his every word, while he soaked up the limelight, rejoicing in the thrill of being surrounded by his peers, and having made a significant accomplishment.

As my time at Yeshivat Har Etzion winds down (for now), I can say with absolute sincerity that spending so much time with the fine young men of Yeshivat Darkaynu was one of the central elements of my year. They are thoughtful, willing to learn, grow, and have new experiences, even in the face of their personal challenges. Waiting for their arrival was more than worth it, as they provided not only friendship, but also opportunities to watch their growth and discovery, as well as to put a face on some of the Torah’s most closely held values.

3 Responses to “A Special Siyyum”

  1. Victoria A. Raun 14 Sun+02:002013-06-02T15:40:33+02:00+02:0006b+02:00Sun, 02 Jun 2013 15:40:33 +0200, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    This was beautiful. Thank you.

  2. pamelahope2 14 Sun+02:002013-06-02T15:48:00+02:00+02:0006b+02:00Sun, 02 Jun 2013 15:48:00 +0200, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Daniel- This is lovely! Hope to see you when you are stateside. And certainly if you come to NYC! Love ya, Aunt Paim

  3. emfish1212 14 Sun+02:002013-06-02T22:40:10+02:00+02:0006b+02:00Sun, 02 Jun 2013 22:40:10 +0200, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    Beautiful tribute. Gets at the power without being condescending– well done! What is your plan for your next move?

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