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Yeshiva Definition

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Yeshiva - (Hebrew literally "sitting down" or in modern Hebrew "meeting;" plural - Yeshivot) - A Jewish religious seminary.

Details and history - In ancient times, academies of rabbinical study sprang up in cities in Bablyonia (modern Iraq) and in Palestine. In medieval Europe,  town rabbis had the right to maintain a number of full-time pupils in the town's study hall (beit midrash) which was  usually adjacent to the synagogue. Their cost of living was covered by community taxation. After a number of years, these young people would either take up a vacant rabbinical position elsewhere (after obtaining semicha, rabbinical ordination) or join the work force.

The "traditional" yeshivot of Eastern Europe are actually of relatively recent origin.  Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, a disciple of the Vilna Gaon, gathered a .  large number of interested students and started a yeshiva in the (now Belarusian) town of Volozhin. Although this institution was closed by the Russian government, a number of other yeshivot opened elsewhere, in towns known in Yiddish as Ponovezh, Mir, Brisk Telz and elsewhere, as well as in Jerusalem and in the USA.

There are several varieties of Yeshiva, including grammar schools (usually called "Cheder"), high schools that teach secular subjects as well (called "Mesivta"), Beit Midrash for post-high school studies, and "Kollel" which provides board for married students as well.

Students of Yeshivot in the Holy Land were usually supported  by the Halukah charity dole.

The Israeli government is forced by current law to exempt from army service anyone who is studying in a Yeshiva, and to subsidize Yeshivot and pay the board of their students. Such Yeshivot are usually populated by Haredi ultra-orthodox Jews.

Yeshivot Hesder are a special kind of Yeshiva for religious Zionist youth who wish to study and also fulfill their army service duties.

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Yeshivah

Further Information:

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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This work and individual entries are copyright 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel


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