Yeshivath Sharashim is a Web-based educational venture to engage users — both Jewish and Gentile seekers of God and His word — in a deepening understanding of the Hebrew Bible and other religious classics. It does so through live, interactive video sessions probing directly the meaning of the original texts. Besides live sessions, the website comprises archives of audio and video recordings and related source sheets. The founder, R. Chaim Eisen, has been stimulating audiences with his lectures on the Bible and Biblical commentary and Jewish thought and philosophy for thirty years.
Yeshivath Sharashim’s premise is empowering participants worldwide by equipping them with the most potent tool at our disposal: knowledge — ultimately, knowledge of God. Especially today, we can palpably sense a growing hunger and thirst, as expressed by the prophet Amos: “Behold, days are coming, says God the Lord, when I shall send a famine in the land, not a famine for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the words of God” (Amos 8:11). In the end, we know this hunger and thirst will be satisfied only when “the earth will be full of knowledge of God, as the waters cover the seabed” (Isaiah 11:9).
In practice, the hunger and thirst manifest themselves in different ways for different people. Tragically, much of the world has drifted so far from God that only an amorphous emptiness endures: a rampant dissatisfaction with a life devoid of true meaning that remains clueless as to a solution. Perhaps more tragic, however, is the plight of those — both Jews and Gentiles — who remain stalwart in a religious commitment that no longer inspires or inspirits. They crave the vibrancy and vitality that closeness to God should engender but have lost touch with Him and His word.
Yeshivath Sharashim maintains that, as in Amos’s prophecy, hearing “the words of God” is the key. Far from facilely quoting from Scripture or later religious works, we must predicate addressing people’s theological, philosophical, and spiritual problems upon seriously confronting primary texts. Only by answering the question “What is God’s word saying?” can we approach the question “What is God’s word saying to us?” This is the focus of all our educational programs: Delve deeply into whatever sources are the subject of discussion, and thus extract their salient messages that impact upon our lives.
At Yeshivath Sharashim, this mandate’s practical application is perforce a work in progress. Thus, one of the initial educational programs is an inspirational weekly webcast progressing serially through the Hebrew Bible, beginning with the weekly Torah portions read in synagogues on the Sabbath. This series does not presume any proficiency in Hebrew Scriptures. However, it unabashedly presupposes a sincerely seeking and spiritually sensitive audience of both Jews and Gentiles striving to connect on a deeper plane to God’s first and foremost revelation to humanity — the Hebrew Bible.
Another initial focus in Yeshivath Sharashim’s educational programs is direct, unmediated confrontation with the timeless classics of Jewish thought. A systematic, text-based approach stresses basic methodology and critical analysis, through which to master, and be moved by, these masterpieces. Simultaneously, important ideas within general, religious, and specifically Jewish philosophies, prerequisites of such incisive thinking, are developed. We believe these works articulate Judaism’s fundamentals most comprehensively and are the most relevant to the crises of faith besetting our world nowadays.
Dedicated participants should expect to glean, from the primary sources, raw materials to begin formulating an individual religious philosophy. To this end, we challenge them to draw upon expertise in all branches of Torah and general knowledge and enable them to translate the philosophy they synthesize into a practical, all-encompassing commitment in their lives. There are many legitimate, “right” answers. This is a lifelong endeavor embracing everything. Predictably, as it develops, Yeshivath Sharashim anticipates initiating additional educational programs to advance this ongoing process.
The destiny toward which all these programs direct is that which Jews affirm three times daily in prayer: “to perfect the world through the reign of the Almighty” (“Aleinu”). Today, perhaps more than ever, advancing this goal obliges us all — both Jews and Gentiles. Like a users’ manual, God’s Torah empowers us to make the most of our lives. Its proper study both informs and inspires, summoning us relentlessly to be all we can be, always. Ultimately, it trains and transforms us, to be Godly dispensers of loving-kindness for the benefit of all. Yeshivath Sharashim was conceived to help realize these goals.