“Any way you touch Torah, it changes people,” says Rabbi Moshe Levi, who, along with his committee, founded the Neshama Torah Center Learning Program at 1292 Ocean Parkway three months ago. The innovative program pairs workingmen with avrechim(kollel students) who devote a portion of their day to teaching. These talented and devoted scholars teach any Torah subject – Gemara, Halacha, Mishna,Navi, Tanach – in either Hebrew or English, free of charge. Background knowledge and level of religious observance are not important. In fact, the program’s leaders are seeking especially those who have minimal knowledge of Jewish life and practices.
“It doesn’t matter what level you’re on,” says committee member Shmuel Baron. “If you want to learn, we would love to teach you.” Adds Rabbi Levi: “People who aren’t observant haven’t experienced learning before. We want to give them that opportunity. Every Jew should have the opportunity to discover the spiritual meaning of life – his true purpose – and learning does the job best.”
At its core, Neshama Torah Center is an outreach program sponsored by donors who aim to bring the workingman closer to Torah. “If one person sits and learns, it means that, by extension, his whole family is getting closer to Torah,” says Mr. Baron. He explains that learning isn’t just an activity of the moment; rather, it seeps into one’s being, infiltrates his life and influences all his decisions. If, because of their learning, Neshama Torah Center students begin making more Torah-minded decisions, NTC achieves its goal of bridging the gap between spirituality and ordinary, mundane affairs.
No doubt, participation in the Center is not an easy commitment to make. Time is money, after all, and giving learning a premier place in one’s schedule, such as making time for study before work in the morning, does not always come naturally. For so many, though, it is also their only connection to Torah – a connection that becomes supremely important as they come to see the way it strengthens them and energizes the rest of their day. Anyone who has spent time learning can attest to the great feeling of satisfaction it brings, and how it elevates all their day’s subsequent activities.
The committee of the Neshama Torah Center invites everyone to come get a taste of this satisfaction. They will greet you, feed you, and ask you a few questions to get a sense of what you’re looking for. Although one’s level of observance doesn’t matter, his area of interest does. As Mr. Baron counsels, citing the famous rabbinic proverb, “Ein adam lomed ela hechan shelibo hafetz”– a person is only going to learn in earnest what his heart desires to learn. The avrechimof Neshama Torah Center want to get a sense of what you’re drawn to – because it is only there where your enthusiasm will be sustained and you will experience the incomparable sweetness of Torah.
Participants are welcome to stay for all or just some of the daily program. The morning begins at 6:15am with a Gemara class taught by Rabbi Levi. Minyan begins at 7:00am, and is followed by breakfast. Learning with the avrechimcommences at 8:00am.
If the workingman is very busy, the session may only last a half hour. If he can spare the time, it’ll run till 9:00am. The avrechimare flexible, willing to schedule learning before or after the appointed time. Whatever it takes, essentially, to reel the student in.
The committee matches laypeople and avrechimprimarily on the basis of chemistry. They encourage students to learn with one avrech for a few times as a trial, so if the dynamic isn’t quite right a switch can be made. The participants quickly discover that there is nothing like learning one on one with a rabbinic scholar. The experience pales in comparison to a shiur, where the rabbi is addressing a room full of people. “It’s the difference between being a passenger on a bus and getting from one place to another or driving yourself,” asserts Mr.Baron. In other words, it’s the difference between passive and active engagement.
With Neshama Torah Center, you’ll take control of your learning and feel truly invested as you come alive under the guidance of accomplished and passionate Torah scholars. They’ll spur you to new spiritual heights and give you the motivation to keep going. Your connection to Torah, forged even before the working day begins, will infuse the rest of it with clarity and purpose. As Rabbi Levi says, “The avrechimare here to give, they’re readyto give.”
For more information about the Neshama Torah Center,
please call 347-977-0775.