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Shaar Hashamayim Yeshiva
Hebrew: ישיבת שער השמים
Address
71 Rashi St.
Mekor Baruch
Jerusalem, Israel,
Information
Established 1906
Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter
Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz
Affiliation Orthodox

Shaar Hashamayim Yeshiva, located in the Mekor Baruch neighborhood of Jerusalem, was founded in 1906 by Rabbi Chaim Yehuda Leib Auerbach, author of Chacham Lev, and kabbalist Rabbi Shimon Tzvi Horowitz, for the purpose of teaching and studying the kabbalah of the Arizal (Rabbi Isaac Luria). The yeshiva is famous for its student body of advanced kabbalists — many of them roshei yeshiva and Torah scholars — as well as beginning and intermediate scholars who study both the revealed and concealed Torah.

Contents

Origins

The name of the yeshiva was taken from the Torah passage in which Jacob dreams of a ladder stretching from earth to heaven. After he awakens from his dream, Jacob exclaims, "This is none other than the House of God, and this is the Gate of Heaven (Shaar Hashamayim)!" (Genesis 28:19).

The impetus to found Shaar Hashamayim Yeshiva came from a dream experienced by two noteworthy Jerusalem rabbis on the same night. Rabbi Chaim Leib Yehuda Auerbach awoke one night from a strange dream and went back to sleep, only to be awakened again after the dream repeated itself. He got dressed and set out for the home of Rabbi Shimon Tzvi Horowitz, a kabbalah scholar and author of Shem MiShimon and Kol Mevaser, to discuss the dream with him. As he walked, he saw someone approaching him in the night and was surprised to see it was none other than Rabbi Horowitz, who was coming to see him about the dream he had just dreamed.

It turned out that they had dreamed the same dream. They had each envisioned an elderly man, his face shining with an otherworldly light, who had forcefully requested them to teach his Torah in Jerusalem. "My Torah has the power to bring the Divine Presence back from its exile," the man had said.

Rabbi Horowitz determined that the man in the dream was the Arizal, the sixteenth century mystic of Safed who was known to have regretted the fact that his Torah was not widely studied among Jerusalem's Ashkenazi population. At that time, the only place where the Arizal's kabbalah was studied was the Beit El Synagogue in Jerusalem, which had produced such Sephardi kabbalists as Rabbi Shalom Sharabi ("the Rashash") and Rabbi Yedidiah Abulafia.

On the spot, Rabbis Auerbach and Horowitz decided to open a yeshiva for the study of the Arizal's kabbalah and share the responsibilities as joint roshei yeshiva. The yeshiva opened shortly afterwards in the Old City of Jerusalem with accommodations for a Talmud Torah, a yeshiva ketana, a yeshiva gedola and a kollel for married students.

Curriculum

In 1924, the yeshiva published a pamphlet describing its aims and approach as follows:

First, the study of the revealed Torah, as it is studied in all the holy yeshivot, [including] Shas in depth and poskim. Second, the study of kabbalah, mussar and inquiry. [This is] the only place in the world where the Torah of kabbalah is studied in an orderly manner, progressing from simple teachings to more difficult ones, taught by talmidei chachamim who are qualified for the task. …

The yeshiva's intention is not to provide its students with a simple, superficial understanding of the works of kabbalah, to afford a mere glimpse, wherein lies the danger of stumbling — as Chazal put it, "He glimpsed and was injured." Only extensive inquiry and in-depth study of all the kabbalah works ensures full, rounded knowledge. This is what Yeshivas Shaar HaShamayim and its branches aim to provide.

To this day, kabbalists who wish to study at the yeshiva must first demonstrate extensive knowledge of the revealed Torah. Moreover, those who wish to study kabbalah here must spend half the day learning the revealed Torah. The yeshiva offers daily shiurim in Talmud, poskim, halakha and aggadah, which are attended by advanced scholars and laymen alike.

Classes on the concealed Torah (i.e., kabbalah) are organized by level. The first level is introductory, with the study of the Arizal's Otzros Chaim. The second level studies the Arizal's lessons in Eitz Chaim in depth. The third level studies the kavannot (mystical concentrations) of the Rashash.

Student body

One of the first students in the new yeshiva was Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, a dayan on the Jerusalem beit din (rabbinical court) and future Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. The yeshiva has produced a number of Torah scholars, Torah disseminators and rabbis. It has also published many works on kabbalah.

Public events

Shaar HaShamayim Yeshiva welcomes the public to participate in special yeshiva events during the year. The most popular is the Thursday afternoon prayer service held during the weeks of Shovavim (the weeks coinciding with the Torah readings of Shemot, Va'eira, Bo, Beshalach, Yitro, and Mishpatim, and, in a Jewish leap year, Terumah and Tetzaveh). This service incorporates special kabbalistic tikkunim (rectifications). Other types of tikkunim and pidyonos (redemptions) are also held in the yeshiva, but without publicity.

Shaar HaShamayim Yeshiva also increased public awareness of the yahrzeit of the Arizal on 5 Av, and re-established the custom of visiting his gravesite in Safed on that day.

Leadership

The first roshei yeshiva of Shaar Hashamayim Yeshiva were the founders, Rabbi Chaim Yehuda Leib Auerbach and Rabbi Shimon Tzvi Horowitz.

Rav Auerbach chose to stay with the yeshiva even after his father, the Admor of Chernowitz-Chmielnick, died and his Hasidim asked Rabbi Auerbach to take his father's place. He declined, leaving the position of Admor unfulfilled.

Following Rabbi Auerbach's passing in 1954, his son, Rabbi Eliezer Auerbach, led the yeshiva for many years. After Rabbi Eliezer's passing, another of Rabbi Auerbach's sons, Rabbi Refoel Dovid Auerbach, assumed leadership. Subsequent Roshei Yeshiva were Rabbi Aharon Slotkin (who died in 1973), Rabbi Yechiel Fishel Eisenbach (who served the yeshiva from 1973 until his passing in 2008), and the current roshei yeshiva, Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter and Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz.

Another son of Rabbi Auerbach, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, served as president of the yeshiva; after his passing, his son, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, succeeded him. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman's nephew, Rabbi Yechezkel Schlaff of London, acts as yeshiva administrator.

Migration to a permanent home

The current home of the yeshiva on Rashi St. in the Mekor Baruch neighborhood of Jerusalem. Note the 13 windows under the roof line.

Shaar Hashamayim Yeshiva operated in its original quarters at 1 Gal'ed Street in the Old City of Jerusalem from 1906 to 1948, though an earthquake slightly damaged the building in 1927. At the start of the Israeli War of Independence, Haganah fighters took up positions on the roof of the yeshiva building to fire on the Jordanian army. When the Old City fell to the Jordanians, the yeshiva was evacuated to the Katamon neighborhood. The Jordanians set fire to the yeshiva building with all the seforim (holy books) and furniture inside. After the liberation of the Old City by the Israeli army in 1967, the yeshiva tried unsuccessfully to reclaim its original building.

Shaar Hashamayim Yeshiva functioned on Amatzia Street in Katamon until ___. As tension brewed on the Jordanian border, the yeshiva moved again to the Beit Yisrael neighborhood, occupying in the building that now houses the shteiblekh. In 1958, the yeshiva moved to temporary premises on Rashbam Street.

When Rabbi Refoel Dovid Auerbach became the rosh yeshiva, he endeavored to move it to a large, spacious building of its own as per his father's will. With the help of supporters, a three-story building was purchased at 71 Rashi Street in the Mekor Baruch neighborhood, and the yeshiva moved there in 1992.

The design for the uppermost story of the building features thirteen windows on the sides facing the street and the rear courtyard, totaling twenty-six, the gematria of Yahweh, one of the names of God. (In recent years, a building addition on the top rear story covered over three of the thirteen windows there.)

See also

References

External links

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