The Yemei Iyun B’Tanakh at Herzog College was a sell-out success, with over 5,000 people attending in person and thousands more logging on from around the world. Top lecturers from Israel’s Bible Studies faculties joined with Rabbis and international Torah lecturers for four days of intensive and exciting Tanakh shiurim.

The Yemei Iyun B’Tanakh have been taking place during the 9 Days before Tisha B’Av for more than 25 years. The original concept was to offer professional development and enrichment programming for Tanakh teachers, but grass-roots interest led to an expansion of the event to admit the wider Jewish public. 

Tanakh for All Ages

The Yemei Iyun event has become a fixture in the calendar of men and women of all ages who are looking for high-level Torah learning opportunities. Many of those who attend in person are retirees, but others use their precious vacation days to attend one or more days. Every hour during the 4-day event, in-person participants can choose from five different live lectures on topics spanning the entire Tanakh, from nuanced analysis of the stories in Genesis, to explanations of the enigmatic prophecies of the Nevi’im. 

Whole families come to the Yemei Iyun at Herzog College together; Rabbanit Althea Mirvis came from Herzliya with her newborn baby and children aged eight and ten, who sat in the lectures listening attentively throughout the day. Yehudit Spero, who attends every year, also brought her son, daughter, and daughter-in-law to share the experience: “My family knows not to arrange anything during this week – it’s my special time for Tanakh shiurim!”, she told us. 

Overseas Visitors

Five members of the Tanach Study Group of Kew Gardens Hills came especially from New York to Israel to attend the event. One of them was Dr. Deena Rabinovich, head of Jewish Studies at Stern College. She said: “I enjoyed the top level Torah shiurum and the opportunity to take time off from the ‘real world’ and devote time to Torah study. It was great to join together with so many other people- from teachers and scholars to lay people who share a common interest in Limmud Torah.”

Gitta Neufeld, Program Director at the Touro College Graduate School of Education, was delighted to be back in-person for the 12th time, after two years watching online from New York during COVID. An enthusiastic Tanakh teacher and teacher of teachers, she depends on this annual dose of learning to inspire herself for the year.

Gitta says: “The Yemei Iyun is an extraordinary event because it unites people from all over Israel, who take time off to sit in a classroom and learn. It gives all of us an opportunity to meet and talk with leading teachers and writers, and to learn how to teach from the way they teach. What’s more, I have made many good friends who share my passion for Tanakh and who I meet here every year.”

Online Tanakh Classes

Rabbi Dr. Shalom Berger, Director of English Language Programs at Herzog College, explains: “Just like pre-Corona times, thousands of people made their way to Alon Shvut for the Yemei Iyun this year, but not everyone felt comfortable attending in person. In 2020, the pandemic forced us to move the entire program online, and this has now become a permanent fixture alongside the live event. Many of the Hebrew language lectures were live-streamed for those who prefer to participate from their homes, and we pre-recorded lectures in English for people to watch in different time zones.” 

The video offerings in English included museum tours by Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin from the Biblical Museum of Natural History and Nachliel Selavan (The Museum Guy), and lectures recorded on location by Rabbanit Shani Taragin, Rabbi Alan Haber, Shulie Mishkin and Dr. Yael Ziegler.  

Top Tanakh Speakers

Among the internationally-renowned speakers on the English-language track were Rosh HaYeshiva HaRav Mosheh Lichtenstein, Rabbi Moshe Taragin, Rabbi Menachem Liebtag, and other Rabbis from Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rabbanit Esti Rosenberg from Migdal Oz, Dr. Yosefa Wruble, Dr. Lisa Fredman and Rabbi Dr. Katriel Brander. Guest speakers from the United States included Rabbi David Fohrman of Aleph Beta, Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom from LA, and Rabbi Dr. J.J. Schacter from Yeshiva University. Speakers on the Hebrew program included  faculty members from Herzog College, professors from Bar Ilan University, and Rabbis who are widely respected authors and speakers in intellectual Israeli circles. 

For Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, Yeshiva University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought, Yeshiva University, this was his first time attending the Yemei Iyun B’Tanakh at Herzog College. He said: “I was totally overwhelmed by the sight of thousands of people coming to learn Torah. The presentations were mesmerising, the attendees were riveted and the atmosphere was electric!” 

Inspiring the Teachers

Rabbi Prof. Yehuda Brandes, President of Herzog College, explains what makes the Herzog Yemei Iyun unique among Torah learning events. “We offer a unique synthesis of academic and Torah traditions, presented by Rabbis and scholars who are experts in Tanakh, and by university lecturers who are religious and respectful of the authenticity of the texts that they teach. We also introduce exciting new ideas that contemporary researchers are discovering through the excavation and exploration of the Land of Israel, that helps us to improve our understanding of the Biblical stories.Herzog College has always been a pioneer in this area, training and inspiring teachers who are responsible for educating the next generation in schools across Israel and in Jewish schools around the world.”

Audio and video recordings of the Yemei Iyun lectures from each year are incorporated into the multi-lingual Herzog College website, where they can be searched by language, theme and topic. Recordings from the 2022 event will be uploaded in the coming weeks. You can find out more about the Tanakh Herzog Initiative here and click here to access recordings of shiurim from past Yemei Iyun events.

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