Retirees and young men have a new venue of interaction at the Manhattan Kollel – where they learn Torah together in small informal groups lead by a Rabbi. They are challenged and challenge, discussing diverse Torah subjects in English, French or Hebrew. Open discussion and speaking your mind is encouraged.
Moni Gabbai, a retiree and a regular, spoke about the Kollel saying “These courses have heightened my spirit and have enriched my Judaic life and lifted my soul to a much higher level of spiritualism. As a novice, every day I learn more and more and as the days go by I still find that I do not know enough.”
“I encourage all people of all ages to participate in these beneficial and very inspiring lectures given by these talented and competent Rabbis whose minds are so open to see things from different angles … They cover many subjects… They make the correlation between what we study and the practical way of our worldly life. They have filled the void that has existed in me for so many years. It has enriched my spiritual life and thus gave a sense to it.”
Armand Koskas, another retiree, notes that “The Kollel has changed the atmosphere of our synagogue, adding a period of five hours of Torah to the normal services. Five talented Rabbis are available for lessons of Torah with ‘menus’ a la carte such as Gemara (Talmud), comments of the Parasha (Torah Reading) of the week and open Torah topics.”
“I used to be very active in my business. When I retired I found myself with much time on my hands. I needed to challenge myself in a way that would give me a sense of accomplishment. When I started coming here to learn Torah with the Rabbis – I found it was just what I needed.” said another participant.
Learning Sessions at the Kollel: An Inside Look
Recently a father brought his young son to learn aleph bet with a Rabbi. The Rabbi patiently taught and told stories from the Torah. After the session was over, the boy started crying. The father asked “My son why are you crying?” Sobbing, the boy said “I want to wear a tallit, like the Rabbis are wearing.” When one was brought for him to wear, he calmed down.
In another session, Moni, riled by the discussion, turned to the Rabbi exclaiming: “I beg to differ, Rabbi!” The other participants glanced at him, awaiting his latest challenge. They were learning the classic Jewish work Mesilat Yesharim – on how to attain one’s purpose in life – by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto. “Not so fast Moni. Let me ask you a question…” the Rabbi said softly with a smile in his eyes. He proceeded to explain in depth the meaning of the text. Moni grinned and retracted. “Oh, now I understand,” he said.
Every Wednesday children from secular elementary schools participate in an afternoon program learning Judaism with kollel rabbanim. Aside from learning through traditional methods, they also hear stories and do art and cooking projects. A professional ulpan teacher teaches them Hebrew.
Food for the Soul
Shalom Siboni, the Rosh Kollel (Head of the Kollel) says “Our Sages, of blessed memory, teach us that just as there is food for the body there exists food for the soul. The food for the soul is the Torah and the Mitzvot (Commandments). More specifically, Torah is called the bread of the soul by the prophets. Thus Torah is essential for the soul. The kollel is one best manners for a person to acquire this nourishment.”
“Manhattan is alive with spirituality here. The goal of our Kollel Program is to teach men, young and old alike, Jewish subjects inside the texts. We learn Talmud, and Chumash as well as Jewish Philosophy and Law.” said Rabbi Raphael Benchimol, of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation.
On occasion the Kollel is visited by prominent Torah scholars. In the last two years Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Chief Rabbi of Israel, addressed the Kollel. Rabbi David Messas, former chief Rabbi of Geneva and Paris, and Rabbi Sitruk, former chief Rabbi of France, offered lectures. Rabbi David Pinto, a noted Kabbalist from France, gave encouragement and spoke words of Torah.
“Our community offers a wide variety of learning, prayer and social programs focused on giving all Manhattan residents an avenue to express and develop their spiritual side and to lead a more meaningful existence. Our programs appeal to singles and families; to youth and to the young at heart.” continued the Rabbi.
“For the Children, Manhattan Sephardic offers a free weekly afternoon Hebrew school program and our Shabbat morning Youth services. We recently started a Jewish Family hour on Sundays.”
“It is beautiful to see grandfathers participating in our programs, hand-in-hand with their grandchildren. The grandfathers are the link of the present to the past in a chain extending all the way to the time our forefathers. The children are the link of the present to the future.”
For More information contact the Synagogue Office at 212-988-6085. Their Website: www.sepharad.org or email the Rabbi at [email protected]
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