Yeshivat Siach-Yitzhak, situated on the northern hill of Efrat, is a Yeshivat Hesder where students combine army service with advanced Torah Study in a five year program. The Yeshiva was founded in September 1996 by Rav Shagar (Shimon Gershon Rosenberg) ZT”L and Rav Yair Dreifuss who have, up until lately, served as the Co-Roshei Yeshiva.
The Yeshiva also attracts a significant number of older students, mainly Hesder graduates, who have found their niche in the Siach-Yitzhak’s unique atmosphere.
The name, Siach, gives expression to the Yeshiva’s ardent interest in promoting dialogue between the Torah world and its social, cultural, and religious milieu.
In January 2004, the name “Yitzhak” was added, in memory of the late Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak Breuer ZT”L, a prominent rabbinical figure in Germany and Eretz Israel in the early 1900s, was a philosopher and jurisprudence, and aspired to shape a religious Jewish character for the future Jewish State. This is his vision of “Torah Im Derech Eretz Israel”, which is an outgrowth of the weltanschauung of his grandfather, Rabbi Samson Rephael Hirsch Zt”l “Torah Im Derech Eretz”.
In May 1999, at the behest of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, and the local City Council headed by Mr. Yinon Achiman, the Yeshiva moved from its original location in Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem, to the northern hill of Efrat - Givat Ha’dagan. The hill, which is within Efrat’s municipal jurisdiction, is a strategic location as it overlooks Bethlehem and Solomon’s Pools and borders areas now controlled by the Palastinian Authority.
Serving as the temporary Yeshiva campus, the caravan site at Givat Hadagan includes a Beit Midrash, classrooms, offices, dorms for the unmarried yeshiva students, and housing for 25 families of married yeshiva students and graduates. Plans are underway to construct a permanent campus on the Givah in the year 2016.
Today, some 80 students, both single and married, learn in the Yeshiva and Kollel. Over half the Siach-Yitzhak students are enrolled in the Hesder program and some are currently performing their active service in the Israel Defense Forces.
Some of the students combine Torah learning with studies in “The Herzog Teacher’s College” where they may continue learning towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Education after they finish the five-year Hesder program.
Yeshivat Siach-Yitzhak undertakes to promote dialogue with the community-at-large and has developed a close relationship with the Kehilot, schools, and Ba’alei Batim in Efrat.
The Yeshiva also organizes Irvei Iyun, special evenings of study, for the general public, especially in Jerusalem.
Inspired by Rabbi Breuer’s vision, the Yeshiva has founded the “Binah Le’itim” Torah Institute, which explores Torah issues that have ramifications for Israeli society and the Jewish nation. In 2005 the Institute published its first book, “Vayikra Et Shmam Adam” (And He Named Them Adam), a collection of Torah articles concerning the Jewish family in our modern (and post-modern) day and age. The second book in the series, “Shenei Ha’Meorot” (The Two Great Lightings), was published in December 2006 and deals with woman’s equality in the family from a new Jewish point of view. Both books are based on studies of sugiyot in Ketubot and Kidushin which were conducted by the Institute’s researchers’.
In addition to the works mentioned above, the Yeshiva publishesd Rav Shagar’s talks and Drashot, and other literary works. To date, over 10 books have made their debut, and the Yeshiva plans to publish additional works in the future.
In the year 2007, our beloved Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Shagar, was diagnosed with a grave illness and after months of suffering past away on the 25th of Sivan 5767 (11.6.07), leaving us orphaned, as “Sheep Without A Sheppard”.
Our beloved Rosh-Yeshiva, Rav Shagar, past away on Sunday night, 25 Sivan 5767 (10.6.07).
Words cannot express our sorrow, but we bring you a personal reflection of Rav Zvi Leshem (Spiritual leader of Congregation Shirat Shlomo in Efrat), a friend and student of Rav Shagar (written during the Shiva):
Rav Shimon Gerson Rosenberg (Shagar) grew up in Jerusalem, was educated at the Kerem B’Yavneh Hesder Yeshiva and later moved on to Yeshivat HaKotel. During the Yom Kippur War he was severely wounded in battle. At a later stage he sought out gedolim such as Rav Yisrael Gustman zt”l, Rav Shlomo Fisher shlit”a and Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl shlit”a to study with. He also began to delve deeply into Kabbalah and Chassidut.
As a young man he became a ram at Yeshivat HaKotel, gathering around him a devoted group of budding young scholars, who have remained his faithful students throughout the years, many becoming influential roshei yeshiva and educators in their own right. At a later stage he was the Rosh Bet Midrash of Bet Morasha. During this time he also began to teach at Nishmat, where our relationship began. Ultimately he founded, together with his loyal chevruta of forty years, Rav Yair Dreifus shlit”a, Yeshivat Siach-Yitzhak, a Hesder Yeshiva that ultimately moved to Givat HaDagan in Efrat. Here he began, in addition to his teaching, to write his numerous books on Gemara, Jewish Philosophy and Contemporary religious society in Israel.
Rav Shagar was an extraordinarily deep Talmid Chacham, who was uniquely able to combine all aspects of Torah in an authentic interdisciplinary approach. His Gemara shiuirm, partially meant to deal with the alienation many young dati-leumi men felt from Gemara study, combined classical lumdos, academic research and philosophy in a meaningful and emesdik way that I have never seen elsewhere. His shiurim in Chassidut, (especially Rebbe Nachman, for whom he had a special affinity and perhaps even identification on some level), were deep, surprising and refreshing. They always hit the deepest existential places in his students, especially since he was acutely aware of the religious and personal struggles and alienation so many people feel in the post-modern world. His writing as well, especially his book on teshuva and his drashot for the Yamim Noraim, touched many raw nerves, forcing us to question our assumptions and search ever more deeply for authentic personal religious truth. He was deeply concerned, not only with Avodat HaShem in the narrow sense, but with interpersonal relationships on many levels. So much of his writing on teshuva focuses upon the banality of our relationships, urging us lehair panim, to light our faces, towards our family and friends, to forgive others, even to forgive ourselves, as a key aspect of rectifying the world. But he went beyond the narrow range of immediate relationships, showing true concern for the weaker members of society and searching for formulas that would make Judaism meaningful to everyone in Israel and break through the barriers of polarization.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Rav Shagar was perhaps the greatest pioneer of Chassidut Eretz-Yisraelit, and that it is largely in his merit that the study and practice of Chassidut has become the one of the most dramatic features of dati-leumi life in Israel, especially since the paradigm of Religious Nationalism lost its capacity to be the sole provider of spiritual meaning for a whole generation of young people. Of course this Chassidut, interwoven with the writings of Rav Kook zt”l and open as well to expression through literature and poetry, is also akin to the Chassidic revival envisioned by such thinkers as Rav Hillel Zeitlin zt”l, who saw pre-messianic Chassidut as a much broader and all encompassing reality, in line with the original message of the Baal Shem Tov. Thus Rav Shagar developed a religious language uniquely capable of meeting the needs of the current generation of Israeli dati-leumi youth, searching for more, much more, than the often simplistic formulations they were taught in high school.
Needless to say, all of the above was not always well received by the mainstream establishment of the dati-leumi yeshiva world, and the Rav was always under attack, for his method of Gemara study, his philosophical writings, and his willingness to question the accepted truths of the community. Throughout all of this, he remained, like Rebbe Nachman, a man absolutely committed to an un-ending search for truth at any cost. He embodied both the Rema’s psak not to pay attention to those who make fun of one’s way in Avodat HaShem, as well as the Baal Shem Tov’s difficult principle of hishtavut, equanimity, accepting all that happened as HaShem’s will and continuing on his path. This ability also enabled him to go through the half year of illness until his death with quiet dignity, hope, and yet, most of all, submission to HaShem’s will, whatever it may be.
On the personal level, Rav Shagar, was quiet, humble and shy. Despite his charisma and the incredible influence he had on so many, he was always approachable, friendly and helpful. His modesty was such that many in his Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Moshe expressed their surprise that the quiet gentle man whom they saw in shul or passed on the street, was the famous Rav Shagar. His yirah came before his chochmah, and many spoke of the tefillot on Yamim Noraim in his presence, as the most inspiring of their lives.
Three days ago he was laid to rest on the Mount of Olives. At his massive funeral, one could see even some of his greatest opponents in the yeshiva world crying profusely. Many of his talmidim tore kriah for their rebbe muvhak. I have been crying on and off for three days and I am crying now. Rav Shagar has appeared in my dreams every night. His Torah seems irreplaceable, a whole generation feels orphaned. If only I had had made a greater effort to learn with him more! If only I had found more opportunities to speak with him! His sweet friendship is also gone. Although Rav Dreifus and others are beginning the work of editing over 3000 of his unpublished writings, and Bezrat HaShem, will succeed in publishing them, aino domeh shmiah l’reiyah, and I want to see my Rav, my friend again, to sit in his shiur, to enjoy a quiet schmooze in a corner of the bet midrash, to share smachot together and more. The loss is so painful it is hard to put into words. The frustration of not being able to due justice to this great man in this essay is all the more painful. Maybe I should stop writing now, wipe away my tears, again, and get back to learning Tora. In his will Rav Shagar asked us to concentrate on improving our relationships, especially within our families, lehair panim, to shine our countenance on those around us, and to realize that there isn’t any time, what we need to fix, we should do now.
That is the painful awareness that comes with death at the age of 57 after a life of intense self-examination, and it behooves us to take his words to heart, deeply to heart.
May the memory of Rav Shimon Gerson Rosenberg (Shagar) zt”l be blessed. May HaShem bless his widow, HaRabbanit Miriam, his children and grandchildren, and the many, many talmidim who also viewed him as a father. May we merit to follow in his footsteps and to help spread the well springs of his Torah until the Mashiach comes, speedily in our days.