On Shabbat Nachamu (July 27-28) Young Israel of New Rochelle welcomed Rabbi Dr. Yakov Nagen, the rosh kollel of Yeshivat Otniel, and Rebbetzin Michal Nagen, the rosh mechina of Tzahali Academy, an army preparation academy for religious women, as scholars-in-residence.
Rabbi Dr. Nagen is the rosh kollel of the hesder yeshiva in Otniel and an author of several books. He spoke about “The Individual vs. the Community: A Mishnaic Polemic About the Amidah and Its Contemporary Relevance.” Rabbi Nagen strongly encourages his students to include personal prayers during the Amidah, so that the text does not become rote.
Both Nagens took the podium following the main minyan, to discuss “Radical Togetherness: Teachings of the Zohar on Love and Relationships.” Utilizing a team approach, they drew from their own marital experiences, interwoven with references to the Zohar to describe how two distinct entities come together to create the partnership of a marriage.
Rebbetzin Nagen is also an academic, who served in the Israel Defense Forces’ education unit. Since 2006, she has headed Tzahali, a pioneering military preparatory program for religious Israeli women based in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim. Her pre-Mincha presentation, titled “The Shared Challenge of Mixed Service and a Mixed Society: The Integration of Women in the IDF,” provided insight into the challenges faced by religious Israeli women who decide to enroll in the IDF rather than in Sherut L’eumi. Rebbetzin Nagen’s goal is to ensure religious women are prepared to maintain their religious values, as they serve Medinat Yisrael. While the first Tzahali class was composed of about 25 women, today’s Tzahali program will graduate almost 200 students— proof that the number of religiously observant women who enlist is breaking records.
Tzahali’s one-year program includes classes in spirituality, education, relationships and femininity in small groups designed to create a family feel encouraging open dialogue, which is essential when addressing topics like balancing army life while trying to “stay women, stay Jewish, stay with the values of the Jewish home, with the family. For me that is critical,” says Rebbetzin Nagen. With the support of religious educators, like Rabbi Binyamin Lau, the young women are provided with a framework that will make it possible for them to contribute more meaningfully, to both the IDF and their future lives.
Between Mincha and Maariv, Rabbi Nagen told “Stories of Redemption and Spiritual Insights in the Wake of Deadly Terror.” The Nagen family’s community of Otniel has suffered multiple casualties since the second Intifada began. Rabbi Nagen relayed a number of incredible stories—one about the bravery of students fighting back during a terror attack at his yeshiva and one about the power of the human connection, even between people from completely different walks of life.
Shabbat with the Nagens presented the community with interesting topics all relevant to modern-day Orthodox life in Israel, based on academic Judaic principles.
By Judy Berger and Yvette Finkelstein