December 19, 2018

19 Straight Hours of Torah? For Shiur!

Photo courtesy of Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn.

In 2015, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, dean of school at Yeshivat Yavneh in Los Angeles, held a live video shiur, or teaching session, on Lag B’Omer, when he taught for 18 hours straight.

This year, he’ll try to go even longer. On Lag B’Omer — from 11 p.m. May 2 through 6 p.m. May 3 — Einhorn plans to conduct a 19-hour shiur in front of an in-house audience, and to whoever watches a live video stream of the session on the web.

Einhorn’s teaching can be viewed at and on the websites of participating Jewish schools. The multiple topics he plans to cover include: “Time Waits for Nobody: Exploring the Mystery of Time,” “Super Jew: What Makes Somebody a Jewish Hero?” and “Was There Ever a Female Chassidic Rebbe?” Each class will be an hour long and will serve as a fundraiser. The monies collected will go to families that can’t afford to send their children to Jewish day school.

During the 2015 broadcast, Einhorn said, he raised $250,000 from the 15,000 people who tuned in.

“[The first shiur] was an exciting way to teach Torah, and it was something that had never been done before,” Einhorn said in a phone interview with the Journal. “Since it was so different, I thought it should be used in an exciting way to raise money for Jewish education.”

For The Longest Shiur, Einhorn has teamed with 35 Jewish schools around the world that will also show the event’s live stream. Among the schools are Yeshiva University High School for Boys – MTA in New York, and Los Angeles schools Valley Torah, Yeshiva University of Los Angeles (YULA) Boys, YULA Girls and Shalhevet High School.

Judaism is so rooted in a people connected to a book and the Torah. Without a sophisticated teaching of it, we’re losing our main form of our connection.” — Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn

Einhorn, who has been working in Jewish schools since being ordained more than 20 years ago, said he hopes he and his partners can raise $500,000 this year.

“I firmly believe in the value of a strong and sophisticated Jewish education, especially in 2018,” he said. “You give somebody fluff and that’s what they will take out of it. Judaism is so rooted in a people connected to a book and the Torah. Without a sophisticated teaching of it, we’re losing our main form of our connection.”

Los Angeles resident Ron Nagel has known Einhorn since he was a child, and attended the 2015 shiur.

“I was amazed by his stamina, diversity of topics and how he thinks out of the box,” Nagel told the Journal in an email. “His humor and being a master teacher are characteristics that make him so enjoyable to listen to.”

This year, Einhorn will rely on the support of his wife, Yeshivat Yavneh Executive Director Lev Stark, to keep him awake and alert through the 19-hour marathon study session. Among the lessons he learned from his 2015 shiur: Don’t drink Diet Pepsi Big Gulps. “When I’m teaching Torah, I am very energized,” he said. “The energy just feeds you when you stay up and help someone get a Jewish education.”

The topics, he said, are going to be deep but approachable for everyone who tunes in, no matter their education level, and some will deal with particularly modern issues. For one session, “Does Halacha Require Us to Vaccinate?” he plans to bring in a doctor to answer questions. He will also teach a class on the Jewish position on the National Rifle Association and gun control, and another titled, “The Grassy Knoll: Great Jewish Conspiracies.”

There will also be an online form where people watching on the web can submit questions that Einhorn will answer after each class.

“I love all areas of Jewish teaching,” he said. “I’ll keep it heavy and deep but break down the content how I can. It’ll be heavy philosophical ideas but for a broad audience.”

Sitting Shivah in Parkland

Women react during a candlelight vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

I never imagined that my Shabbat sermon in Los Angeles would lead me straight to Parkland to make shivah calls with grieving families. Here’s how it happened and what I learned.

In my Shabbat sermon, I spoke about the purpose of God’s hiddenness in the Megilah. From there I reflected on the horrific tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., where 17 innocent people were brutally murdered. After my sermon, the chairman of Yeshivat Yavneh, where I am Dean of School, approached me and suggested we go beyond the lecture: Why not take some eighth-graders to visit the families sitting shivah in Parkland?

This was unexpected, but he was right. Judaism is not just a religion of ideas, it’s also a religion of action. We decided to take Estee Einhorn, our daughter, and Benjamin Rubin, David and Gitel Rubin’s son. They both lived with a shivah this year as my wife recently sat shivah for her mother, and David sat shivah for his father. Perhaps a little of what they experienced would help them process what they would witness in Florida.

We took the red eye to Fort Lauderdale on the night of Feb. 18 and hit the ground running at 6 a.m. Feb. 19. We got off the plane and started our experience with a visit to the school. It was beginning to get real. The memorials, wreaths, press and candles laid out in front of a giant school immediately drew us in to the scene of the crime. We carefully read the testimonies and letters of love laid out in front of a picture of each child killed. At that moment, our heart was officially in Parkland.

Next we went to the Chabad of Parkland to pray. It seemed like the appropriate way to start our morning. Rumor had it some family members were going to be there. They never showed. The Chabad rabbi said, “Last night was just a very difficult night; nobody was going to join this morning.”

And then it was time. We made our way from shivah to shivah. The pain, the suffering, the anger and resilience all filled the air. We did what we needed to do. We were there to support, experience and become the sounding board for their pain.

The best response in the face of unspeakable tragedy is exactly that — to unspeak.

There is so much to say and describe about these individuals, the lives they led, and the world they leave behind. But I will simply share a few impressions we walked away with:

1. Diversity. It was unexpected to see how the grieving process varied among people who suffered the same tragedy. Some were in a state of shock, some were in activist mode, others were in a state of deep reflection.

2. There’s a chance that we may have witnessed history. More specifically, we may have been witnessing how law and policy really start to change. Our history teachers may educate us on the three causes of the Civil War, but often there are less-noticed triggering events that set off the actual sea changes. I witnessed family members actively engaging lobbyists and lawyers, instructing to use the emotional moment to create significant change in our gun control laws.

3. Our children learned how sometimes the best response in the face of unspeakable tragedy is exactly that — to unspeak. Silence, comfort and a hug.

4. Evil is possible in the middle of paradise. Parkland and the greater Broward Country is just stunning. The blue sky and deep white clouds almost look too good to be real. Many of the houses are gorgeous, with surrounding lakes and everglades and Roman fountains. In the middle of this paradise, the worst kind of evil entered and darkened the heart of a community.

5. In times of darkness, it’s OK to break the rules. When we landed, we found out that the shivah times we were given were wrong. The shivahs would only be open to the public after we would be on our way back to Los Angeles. That didn’t stop us. If they don’t want to see us, they can tell us to leave, and that’s fine. But no one did. We were welcomed at every shivah call.

Our experience taught us that, when people are in pain, sometimes the biggest mitzvah is just to show up.

Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn is Dean of School at Yeshivat Yavneh.

Words to the whys at your seder

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.


This week, in many synagogues around the world, we begin to read a new book, Sefer Vayikra, Leviticus. Here we are taught: “No meal offering that you offer to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for no leaven or honey may be turned into smoke as an offering by fire to the Lord” (Leviticus 2:11).

The two times the Torah forbids leaven (chametz) is in this verse referring to the altar and also on Passover. What is the link?

According to Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, in his “Ha’emek Davar,” leavened bread is the human attempt to add onto the natural state of creation. The closer we stand in our relationship with God, the less we need to manipulate nature. The altar was in the Beit HaMikdash — the dwelling place of God’s presence on Earth, a place of intense proximity. There is no need for our chametz intervention. Likewise, with Passover, we bind our souls to God as we eat the “Bread of Faith.” There is no need for extra tinkering.

As Vayikra, in ever a slight way, turns
our attention to Passover, let us jump in
with a few holiday-related gems to share at the seder.

Paying for Hope

Buying Chanukah candles and paying for the four cups of wine on Pesach are the only mitzvot that require a poor person to sell their clothes, if need be, in order to be carried out, according to Jewish law. Why only these two items?

Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner explained that at the root of this law is the notion that every poor person must know that even in the middle of their darkest hour and their darkest exile, God brings light. The promise of Chanukah and the hope of the four cups, both of which celebrate pirsumei nisah, the publicizing of the miracle, underscore the point that in the moment when things are most difficult in our lives, we are going to find that salvation.

In the Kiddush, we say that Shabbat is first among our holy days and is “a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt.” What does this line mean?

The bodyguard of the Seer of Lublin, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi of Ropshitz, shares his take: The amazing power of the Exodus is imbedded with the ability to help us transcend above levels that we couldn’t ordinarily attain. So the beginning of a great and triumphant renewal starts within the darkness — moments when we thought all hope was lost. Right at that moment, God says, “Hold out your hand, and I will help you move to places you never dreamed possible.”

A Holy Effort

Why does wine have its own distinct blessing? We don’t make a separate blessing on the meat or the chicken that’s brought out later. Rav Chaim Zeitchik says it’s not because of wine’s precious value. I’m sure that we could find a rare food that has a higher dollar amount, perhaps caviar.

You know what’s precious about it? Dvar mitzvah habaah mitoch yagiyah chashoov. Something that comes through work, a process, is more important, much more powerful. The blessing upon wine is special because it took work to get to it. You take grapes, you have to wait for fermentation, you have to press them out in order to bring it to your wine cup.

Something is much greater when you get it through effort. It is for this same reason why the beautiful stones the priests wore in the temple are mentioned last out of all of his clothing in the Torah. According to the tradition of the Talmud, these stones came to us via the clouds. In other words, they were a freebie. We didn’t work to get them and therefore they are less precious to us.

 A Roman Custom

At specifically placed times throughout the seder, we recline by leaning to the left. The Talmud mentions a pragmatic reason for this: so that we shouldn’t choke. The rabbinic tradition favored another reason, and that is that reclining is a symbol of our freedom.

Rabbi Norman Lamm asks a great question: Why did we adopt a symbol of freedom that was synonymous with the Romans, especially given that there are so many beautiful Jewish customs and cultural idiosyncrasies.

Look around. Our seder is incomplete. We are missing the korban Pesach, the Passover offering, which was the highlight of Passover in the ancient Temple. We are missing so much because the Romans laid waste to our divine abode. We went into exile because the Romans sent us into exile. And so, ironically, we recline to display a great remembrance, a zecher l’mikdash. We remember our Temple while those who ravaged it no longer are here. 

RABBI SHLOMO EINHORN is rav and dean of Yeshivat Yavneh and the author of “Judaism Alive” (Gefen Publishing, 2015). He also holds the record for the longest continuous Torah class at 18 hours.

Torah portion: Becoming humans

“Evolution” is an explosive word in a Torah article. I’d like to argue, though, that there is one sense of evolution that is agreed to by all Jewish scholars.

Parashat Mishpatim opens its message with the laws of owning a slave. A refrain heard twice in the Torah portion is that we must remember what it was like when we were slaves in Egypt. This emotional memory can help us evolve into better people. It will ensure that we don’t pass on the dysfunctions of one generation to the next. 

The founder of the Chasidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov, makes a cryptic comment about this. He says the primary loss during the Jewish exile in Egypt was that da’at (knowledge) was in exile. 

What does it mean that knowledge was in exile? At the top of the kabbalistic chain are three attributes — yanav (wisdom), hochma (understanding) and da’at. Yanav is the initial flash of energy when an idea first reaches the mind. Hochma is when one begins to try to understand this flash of inspiration. Da’at is when one tries to relate to this newfound information. Knowledge, then, is the ability to integrate the material that we learn. This was temporarily lost while in Egypt.

The Torah teaches us: “Every firstling donkey you shall redeem with a sheep” (Exodus 13:13). Subsequent to this imperative, we are told we must redeem our firstborn males as well, and that when they ask, “What does this mean?” we shall answer that “God took us out of Egypt with a strong hand from the house of slaves (Exodus 13:14). What’s the connection between this verse and the aforementioned redemption of a donkey? Moreover, why did God command the Israelites that the firstborn donkey be exchanged for a sheep?

One great early 20th-century scholar, Rav Yosef Dov Fishof, suggests that the answer lies in the distinction between a donkey and a sheep. There is no animal like the donkey used throughout history in greater proportions as beasts of burden. The donkey works tremendously hard, and the food it is given is of the lowest quality, often poor quality scrub. The sheep, on the other hand, is treated as one the best among domesticated animals, for it has a faithful shepherd leading it through the greenest of pastures. 

When the Jewish people were in Egypt, they were at the level of donkeys, working like animals, day and night without stop. But God had different plans, and He eventually took them out and lifted them to the level of a sheep. They also had a faithful shepherd in Moses. This is the connection between the two verses. The Egypt experience taught us that we must evolve.

Momentum — taking one success and building toward another — is the key to this development. In the business paradigm book, “The Momentum Effect,” by J.C. Larreche, the author argues that for businesses to take the road to momentum, it requires two factors: traction and movement. Traction means that a product is in place that is so compelling that our movement in its direction is obvious and desired. Movement means that all possible obstacles in the way of acquiring that prized product have been removed. For the Israelites, once slavery was removed, everything necessary for our development fell into place. There was the promise of a compelling product (Torah), a hungry people (the Israelites), and a path cleared of all obstacles.

The “Sefer HaChinuch” notes that on Pesach, the Korban HaOmer (barley offering) is brought. This is followed, seven weeks later, when we bring actual bread. It symbolizes our progression, going from animal food to human food, indicating that the Omer process is a time when we work on becoming humans. This is Jewish evolution. It is about bringing knowledge out of exile (to use the words of the Baal Shem Tov). In Egypt, we were made to feel almost subhuman. We lost the quality that distinguished us from animals — our ability to think freely.

There is a famous debate as to when the Israelites were commanded to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle). According to Rashi, the commandment came after the sin of the golden calf. But the Ramban assumes it came before, and further develops the idea that Moses repeated the commandment after the second set of tablets was given. 

What is the purpose of recapitulating this commandment? Moreover, why is the building of the Mishkan supposed to arise in context with the Sinai experience? Some suggest that the Mishkan was designed to be our personal Sinai wherever we go. There’s only one problem with this approach: Why not ask the Jewish people to build something that looks like Sinai, a mini mountain model, if you will? 

It is clear from numerous verses in Exodus that the Mishkan was, in fact, supposed to look like a human being. The Torah uses its description in terms that are frighteningly similar to human body parts. The reason for this is because the Tabernacle was supposed to reflect Sinai in the sense that at Sinai we were learning how to become full-fledged human beings — full-fledged in that we knew how to operate with da’at. As the Talmud in Sotah states, “There is no knowledge like the knowledge of Torah.” Therefore, the Israelites were implored to build an edifice that looked like a human being — the ultimate Jewish evolution. 

Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn is rav and dean of Yeshivat Yavneh and the author of “Judaism Alive” (Gefen Publishing, 2015).

A marathon torah lesson with Rabbi Einhorn

For Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, teaching classes for five hours straight on Shavuot was just a warm-up. On Dec. 24, he’ll sit in front of his computer for 18 hours and teach Torah to anyone who tunes in online.

Beginning at midnight, Einhorn, the dean of Yeshivat Yavneh on West Third Street, will attempt the educational marathon that is being billed as the longest streamed Torah lecture, or shiur, in history. It can be accessed at


Torah portion: One night in Tokyo

Although I was just a kid, I still remember my walk to synagogue on Feb. 12, 1990. It stands out because I passed a newspaper, and on the front page was something I had never dreamed of seeing.

There he was, laying on the floor, out for the count — the unbeatable Iron Mike Tyson, KO’d in Tokyo by an unknown boxer named Buster Douglas. How could this happen? How could a 37-0 undisputed heavyweight champion of the world take such a fall to such a nobody?

The answer actually can teach us something about our forefather Abraham. Tradition says Abraham faced 10 critical tests in his life. According to the most commonly accepted order, the final test was the biggest: the binding of Isaac. Abraham is asked to offer his beloved son on the altar and kill him. At the last moment, divine intervention stops Abraham. An array of creative thinkers has grappled with this scenario, from Maimonides to Soren Kierkegaard to Arcade Fire.

But there is another way to count Abraham’s 10 tests. The 13th-century Spanish scholar Rabbeinu Yonah places the binding of Isaac as the ninth test. He said the final test was whether Abraham would find the most sacred burial plot for his deceased wife, Sarah. 

Wait a second … if Abraham has already passed the test of the binding of Isaac, what’s the point of following it up with something that, while meaningful, seems relatively minor-league? If you follow Rabbeinu Yonah’s count, shouldn’t God have stopped after nine tests?

I’d like to suggest two possible resolutions. The first is the zone of proximal development. Developed by Lev Vygotsky, who was admitted to Moscow State University in 1913 under a “Jewish lottery” when there was a 3 percent quota on Jews, the theory posits that recognizing a subject area where a child is challenged — just above the level they are comfortable with — is the sweet spot for child development. Information that is too easy for the child is below the range of optimal development, and information that is too challenging is beyond the normal mode of development. But if we can place that lesson in the perfect spot between too easy and too hard, then we have struck developmental gold.

Applied here, the test of the binding of Isaac was simply too hard. It was larger than life and, in some ways, didn’t truly assess the level Abraham was at. There are many people who step up when the tragedy is a huge one, but often, the response is less forthcoming when the tragedy or the pain of a friend is at a more moderate level. We are less likely to go into “battle mode” when the situation isn’t as dire. 

The same could be said for Abraham. It’s important that he stepped up at the binding of his son, but what is Abraham really like when the challenge is not as dramatic? Finding a burial plot for his wife is deeply important but it is a natural part of life. How committed will he be and how far will he go to secure one of the holiest spots in the universe? With this test, Abraham has found his zone of proximal development.

There is a more important explanation to the quandary posed by Rabbeinu Yonah, however, and that goes back to Iron Mike. He was, without a doubt, the greatest boxer of the 1980; fights would end in record time as his legendary uppercut made a mockery of his opponents. But then it all changed with one fateful Shabbos night in Tokyo when the young legend lost to the epitome of all underdogs. 

What happened? Sometimes, when you have done it all, you let your guard down. The real test comes only after you have reached the top.

Abraham had faced the greatest test that mankind would ever know by offering to sacrifice his son on Mount Moriah. But would Abraham have the fortitude to stay strong? Or would he let his guard down?

We say in Psalms 24:3, “Mi ya’aleh B’Har Hashem” — who can ascend the mountain of God? And subsequently, “Mi yakum bimkom kodsho” — who can stay in His holy abode? It’s one thing to pass that great test. It’s another thing to stay at that same level.

Our lives are an aggregate of peaks and valleys, although we hope there are more peaks. We need to keep in mind that the goal is not to reach the summit — that’s just the beginning. When we accomplish a significant goal that we’ve been striving toward, it is at that moment that our real work begins.  

May God give us the strength to climb the mountain, and may God give us the ability to stay there in victory. 

Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn is rav and dean of Yeshivat Yavneh and the author of “Judaism Alive” (Gefen Publishing, 2015). 

Torah portion: The mystery of limited vision, Parashat Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1)

We are often reminded in our lives about the limits of what we can know, what we ought to know and what we can’t know. Tragedies, heartbreak and, yes, abundance all remind us in their own way that there is so much to life that is unknowable. 

This existential frustration is most famously framed by this week’s parsha, Chukat, and the story of the Red Heifer. This mysterious, colored cow that brings purity is relegated to the parts of the Torah that cannot be known. Part of the conundrum is the law that those involved in preparing the Red Heifer become impure, while the one it is prepared for becomes pure. This contradiction gives birth to mystery. Mystery implies a limit in our vision.

Moses was told that he would be limited in vision long before this episode. The Torah recounts God’s exchange with Moses: “Then I shall remove my hand and you will see my back, but my face may not be seen” (Exodus 33:23). This is how God makes known to Moses the limit of human vision. 

The Talmud compares the world in which we live to night. Imagine that you are driving a car at night on the highway in the middle of nowhere. There are no lights on the road and you wonder why the road curves so much and in such odd ways. You assume that the individual who built this road was utterly incapable. Little do you know that were it to be day, you would notice that the area around the highway is filled with mountains, rivers, and numerous other natural obstacles that offer good reason for the road to constantly curve.

The message here is that sometimes in order to understand, we must see the entire picture. One more illustration that gets the same point across but in a subtly different way: Imagine peering into a doorway and noticing two people engaged in an aggressive struggle with knives. On impulse you run into the room and tackle the two individuals to the ground. Suddenly you hear in the near distance, “Cut! Cut!” As it turns out, you have just barged into a movie set. Many times we are missing an important piece of information when we fail to see the whole picture.

This Chukat message is essentially what the holiday of Purim and the Book of Esther are all about. The miracle of their story is hidden within the text, and we are challenged to see the entire picture — to stand from afar and reveal the magnificent tapestry. The Talmud wonders where Esther is alluded to in the Bible. The Talmud turns to the words in Deuteronomy: “V’anochi haster astir panai ba’yom hahu” (But I will surely have concealed [astir] my face on that day) (Deuteronomy 31:18). Esther’s name, which has the same root letters as astir, indicates what is hidden.

According to Jewish law, there is a specific way to read the Book of Esther scroll. The reader unfolds the entire scroll before beginning because it is essential that we see the whole picture. Likewise, God’s name seems to be totally absent from the Megillah because it is our job to lift the curtain masking the real story.

Jewish tradition has a Written Law (the Bible) and an Oral Law (the Talmud). The essence of the Oral Law is about revealing the hidden. It is there to reveal the message hidden within the Written Law. 

The Talmud presents the opinion of Rav Dimi Bar Chama, who says that God held Mount Sinai over the Israelites, forcing them to accept the Torah. The Talmud then questions the legality of this acceptance, as it was against their will. The answer to the challenge is based upon a verse in Esther (9:13): “They kept and received,” which teaches us that the people reaffirmed their commitment to the Torah, thereby asserting their voluntary acceptance in the days of Esther.

Why would they need to reaffirm their commitment if the Israelites already declared at Sinai, “We will do and we will hear” (Exodus 24:7)? An ancient source called the midrash posits that they voluntarily accepted the Written Law at Sinai but not the Oral Law. The acceptance of the Oral Law was affirmed in the days of Esther. Based upon our thesis, we can say the reaffirmation was an expression that the holiday of Purim is a time when we have to bring God out from the hidden domain. It is a day that focuses on seeing the entire picture. This is why they accepted fully the Oral Law on this day, for that is the nature of the Oral Law — taking the commandments in the Torah and revealing their true detailed makeup.

It is critical that we begin to see the full picture, for without it everything in life seems so disjointed and distant. This is precisely our relationship with God. It seems to be hidden. We at times feel that we are so far from God. But were we to understand the greater scheme, we would see how close to Him we actually are.

The feeling of distance and detachment is, more often than not, a foible of our limited vision. We tend to see with tunnel vision and ignore God’s hand in our daily lives. Every breath, every movement, every passing step is a miracle. Life’s many tender dances are all signs that we stand right next to God.

Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn is rav and dean of Yeshivat Yavneh in Los Angeles.

The dynamic world of Yavneh’s Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn

On a late December night in Pico-Robertson, about 30 people crammed into the back tasting room of The Cask. Employees of the liquor store poured kosher wine and glasses of whisky, as a man in a suit and yarmulke addressed the crowd.

L’chaim, everybody, l’chaim,” Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn said as he set down a notebook and an audio recorder and began counting down his top 10 Torah lessons of 2014. (He uploads his lectures as podcasts at Einhorn began with Purim, and a lesson from Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Morgenstern about the worlds of Esther and Mordecai. 

“While Esther elevated herself by going to the king’s chamber, Mordecai, a man of nobility, went down to the street,” Einhorn said. One lesson of their story, he said, is that “you have to stay grounded” as well as “take care of those in need.”

It’s a lesson Einhorn, 35, has taken to heart, and it’s a window into his personal philosophy. By day, he’s the dean of Yavneh Hebrew Academy, an Orthodox Jewish school in Hancock Park that teaches preschool through eighth grade. But at night, he goes into the community to teach Torah lessons, often to a non-Orthodox crowd.

“I think that the Torah is amazing. I just think the way it’s presented and packaged sometimes is an arcane style, and I think it has a way to reach people we thought it couldn’t reach,” he told the Journal. “The content is dynamic, it’s infinite, it’s always growing, it’s relatable to people. I just think it needs to be used in the right way.”

Einhorn’s religious lessons are far from conventional. Another of his top Torah lessons of 2014 focused on New Age guru Deepak Chopra’s latest best-seller, “The Future of God,” in which the author explains three stages of spiritual awakening: from “unfaith” (or doubt), to faith, to knowledge. Einhorn applied that process to Abraham, Moses, Esther and other biblical characters. 

In another lecture, titled “Relentless Rosh Hashanah With Kobe Bryant,” Einhorn compared the basketball star’s training strategies to our attempts at setting resolutions for improvement within the framework of a Jewish life. Einhorn also spoke fondly of life coach and self-help author Tony Robbins and his message of personal empowerment.

Einhorn’s passion for self-development goes back to his childhood.

“When he was 10 or 12, he saw TV commercials for this program to remember numbers and improve memory,” recalled his father, Jerry Einhorn. “He took speed-reading classes, drama classes and got tapes in the mail to improve his knowledge. He loves self-help books. He’s read them all.”

The walls of Einhorn’s office at Yavneh are lined with leather-bound religious books and photos of rabbis. One is of Einhorn with the 87-year-old Chaim Kanievsky, a highly respected rabbinic leader in the Charedi Orthodox world. Einhorn’s dark mahogany desk is covered with stacks of paper and framed photos of his wife, Shira, and their five children, ranging in age from 2 to 11. 

When Einhorn decided in 2012 to take on a leadership role at Yavneh, it was also a return to his roots — he was raised in Hancock Park and attended Yavneh as a child. After graduating from Yeshiva University in New York with a master’s degree in education, Einhorn served as a rabbinic intern at Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan, and then was hired as the only rabbi at West Side Institutional Synagogue, also in New York. Through innovative programming and a message that resonated, the congregation grew.

“It was a dream opportunity, because it was a huge shul in Manhattan with nobody in it, which meant it was like a blank canvas,” he said. “By the time I left, we had 400 young couples. Every Shabbos was packed there. I loved it. I never thought I’d leave.” 

Rabbi Steven Weil, senior managing director of the Orthodox Union, called Einhorn “the top young Orthodox rabbi in all of North America.”

“He’s an outstanding orator. He’s a real budding scholar,” Weil said. “He puts an inordinate amount of time into learning all aspects of Jewish and secular knowledge.”

About three years ago, Einhorn was called to meet with two Yavneh board members, Walter Feinblum and David Rubin, at a Manhattan hotel. They’d heard of his success at building a community at West Side and wanted him to consider coming back to Yavneh, this time to help lead the school.

“He had been [at West Side] for five years and had rebuilt that institution from basically having nobody come to being a very engaging place for people to go pray,” said Rubin, Yavneh’s current board chairman. “We felt that if we could bring him back to L.A. — for community events, fundraisers, for … positivity — he could bring a tremendous dynamic and engagement with the community that we were missing.” 

Einhorn serves as both the school’s rav and its first dean. He was preceded by Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin, who left in 2011 to be senior rabbi at Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto.

One of the things Einhorn said he hopes to change about Yavneh is a long-standing view that the school is only meant for students with traditional academic strengths, not for those with learning disabilities or who have trouble paying attention. 

Since his arrival, the school is close to maxing out its enrollment to 498 students, a cap set by zoning regulations. The number was stagnant for years but has been growing in the last five years or so, according to Lev Stark, Yavneh’s executive director. Tuition is close to $20,000 a year. 

Einhorn is working to build an alumni network, with creative events such as an alumni basketball tournament fundraiser, and encouraging the use of social media to spread the word about school activities. Students even host an online news program called “Yavneh News,” filmed in a small on-campus studio complete with green screen and teleprompter. 

“Rabbi Einhorn really spearheads that concept of getting the good stuff that goes on in here out to the parents, and to the families, and to the community in general,” Stark said. 

As Einhorn strolled the poster-lined halls and bustling recreation areas one afternoon, students waved and greeted him warmly. On the basketball court, one young girl in a long skirt tossed him a ball. He took a couple of practice shots as students cheered him on. 

“He’s not a disciplinary figure, he’s a positive figure,” Stark said. 

His role as a positive figure is not limited to the classroom.

“Rabbi Einhorn being out in the community, doing his shiurimTorah teachings — “broadening the public profile of the institution is very important in the long-term mission of the school,” Stark said.

There’s another reason Einhorn leads extra Torah classes at people’s homes, or places like The Cask — zoning won’t allow such activities to be done at the school except as part of the educational process. Because of neighbors’ complaints about zoning infractions, Einhorn has become somewhat of an itinerant teacher, but he likes it that way. 

“People like going out to different places. You reach different social pockets that way. It’s good,” he said. “It’s all good.”