Chavrutas (study partners) sit opposite each other or side by side in the beis medrash of Yeshiva Gedola of Carteret.

Chavruta, also spelled chavrusa (Hebrew: חַבְרוּתָא‎, Arabic: حَوَارِيُّ‎, from the Aramaic for "friendship"[1] or "companionship"[2]), is a traditional Rabbinic approach to Talmudic study in which a pair of students independently learn, discuss, and debate a shared text. It is a primary learning method in yeshivas and kollels, where students often engage regular study partners of similar knowledge and ability. The traditional phrase is to learn b'chavruta (Hebrew: בְחַבְרוּתָא‎, "in chavruta"; i.e., in partnership); the word has come by metonymy to refer to the study partner as an individual, though it would more logically describe the pair. In Orthodox parlance, a chavruta always refers to two students, but Reform Judaism has expanded the idea of chavruta to include study groups of up to five individuals.

Chavruta-style learning is also popular in women's yeshivas which study Talmudic texts. More recently, it has been extended to telephone and internet Torah study partnerships.



Based on statements in the Mishnah and Gemara, chavruta learning was a key feature of yeshivas in the eras of the Tannaim and Amoraim. The Rabbis repeatedly urged their students to acquire a study partner; for example, Rabbi Yose ben Chalafta told his son Rabbi Abba that he was ignorant because he did not study with someone else.[3] (See more quotes below.) The choice of chavrutas seems to have been based on friendship or social proximity; thus, chavrutas fulfilled a social as well as an educational need.[4]

Educational benefits

Unlike conventional classroom learning, in which a teacher lectures to the student and the student memorizes and repeats the information back in tests, and unlike an academic academy, where students do individual research,[5] chavruta learning challenges the student to analyze and explain the material, point out the errors in his partner's reasoning, and question and sharpen each other's ideas, often arriving at entirely new insights into the meaning of the text.[1][6]

A chavruta helps a student stay awake, keep his mind focused on the learning, sharpen his reasoning powers, develop his thoughts into words, and organize his thoughts into logical arguments.[7] This type of learning also imparts precision and clarity into ideas that would otherwise remain vague.[8] Having to listen to, analyze and respond to another's opinion also inculcates respect for others. It is considered poor manners to interrupt one's chavruta.[9]


Chavruta learning takes place in the formalized structure of the yeshiva or kollel, as well as in Talmudic study that an individual does on his own at any time of day. Although a man skilled in learning can study on his own, the challenge of developing, articulating, and defending his ideas to a study partner makes having chavruta a desirable relationship.[2][10]

In the yeshiva setting, students prepare for and review the shiur (lecture) with their chavrutas during morning, afternoon, and evening study sessions known as sedarim.[2] On average, a yeshiva student spends ten hours per day learning in chavruta.[11] Since having the right chavruta makes all the difference between having a good year and a bad year, class rebbis may switch chavrutas eight or nine times in a class of 20 boys until the partnerships work for both sides.[11] If a chavruta gets stuck on a difficult point or needs further clarification, they can turn to the rabbis, lecturers, or a sho'el u'mashiv (literally, "ask and answer", a rabbi who is intimately familiar with the Talmudic text being studied) who are available to them in the study hall during sedarim. In women's yeshiva programs, teachers are on hand to guide the chavrutas.[12]

Chavruta learning tends to be loud and animated, as the study partners read the Talmudic text and the commentaries aloud to each other and then analyze, question, debate, and defend their points of view to arrive at a mutual understanding of the text. In the heat of discussion, they may wave their hands or even shout at each other.[13] Depending on the size of the yeshiva, dozens or even hundreds of chavrutas can be heard discussing and debating each other's opinions.[14][15] One of the skills of chavruta learning is the ability to block out all other discussions in the study hall and focus on one's study partner alone.[2]

In the yeshiva world, the brightest students are highly desirable as chavrutas.[16] However, there are pros and cons to learning with chavrutas who are stronger, weaker, or equal in knowledge and ability to the student. A stronger chavruta will correct and fill in the student's knowledge and help him improve his learning techniques, acting more like a teacher. With a chavruta who is equal in knowledge and ability, the student is forced to prove his point with logic rather than by right of seniority, which improves his ability to think logically, analyze other people's opinions objectively, and accept criticism. With a weaker chavruta, who often worries over and questions each step, the student is forced to understand the material thoroughly, refine and organize his thoughts in a logical structure, present his viewpoint clearly, and be ready to justify each and every point. The stronger chavruta helps the student acquire a great deal of information, but the weaker chavruta helps the student learn how to learn. Yeshiva students are usually advised to have one of each of these three types of chavrutas in order to develop on all three levels.[7]

Tumult day in Beth Medrash Govoha.

Beth Medrash Govoha (the Lakewood Yeshiva) is known for its "tumult day" at the beginning of each z'man (semester), when thousands of students mingle outdoors with the goal of choosing a chavruta for the new term.[17] A similar "tumult day" takes place among the hundreds of students at the main Brisk yeshiva in Jerusalem,[18] and at the Mir in Jerusalem.[17]

Chavrutas often develop into lasting friendships. The shared commitment to scholarship and intellectual growth creates a close bond between study partners[19][20] which has been said to be closer than that of many married couples.[21]

Women's chavrutas

Women's yeshivas which include Talmud study on the curriculum often schedule chavruta study sessions for their students.[22] In Orthodox women's seminaries, students are paired with study partners of equal or greater strength to learn Halakha, Chumash, Jewish philosophy, or any other topic in Judaism. Although the latter set-up is often called "chavruta learning", it is not the same thing as what Orthodox men do and is better called "one-on-one" study.[23]

Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld reportedly had a regular half-hour chavruta with his wife, during which they studied Orach Chaim.[24]

Reform chavrutas

Reform Judaism has expanded the idea of chavruta to include study groups of three, four or five individuals. It has also extended the material being studied beyond traditional texts to include modern scholarship and poetry.[6] In Orthodox parlance, a chavruta is always two study partners; when more learn together, the group is called a chavurah (Hebrew: חַבוּרָה‎, study group).[25]

International chavruta projects

A number of organizations arrange online chavrutas through the Internet and Skype hook-ups, while others pair up study partners by telephone.

Online chavrutas

  • Online Chavrusa – connects study partners via Skype[26]
  • Israeli Chavruta Initiative – a project of Yeshivat Hesder Nahar-Deiah of Nahariya[27]
  • The Virtual Chavruta – provides tutors via videoconferencing[28]
  • WebYeshiva – founded in 2007, this service offers online yeshiva and chavruta learning[29][30]

Telephone chavrutas

  • JNet – this project of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch pairs men and women with Chabad volunteers for Jewish learning[31]
  • Partners in Torah – facilitates 13,000 weekly telephone study partnerships for both men and women on all Jewish subjects[32]

Other uses

Zionist ideal

Zionist ideologue A. D. Gordon used the term chavruta to refer to a communal society, such as the moshav, kibbutz, or worker's association, which acts as a self-educational link to the larger social-educational process. In Zionist thought, the chavruta is "a central tool in the struggle for the revival of the Jewish people, the revival of the individual, and the centrality of the idea of 'labor'. It is the highest expression of the Jewish person's extraordinary effort to recreate him or herself through 'labor', to be reconnected to nature, and to plant the many-branched tree of his or her nation in the land from which it was uprooted".[33]

Chavrusa magazine

Chavrusa is the name of the magazine of the Rabbinic Alumni of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, published since the late 1950s.[34]


The Rabbis used the term chaver (Hebrew: חבר‎, friend) to refer to a study partner.[35]

  • "Just as a knife can be sharpened only on the side of another, so a disciple of a sage improves only through his chaver" (Rabbi Hama b. Hanina)[36]
  • "Make yourself a Rav and acquire for yourself a chaver" (Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachya)[37]
  • "Your chaver will make it [i.e., Torah study] solid in your hand. And do not rely on your own understanding" (Rabbi Nehorai)[38]


  1. ^ a b Liebersohn, Aharon (2006). World Wide Agora. p. 155. ISBN 978-965-90756-1-4. 
  2. ^ a b c d Forta, Arye (1989). Judaism. Heineman Educational. p. 89. ISBN 043530321X. 
  3. ^ Yerushalmi Nedarim 11:1, 41c.
  4. ^ Hezser, Catherine (1997). The Social Structure of the Rabbinic Movement in Roman Palestine. Mohr Siebeck. p. 351. ISBN 9783161467974. 
  5. ^ Bouskila, Rabbi Daniel (5 June 2003). "Learning Together". Jewish Journal. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Bringing the People Together". Reb Jeff. 24 February 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Zobin, Zvi (1996). Breakthrough to Learning Gemora: A concise, analytical guide. Kest-Lebovits. pp. 104–106. 
  8. ^ "Chavrusa System of Learning". Kollel Toronto. 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  9. ^ ""The wise man does not speak before one who is wiser than him and does not break into the words of another" (Avot 5:7)". Ohrnet (Ohr Somayach) 13 (39): 2. 15 July 2006. 
  10. ^ Helmreich, William B. (2000). The World of the Yeshiva: An intimate portrait of Orthodox Jewry. Ktav Publishing House. pp. 110–111. ISBN 0881256420. 
  11. ^ a b Helmreich, The World of the Yeshiva, p. 112.
  12. ^ "Stern College's June Learning Program Exposes Students to Intense, In-Depth Learning". Yeshiva University. 6 July 2006. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  13. ^ Neusner, Jacob; Avery-Peck, Alan J. (2001). The Blackwell Reader in Judaism. Blackwell Publishers. p. 422. ISBN 0631207384. 
  14. ^ Finkel, Avraham Yaakov (1999). Ein Yaakov: The ethical and inspirational teachings of the Talmud. Jason Aronson. p. xxix. ISBN 0765760827. 
  15. ^ Bianco, Anthony (1997). The Reichmanns: Family, faith, fortune, and the empire of Olympia & York. Times Books. p. 203. ISBN 0812921402. 
  16. ^ Reinman, Yaakov Yosef; Salomon, Matisyohu (2002). With Hearts Full of Faith: Insights into trust and emunah: A selection of addresses. Mesorah Publications. p. 94. ISBN 1578195837. 
  17. ^ a b "Video & Photos: Chavrusa Tumult at BMG". Yeshiva World News. 1 September 2008. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  18. ^ Bernstein, Dovid (22 October 2009). "Photos: Chavrusah Tumult in Brisk". Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  19. ^ Weiss, Abner (2005). Connecting to God: Ancient Kabbalah and modern psychology. Bell Tower. p. 124. ISBN 1400083346. 
  20. ^ Schwartzbaum, Avraham (1989). The Bamboo Cradle: A Jewish father's story. Feldheim Publishers. p. 193. ISBN 0873064593.  Second, revised edition
  21. ^ Graubart Levin, Michael (1986). Journey to Tradition: The odyssey of a born-again Jew. Ktav Publishing House. p. 33. ISBN 0881250937. 
  22. ^ Evan Kaplan, Dana (2009). Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and renewal. Columbia University Press. pp. 243–244. ISBN 0231137281. 
  23. ^ "Ladies' Chavruta Learning". Lubavitch Centre of Leeds. 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  24. ^ Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Volumes 7–10. Yeshiva Rabbi Jacob Joseph School. 1984. p. 25. 
  25. ^ "Adult Education Catalogue/Spring 2003". East Denver Orthodox Synagogue. 2003. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  26. ^ "About Us". Online Chavrusa. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  27. ^ "About". Yeshivat Hesder Nahar-Deiah Nahariya. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  28. ^ " Introduces One-on-One, Text-Based Torah Study Tutoring Web Site". PR Web. 10 August 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  29. ^ "About Us". WebYeshiva. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  30. ^ Bailey, Michael; Redden, Guy (2011). Mediating Faiths: Religion and socio-cultural change in the twenty-first century. Ashgate. p. 67. ISBN 0754667863. 
  31. ^ Margolis, N. (24 Elul 5767). "Long Distance Partners". Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  32. ^ "About Partners in Torah". Partners in Torah. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  33. ^ Amir, Yehoyada. "Towards a 'Life of Expansion': Education as religious deed in A. D. Gordon's philosophy" in Abiding Challenges: Research perspectives on Jewish education: Studies in memory of Mordechai Bar-Lev. Freund Publishing House, Ltd, 1999, pp. 49–50. ISBN 9652941379
  34. ^ "Search: Chavrusa Magazine". YU Torah Online. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  35. ^ Sinclair, Dr. Julian (5 November 2008). "Chavruta". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  36. ^ Genesis Rabbah 69:2.
  37. ^ Avot 1:6.
  38. ^ Avot 4:14.

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