Scholarship Recipients Reflections on the Upcoming Year

Reflections on the upcoming year from TLZ Scholars:

Without Torah Letzion, I would not be where I am today. Today, I sit in the computer room of Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY), in the holiest city in the world, with the opportunity to express my gratitude to the people who made this possible.
Never in my life did I think I would end up in the financial situation that I am in today. When I found out that going for my gap year in Israel may not be an option, I was devastated. I knew I had to do everything in my power to help out. I applied for as many financial scholarships I could find. They say what goes around comes around, and G-d made no exception in this case when Torah Letzion granted me $2,100 in tuition aid.

My parents have always stressed the importance of giving tzedakah. They have each given to multiple organizations even in the hardest of times and told me that there will always be someone who needs more than I do. Although this is true, I have learned that it is also okay to accept from others. Therefore, I thank the person at the other end of this screen; the opportunity you have given me is one I will use to my fullest.
The fact that we get an entire year to focus on spiritual growth, make stronger bonds with Hashem, teachers, madrichot, and our friends is really the most amazing concept to me. Out of everything in my life that I value, the aspect of my life I value the most is striving to be a good Jew and a good person. Personally, I think these two go hand in hand. This year, from learning Tanach, I hope to learn the proper way to interact with the world. Torah is the number one ethical guide book. If I am able to take the many lessons, concepts and ideas that are taught to me and apply them to my life, I will be able to build my character firmly and develop a new understanding of my surroundings.

Because I find it very important to not just be on the receiving end, but to be on the giving end as well, I intend on giving back to Israel and its people by engaging in different chessed opportunities as well as dedicating as much time as I can to the culture around me. I am a very passionate person; I dislike standing on the sidelines and not taking action, and therefore I will actively stand up for what I believe in. I will learn how to better support Judaism and Israel by whatever means available to me. Having a deeper understanding of why we do things can help me better explain and defend my religion.

Putting oneself in a healthy environment is such an effective way of preventing oneself from doing the wrong things. I will therefore attempt to always put myself in environments where I can thrive. That includes spending extra time in the Beis Midrash and not being around those who can influence me negatively.
Through my dedication to my learning, I will grow and accomplish the goals that I have set for myself. I will grow in my character, in my spirituality, and in my knowledge through the amazing learning that I am being offered here at MMY.
Once again, I would like to thank you for allowing me this chance to better myself. The effect this year can have on my future is great, and I will forever be thankful to you, Torah Letzion.

Student Studying in MMY

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For over 2,000 years, the Bnei Yisrael yearned to return to Eretz Yisrael. Most of our ancestors assumed this was almost an impossibility, but as of 1948 it is now our reality. We can now just board a plane and visit Israel. Even better, we can settle there and take part in mitzvos hateluyot ba’aretz. As part of this incredible present of Eretz Yisrael, we can learn Torah in a more kodesh atmosphere. The Torah learned in Israel is on a much higher level and lets us have a strong connection to our Holy Land, and is very necessary to keep the Jewish faith alive. To quote my principal from high school, “If the last event in Jewish history was the liberation from the concentration camps, who knows how big the Jewish nation would be?”

I would like to thank the selection committee of Torah Letzion for granting me the generous scholarship that they did. Without your help, it would be very difficult for me to come to Israel and grow into a better person. I worked tirelessly during the past year to make this year in Israel possible. At first my parents were against the idea of me going to learn for the year, and after finally convincing them that it was not a waste, the problem of affording the tuition arose. It was a very stressful time; I applied for as many scholarships as I possibly could have. I was in constant contact with the yeshiva to see what help they could give, and baruch Hashem they were very generous to me. However the breakthrough that allowed me to go was hearing that I got your scholarship at the end of May. Without this, my parents were seriously considering not sending me. Combined with what I received from the few scholarships and a very generous sponsor, I was finally able to get here.

This idea of enabling someone to learn was brought up in a shiur I heard from the s’gan rosh yeshiva on pidyon shevuyim. The mishna in Gittin tells us that the rabanan made a rule that we do not pay to save someone if the ransom is more than the world average, in order to have tikkun olam. The gemara explains two opinions as to what the tikkun olam would be. One opinion is not having to use all the tzedakah money for paying ransoms without any left for other needs, such as aniyim or hachnasas kallah. The other opinion is that tikkun olam means we don’t want there to be more kidnappings and higher ransoms.

Later on, the gemara later on relates the story of Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Chananya who went on a trip to Rome. While he was there, he was told of young boy who was a budding talmid chacham, and who was put in jail by the Romans. Rebbi Yehoshua visited him in jail and started off a pasuk from Yirmiyahu, and the child completed it on the spot. Rebbi Yehoshua said he would not leave the cell until the Jewish community came together to pay the ransom, no matter how much it was. Within a few hours it was paid, and the child grew to be Rav Yishmael Ben Elisha. Without the help of Rebbi Yehoshua, this boy might not have been saved and grown into the adam gadol he became. I feel a similar feeling to Torah Letzion; without your help, I would not be able to go to yeshiva and – hopefully – grow into a talmid chacham.

The shiur continued with Tosfos asking ho Rebbi Yehoshua could go against the rule of the chachamim. Tosfos offers two answers: either in cases of sacanas nefashos, the takana does not apply; or, because he was muflag b’chachma, the takana does not apply. When the Maharam of Rottenberg was in jail, his community got the ransom together, but he told them not to pay it. They asked him why not – according to both answers of Tosfos, the tanaka would not apply to his situation. He answered that that is only according to the first opinion in the gemara about tikkun olam. However, we hold like the other opinion – if the ransom would be paid, it would allow for more kidnappings and a situation of sacana.

This question came up again twice in recent Israeli history when the option arose to redeem captured soldiers for the release of Palestinian prisoners. The decision the first time was decided by Rav Goren, who said that just like a person can do pidyon shevuyim for himself, he may do it for his wife, so too, soldiers in battle have the same status with the Jewish people as a husband-wife relationship and pidyon shevuyim is allowed. Some rabbanim disagreed with the psak because the Rosh says the reason a man may do pidyon shevuyim for his wife is not ishto k’gufo, but rather his money becomes hers, and that connection does not apply to soldiers. This teaches us that although some decisions seem to be political, it is important to realize that they are, more importantly, halachic.

I believe that it is very important to thank those that do favors for us. In Parshas Korach, after the incident of the earth swallowing up Korach’s group, Hashem asked that all of the heads of the tribes put branches in the ohel moed to prove that Aharon was the rightful kohen gadol. Only Aharon’s branch produced almonds. Rashi says that the reason it grew almonds is that they are the fastest growing nut, symbolizing that anyone who questions the kehuna again will be punished quickly.
We learn from here not to question Hashem’s choices and to accept His decisions. An important way for us to show this is to thank Hashem for all that He gives us. Even when things seem bleak, we should know that Hashem has a plan and all will turn out for the better. Furthermore, we should be careful to thank all the people who do something nice for us. It seems obvious, but sometimes we take things for granted and forget to appreciate those around us.

My hopes for this coming year are that my gemara skills improve and I will not need to be spoon-fed how to learn. I also hope to grow in my bekius skills and be able to open a gemara and understand the basic p’shat. As I have never been to Israel before, I am also looking forward to seeing all the wonderful sights of Eretz Yisrael. I am therefore very thankful to Torah Letzion for allowing me to come to Israel and achieve all of these goals.

Student Studying in Sha’alvim

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I was honored to learn that I was a recipient of the Torah Letzion Scholarship, and I am writing to thank you for your generous financial support toward furthering my Jewish studies.

Initially I was at a Jewish day school until the end of Grade 8, where I was exposed to Jewish traditions, culture and language; but I took this for granted. It was only when I went to public school in Grade 9 that I became more aware of my Jewish heritage. I started taking credits at Torah High to learn more about being Jewish and how it differed from other religions. Then I joined NCSY and began practicing what I had learned and carrying on what my forefathers had passed down over millions of years from generation to generation.

I attended meetings and Shabbatons, and the more I went the more I wanted to learn and grow in my Torah observance. I joined classes to learn Torah – Mishmar, Kollel, privately and through my synagogue and other synagogues. I became part of the NCSY committee and then its president. I was given the greatest opportunity to gain even more knowledge in the summers of 2012, 2013 and 2014 when I went to Israel. The feeling of being in the land of Israel and being part of history was a feeling like no other.

This gave me the momentum to want to expand my knowledge and to spend a gap year at a yeshiva. I am now attending Netiv Aryeh and waking up every morning at the Kotel; it is a soul-energizing experience. The feeling of knowing that you are in a place where you belong and are not judged is a heartwarming experience. I am looking forward to each learning session and every moment I spend here.

This past year has not been an easy journey for me as my father died in a car accident in December of 2014. This left a great hole in our family unit, but we have supported each other and have gained strength from each other. I know how difficult it must have been for my mother to let me explore my heritage, and the support she has given me has made it even more important that I succeed in my mission in life.

I have felt Hashem’s presence each morning, afternoon and evening when I say Kaddish. This quiet time has been a great comfort to me in such a sad time of my life. It made me realize how precious life is and how we are all in Hashem’s hands. Every moment must not be taken for granted and we must not waste any opportunity given to us. We need to make every second of every day count.

Your support is helping me reach my goals, pursue my spiritual development, enhance my education and lift some of the financial burden placed on myself and my family. This scholarship will play a key role in achieving my dreams of being immersed in learning Torah and my ancestral history. I appreciate the opportunity given to me to identify with my Jewish heritage and be with people who are like-minded.

I hope that one day I will be able to pass on what I am learning each and every day and the knowledge that I am gaining to other students.

Thank you for your investment in me, and in the future of students like me.

Student Studying in Netiv Aryeh