Thoughts on the Upcoming Year

Reflections on the upcoming year from a TLZ Scholar:
As in years past, our TLZ scholars will write and submit essays about experiences, reflections and divrei Torah throughout their time spent in Israel. Students are required to submit an essay before starting yeshiva or seminary, projecting their goals for the upcoming year. We have selected two such essays that we would like to share with you:

Elul Zman is the perfect time to be thinking about aspirations for the coming year. In thinking about what I would like to accomplish in the coming year, I did not want to list goals that would require me to make drastic changes, since those are not realistic and often result in no change at all. Rather, I set pragmatic and attainable goals for myself, which I believe I am more likely to achieve.

The most radical adjustment will be living away from home. While I have been to sleep-away camp before, I have never truly been away and “in charge” of myself. My goal in this regard is to learn independence; to take care of myself without needing to rely on everything being handed to me. When in Israel, I still will have a support system, but I hope to not automatically rely on that support. I may want to go somewhere far for Shabbat, but I will need to get myself there instead of my parents driving me. Gaining independence will help me when I am in college, and afterward with life in general.

My second major aspiration is to take advantage of opportunities. Baruch HaShem, I had many occasions in high school to benefit from opportunities as they arose, but I have many regrets about the ones I missed. In the coming year, I want to take advantage of four major resources that I know are available: rabbanim, the land itself, Israelis, and my classmates.
There are many rabbanim whom I will learn from in Israel. And in the coming year my entire day will be devoted to Torah. I look forward to immersing myself in knowledge and ideas.

Though traditional learning takes place in the classroom, in Israel I can learn outside the classroom as well. The land of Israel is a place of rich history waiting to be discovered. Walking on an excavation site is more than just interesting; it is a street where, thousands of years before, my ancestors busied themselves bringing korbanot. Opening up a Tanach is not the only device to transport you to the time and place the stories happened; you can go to these famous places yourself and practically relive them.
I also want to experience Israel from the Israelis. The world at large often discusses Israel, and I want to hear what Israelis have to say about these “hot topics.”

I expect to gain new insights and a fresh perspective from my fellow classmates as well. The girls in my school come from incredibly diverse backgrounds. I love learning about where people come from and what they do differently, and I will have many chances when meeting so many girls from around the world.

Essentially, my overall goal is to take this year to learn from everything and everyone that I cannot possibly do elsewhere. Lastly, I have two specific academic goals for this year. I want to be able to learn on my own; this not only entails acquiring reading and translating skills, but also motivation and dedication. Finally, I want to learn practical halachot that I have not yet had the chance to explore.

On the most basic level, these aspirations boil down to making up for what I missed in high school. I am grateful to my high school for all I have learned, but there is so much more that I did not. I cannot wait to learn even more.

Clearly, all of my goals are contingent on being in Israel, so I would like to thank Torah Letzion for helping make all my dreams for this year a reality.

Student Studying in MMY

Reflections on the upcoming year from a TLZ Scholar:
Here is an essay from a student who will be learning in Yeshivat Sha’alvim for men this year.
A few years ago, when I was a freshman and sophomore, the idea of going to Israel after high school was just something I thought everybody did. Why not take a year off from the hard work and enjoy a fun year in the holiest place in the world? I knew I was going to go to Israel after high school, but my reasons for going were flawed.

Only last year, when my rebbeim started talking to me about going to Israel, did I really start asking myself, “Why should I go to Israel? How will it benefit me?” Some people think it makes more sense to just start their life right away and not waste a year. I am not one of those people. As I started to strengthen in my observance and understanding of Judaism, I thought that not going to Israel would be the biggest mistake of my life, and going to Israel will give me the most crucial year I will likely ever live.
The ideas, skills, philosophies and opportunities that Israel provides, if you take advantage of them, indisputably affect the rest of a person’s life. Yet the effect will be even greater if you understand this going in to your year, instead of figuring it out halfway through, after realizing you just wasted five months of your life. As for me, I will regard each second I spend in Israel more preciously than other people, because I will most likely only have one year, and not two. I know not to waste any time.

With that in mind, one of my main goals in Israel will be to choose a path in Judaism to live by. My biggest internal conflict, which only started about a year and a half ago when I realized that Judaism was important to me, revolves around how religious I wanted to be. My rebbeim in MTA offered me “yeshivish” approaches, my family offered me Modern Orthodoxy – the way I grew up, and that is where the conflict began. My goal is to find the approach that fits me best, that I understand the most, and that enables me to connect with G-d and Judaism in a way that no other path can offer. The course of Judaism that I choose will, without an ounce of doubt, affect almost every single decision I will ever make going forward. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of that first decision; you experience it every day of your life. If I am able to accomplish this goal and choose the lifestyle that I want to live, but fail at all my other goals, I will still regard my year in Israel as the most life-altering year ever.

Although that is the most crucial goal I set for myself, there are other endeavors that are of great importance to me. One is to greatly enhance my learning capabilities through the intense daily study of Tanach, Mishna, Gemara, Halacha and all the other fields in Judaism. There are two aspects here that are of tremendous importance: quality and quantity. To start with the latter, I know almost zero Nach, which is embarrassing for an almost-nineteen-year-old man to say after going to yeshiva for more than 14 years.
Whatever the reasons are for my lack knowledge, I would like it to change. I plan on finishing all of Nevi’im this year, and also make some headway in Ketuvim. The knowledge that I acquire through my study of Nach will surely help my Gemara skills improve as well, whenever the Gemara references a story from Nach.

I would also like to increase my knowledge of different Gemaras, which would also improve my learning for the not-so-obvious reason that it gives me a reference point when a Gemara in Maseches Gittin quotes a line from Maseches Makkos. My goal for Gemara next year is to finish Gittin before Pesach, and start and finish Makkos after Pesach. As far as quality goes, it would mean the world to me if I could open up to a random Gemara and read and understand it. Even better would be the ability to learn on my own with the various rishonim and acharonim who explain the Gemara in different ways. To understand Rashi and the numerous other commentaries on Chumash and Nach is something I really want. I know my rebbeim will teach me new ways to look at a daf of Gemara and a paragraph of Tanach, connecting them to places I cannot. Both aspects of learning – the quantity and the quality – are incredibly important to me, and I plan to work very hard on improving them tremendously.

A third goal of mine, which I believe Israel can help me reach, is to develop an even stronger connection and love for the land of Israel. Just being in Israel alone furthers my love for the land, but I think that through going on tiyulim, and spending shabbos and other chagim where our forefathers lived is a more powerful way to cultivate an unbreakable connection with the land. Just witnessing for myself the glory of the land of Israel will hopefully instill within me an everlasting love. As for now, I believe Israel is the place to live and is our land; I just do not have the level of connection and passion I would like to possess.

A few of my other goals are to make new friends from around the country and the world, improve my Hebrew speaking abilities, and to have the most memorable year of my life.

I would like to thank Torah Letzion for helping my parents pay for me to go to yeshiva in Israel for a year. It is very expensive, and money is not something my family can afford to waste. With your help, it will make it that much easier for my parents to send me to Israel.

Student Studying in Shaalvim