Summer is usually the time when you relax, go on vacation….however, over the past few years I have been consistently taking classes in Torah study, (mostly Tanach, philosophy, and some halacha). My friends who spend their summers in Israel suggested that I join them for three weeks at a Torah study seminary in Jerusalem. I kept thinking…. is it worth it? I, who live in NYC have been very satisfied taking classes here, and was torn as to whether I should take three weeks, alone, and go to Israel to study full time. As it happened, several small things inspired me to say yes.. I will do it… and not only will I go and study there, I will dorm there too, FULL immersion. I was extremely nervous, aside from my few friends, (who were not dorming), I pictured myself as an older woman among a group of 20 somethings, I figured I would feel left out and isolated, but I also figured I would learn a great deal. Instead, what I came to realize was that it did not matter how old I was, how young they were, nor did it matter what our backgrounds were, we all were there for the same purpose and that purpose broke any barrier that may have been in the way. The women who attended were caring, educated, and in many ways I was no different than any of them. We were there with a common purpose, to study Torah, to engage in the texts, to be excited about breaking through a difficult concept and to be humbled that with all we had learned throughout our lives there was so much that we did not know. That in itself was a learning experience for me.
The Nishmat teachers were smart, engaging, caring, funny, but most of all they were true to themselves and to us in every way, and they showed us how we can be true to ourselves in our way, using the Torah as our guide. They taught me the basics, they taught me to ask questions, and they taught me to trust a system that I sometimes came to doubt. With every class I took I felt the love that the instructor had for the material and for teaching. Each teacher brought with them a passion that added excitement and personality to a class, even if the class was at 8:00pm.
The three weeks went by too fast and of course there was never enough time for anything. For me, it was clear why some boys and girls love studying for a year or more in Israel… or just studying in general… The learning was like an addiction, I found myself wanting to learn after the class, I would sometimes get caught up while in the Beit Midrash and realize it was after midnight, sometime I couldn't sleep because I was thinking of a discussion we had that day or a problem I was trying to solve… I wanted it to go on. The experience was stimulating and I am just now trying to figure out how to ensure that I get my daily dose.
In addition to the learning, Nishmat offered us wonderful opportunities to bond and to do other things… we made beautiful paper cutouts and visited the Israel Museaum. The highlight for me was our Shabbaton in the north, we took a morning tiyul and then went to a yishuv to see how technology has made simple things like milking a cow more efficient and productive. Shabbat however was incredibly special.. To spend it with women who sang, danced and who helped make Shabbat feel like kadusha was the most inspirational shabbat I have spent in many years. I am so happy that I had the opportunity to experience the full three weeks, night and day. If I have the opportunity to return I absolutely will, until then, I am using this as my attempt to give myself, and anyone else a daily dose of something… (at least I will try)