Back to Yeshiva

Before we go back to Yeshiva I need to give you a little background. Though my parents were not frum, for various reasons they sent me to a Yeshiva day school for first through eighth grades. After eighth grade it was left up to me whether I would travel by train for an hour each way to get to the nearest Yeshiva high school or go to the local public school. I opted for public school and it was probably a wise decision, as during those four years I became frum with the help of NCSY and I also met the girl who was to become my wife.

On a spiritual “high” from a Kumsitz during senior year I decided that I would attend YU. That did not work out so well and I ended up transferring to NYU after freshman year. During the summer between my junior and senior years of college I spent 3 months at Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem, and with that, came the end of my formal learning.

This eclectic background did not really fortify me with the tools necessary to appreciate and enjoy learning. Throughout the past twenty-five years I dutifully attended many Shiurim. I covered the equivalent of a cycle and a half of Daf Yomi. I attended weekly Shiurium with tremendous Talmidei Chachomim; in one case for twenty years. In general, most mornings and weeknights I attended one Shiur or another.

However, learning passively, no matter how wonderful the Maggid Shiur, is no substitute for rolling up one’s sleeves and, as was a motto in YU many years ago, learning “it and not about it”. As time went on, a vicious cycle developed. The less I actively learned and the more I attended these Shiurim the less motivation and ability I had to actively learn. It got to the point where I was nearly phobic about opening up a Sefer on my own.

Upon making Aliyah two years ago I was very fortunate to able to continue remotely working for the same software company in which I had worked for the previous sixteen years. Working for a US company in Israel generally means that you work their hours, which in my case is 4 p.m. to midnight. Since I am a late night creature anyway, it was not a big adjustment for me and this nocturnal schedule provided the added benefit of leaving my days free.

At first I used this “free” time for the myriad of details involved in absorbing myself and my family into a new country. Then came months of Ulpan. Then there were the demands of building, moving into, and setting up our new home. Yes, I was procrastinating. Finally, this past Av during the 3 weeks I attended a three day Yarche Kallah at Yeshiva Darche Noam in Jerusalem. In addition to some terrific Shiurim given by top notch Rabbis, there was also Chavrusa time devoted to Shiur preparation.

That was it. Something clicked. The following week I called the Yeshiva to ask if I could attend on a half-day basis. This past Sunday, the beginning of Elul Z’man, for the first time in over 25 years, I entered the Beis Medresh of a Yeshiva and took my place among Bochrim who are generally half my age. In the first week I have experienced an enjoyment, excitement, and challenge in learning that I do not believe I have ever felt before. More than once my eyes have welled up with tears from an overwhelming feeling that, while I lost so many years getting to this place, I indeed finally made it back.

11 comments on “Back to Yeshiva

  1. I agree, Ed.
    Where many kiruv orgs leave off in terms of demographics, shuls, community outreach programs (for example some community kollel models) and individuals step up to plate. The hard part is always letting others understand the beauty of Torah Judaism and that it’s never too late to learn.

  2. This is indeed a great story.
    It also makes me think of the rather unfortunate tunnel vision inherent in so many kiruv organizations, whereby the focus is solely on college-aged individuals. I know of so many Jews in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s who, G-d willing, will live many more years – with the potential to sanctify Hashem’s name during those years. Yet these individuals are ignored by these organizations. Yes, there is Partners-In-Torah, but I strongly feel there are not enough avenues for kiruv for individuals who could and should be good observant Jews, yet have the “misfortune” of no longer being in their early to mid-twenties.

  3. Yasher koach Menachem, and good luck! I spent two years learning at Darche Noam, so can assure you that it’s a great place to get back into learning!

  4. Thank you all for your good wishes and brachos!

    I actually wrote this a month ago. Elul Z’man is over and it continued as wonderfully as it started. I am looking forward to starting the next Z’man after the chag.

    Chag Somayach!

  5. Menachem,
    What an important posting. I can totally sympathize with you about the difficulties of learning. Your courage is inspiring, thank you!

  6. Yasher Koach and Mazal Tov-That is how Chazal and Rishonim understood Mitzvas Talmud Torah for someone in your situation and that of many others-learn as much as possible in your spare time in a yeshiva.

  7. My eyes just welled up with tears reading this.

    My bracha to you: May you always remember the sweetness of the first day of this new beis medrash experience and may it carry you for many productive years of learning to come! (And may you find a way to fund it for as long as you have the passion and inspiration – Amen!)

  8. Hashem should bentch you with good health and long life so that you can make up for the “lost” time, and much more.

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