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.