By Rina Haller

Shalom means welcome, you are home and greeted with warm smiles. My start on this path and this growth began with an El Al flight, filled with many 18-year-olds on one aircraft. I still feel sorry for the miscellaneous other passengers.

As I journeyed through the Israel experience, I was fortunate to be accompanied by individuals from around the globe. We learned, we became, we made a life. I am anticipating watching my sister go through this passage next.

Shalom means goodbye. A closing of this chapter entitled Seminary; creating the next drama of college, for me Stern College for Women. My friends and peers line the study halls of fine institutions in this state and beyond, and now we join them. I will no longer be sitting on my marpeset, the light rail, or eating the exclusively-found-here chalav Yisrael Ben and Jerry’s.

I have to leave it all behind. But just the physical. Each word my teachers have uttered has been in an attempt to penetrate my heart. We say two or three times a day, “You are to know this day and take to your heart”; this is the goal. Life continues to amuse, upset, and be. Are you up for the challenge?

Can you develop outside a specific framework? Can you look back 20 years later and be the person you were as you said farewell to your roommate, as you bid Tamar shalom? Will you face your teachers again with pride or worry if they will notice how you’ve slipped?

Shalom means peace. I have done my task in these moments. I can lay to rest these months. To tear on the bus is to not regret. It’s time to move on; even if my eyes search for the last glimpse of the skyline and the people I leave for now in Eretz Yisrael. I know I will be back. The “when” rings in the mind as uncertain but definite.

The fear and the sadness filling me and anyone walking away are but an indication of all the hakaras hatov I have. Everything stems from Hashem, who put me in these places and this life. My parents have given me their all, and their support has molded me as they continue to hold my hand as I become older. My family is excited to see me and the Doritos I lug. I have spent a year and a half in Darchei Binah and it has been a time of heaven on earth. I have been blessed with staff that are world-renowned and masterful teachers. What they do is what all aspire to–change the world, one person at a time. The families and communities that open the doors to all the students show us how to treat a fellow Jew. My “chesed family” will occupy my mind when our day of the week comes, and I hope to always be there in spirit. Klal Yisrael is actually making itself via raising the collective group of yeshiva and seminary learners.

Pages filled from hours of listening and experiencing are stacked high under my bed, waiting to be nestled in my suitcase. I kiss the Kotel the last time for this stay. My thoughts turn to the maiden visit of this lifetime, of all the misperceptions I now can steer clear of. I came in confused, and you, all those I thank, helped me understand.

Our final hugs are to comrades. This time the plane is empty of known souls. I carry in me all You have given me, awaiting my arrival. . . . Shalom. v

Rina Haller is a former 5TJT Israel intern.


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