By Rina Haller
Before the sun sets, we are promised the sun has been readied to rise. Before I leave my seminary dorm, a new flock is preparing their bags to come. As I sit in Yerushalayim, wondering how I arrived here, there are hundreds who do not know what to expect.
Even if it ends with the fondest recall, a path traveled may have been filled with troubles as well. Each time I have struggled this year, I now recall what became of that inner turmoil. Every time I have laughed, I now can remember what became of that joy. Life continues to amaze me. When I boarded a plane on August 26, 2012, I had no idea what awaited. I was to go to seminary, fly back in June, and continue my life’s plan. What this has taught me is how man plans and Hashem laughs at our belief that we are in control. For those on deck in the seminary or yeshiva arena, one motto to keep with you is to follow each opportunity. Many times, my year could have traversed an alternative path. Luckily, I was able to choose ones leading to eternity. Live each chance; there may never be another neitz (sunrise) at the Kotel in your future, so take this one.
I have officially graduated; mesbiat siyum ended an hour ago. But if I truly gained from a year in Eretz Yisrael, the only aspect that has ended is my classes. I still have all my teachers’ books, signed and ready to be learned. I have contact information and a growing number of ways to use it for everyone I have spent the year with, b’H. I will see many come next semester and more in January. Even if our lives never cross paths again, there was a reason for the intersection this year. I have learned something from each girl–whether extraordinary modesty and chesed, mundane matters like how to put on eyeliner, or observing spiritual growth to unimagined heights. I sit here and smile when picturing girls who lit up my day, helping me eat the dried mango, and making sure teachers could keep track of their meetings in style.
Thinking of the teachers puts a warm glint in my eye. I was zocheh to the finest staff imaginable, each a treasure on their own. Combined, they feed off each other and show the utmost respect and love for their fellow Jew. I have learned just from watching you interact; kicking me out of one class because I must attend another. Torah has never tasted so sweet or pure to me, I just want to learn. However much time I see you give of yourselves, hours more are poured into preparation, into meetings, in davening for us. Our gratitude is inadequate, but please know we appreciate you molding your lives around ours. I feel your love and will always know you are there for me, regardless of when I left Darchei Binah.
I specifically want students to recognize their principals. I personally have seen the dedication and nonstop job my principal and his entire family do in running my seminary. I need to thank them for all the Torah I have learned under their sphere, all the schnitzel I have tasted, and the endless care I have received. Your doors have never closed since we first arrived. We know to no longer hesitate to ask, and you extend open hands without pausing.
The incredible acts of chesed I have seen this year also center on my Shabbosos. It is a common phenomenon in Eretz Yisrael for strangers to host students on a weekly basis. I thank the people around the country that opened their homes to all the students–for sleeping, for meals, for advice. You have shared and inspired beyond your Shabbos table.
Countless factors make the ultimate seminary experience. Underrated are the madrichot. Each night, they make sure we are safe; they seem to never sleep, and solely exist to care for us. You have enabled so much over the year–think of all the tears you have wiped and all the souls you have soothed.
For those leaving and for those coming, remember that each person has a lesson to relay. Remember what was learned and remember to keep your mind in tune. Remember the standards you kept and remember how to move forward.
As you progress on this journey, keep a journal. I giggle when reading entries from my first days here. I clearly see how far I have come. Write down what inspired you, ideas or quotes from your teachers.
This year has been the opportunity of a lifetime, months of my life I will always cherish. I have spent time with extraordinary individuals, such as my rebbeim and roommates. I have gotten to know people, not just their external self but their fears and inner desires. I have stripped away my own insecurities and hopefully matured into the adult I must be. This is all I bring on the plane ride across the Atlantic.
I carry joy to see the faces of those long gone from my vision; they sacrificed to have me here. I am excited for the simchos I plan to attend upon my return. I will cry as Tel Aviv’s view vanishes from my window. But I lack tears of remorse; I have lived each aspect of this year. I challenge incoming students to the same, to make the most out of your time.
And for those who have withdrawn their last shekel, remember. Even without the pictures, recollect walking into the Old City on yom tov, being surrounded by thousands of Jews. As you step into America, be proud of what you have become. Yes, your family might judge you; but stay strong, for this time is written on your heart. Etch a stone of this home into yourself, and together we can be whole again. v
Rina Haller is the 5TJT Israel Bureau intern.