Friday, March 17, 2006

The Hardest Part... Begining

So... Here's the thing... I was reading my friends blog Holy Laughter in the River, when I realized that she'd taken down the link to my blog. While I'm by no means offended, after all it's a completely expected thing after failing to post even a single response, I realized that in a way I had let her down. I was under no obligation to start a blog, but nevertheless I'd started one, and allowed her to be excited about it. Looking over the logs, it's clear that in the early stages she kept checking it to see if I'd ever update the content. (I know this because I never checked it, and she was the only other person who knew it existed, and I've got to account for the page views somehow...) Anyway, I feel as if I'd set her up for disappointment, and for that I have to apologies. She's a great person, and will probably just brush aside my apology, and even tell me how ridicules it is to apologies for such a thing in the first place. However, if I'm to stand by my principles of Unity, Faith, Responsibility and Action, then I have to recognize even my smaller failures.

Now, with that aside, I've been struggling for the last several minutes trying to figure out how to begin this second attempt at the whole blog thing. I feel that I need to somehow provide background about myself, and update people as to where I am. But at the same time, I do not really want to focus in that direction and the time and effort I'd need to exert would probably deter me from following through. Therefore, I'm just going to jump in to today.

Today I had my second phone interview with the head of the Mechina program for Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. B"H it went well and I'm scheduled for a more extended interview on Monday morning. I should clarify that by interview, I mean skills evaluation. (A see, background will come out as necessary by the posts...)

I'm a Bal T'Shuva. (I hate labels... I should mention that now, you'll probably hear me rant about that a lot; however, sometimes they are the only way to convey a message.) I've been on the path, increasing in my personal Torah observance, for about 8 years now. The Journey is far from complete, as it can never be complete, but I'm well on my way. My basic problem, however, is that while looking for Yeshiva programs for myself I have a real hard time. My breadth of knowledge has grown steadily over the last 8 years, but my textual skills with Hebrew and Aramaic have not, and remain very rudimentary. Schools have a hard time placing me into a Shiur/Class because my text level is a true beginner's, but the questions that I ask and material that I bring to a class are well beyond the other beginners. Often this leads me to become a disturbance for the overall class. The other option is not much better though, as when I'm placed in a class on the same comprehension level as myself I quickly fall behind as I simply can't work through the textual material and keep pace with everyone. I'm less disruptive, but my personal growth is stunted.

Anyway, back to today... Chovevei is a Smicha/Rabbinic program. And while I’m not ready to enter the actual smicha program, the do have a one year pre-smicha prep program (the mechina program) that I may be able to do. That’s what these interviews are about. I’ve got some supporters in the school who are really pulling for me, and I also was originally “found” and recruited by the Dean and Founder of the Yeshiva himself who liked my “energy” and made the push for me to look into it in the first place. However, if my skill level is not on par to start the Mechina program in the fall, then it’s all a moot point, and it doesn’t really matter who’s pulling for me.

Today’s interview consisted of the Rav asking me to prepare about a paragraph of material out of the gemara. He gave me 25 min to do so, at which point he was going to call me back. Needless to say, with the interview at 8:30 in the morning, I was not only tired, but now frantic as I tried to piece everything together with the help of my Frank. (Dictionary) I lucked out and the passage used a lot of language I was already familiar with. I pulled it off, not perfectly, but good enough, that I seemed to at least keep his interest. He assigned me a larger section from a different gemara to prepare over this weekend with our next interview scheduled for 8:30am on Monday. (For a 5th year senior in his final semester, that’s really early, especially since I have to work until 2am the night before…) I looked over the section briefly today, but I can already tell that it’s going to be much more difficult, as a lot of the language is new to me. I’m also trying to figure out the larger question of just exactly what I should be doing with my life next year.

Chovevei is just one option in the line of several that has dropped in my lap, all in the last month or so. Prior to this I’d been planning on returning to Israel in Sept. to serve in the army and officially become a Ezrach Oleh (returning citizen – my mother is Israeli, so I am also by default, this is just my version of Aliyah) However, Hashem has an interesting way of doing things, and this is simply no longer the case. (Another long story, maybe I’ll cover it later, or if there is interest…) Rather, if I return to Israel ASAP with Nefesh B’Nefesh (which is the only financially feasible way for me to do so) then the earliest I can return is Dec. This leaves me needing to find something to do in the states for at least another half year after I graduate. This change of events is what opens the door for Chovevei to begin with, because the answer to the question of “What are you doing next year?” was “I don’t know.”

Chovevei is a great opportunity, but it comes with a great commitment. It will train me to do exactly what I want to do (Informal Jewish Education, Summer Programs, Youth Groups, and Campus Work – an area I’m especially partial to) and train me well. It will also provide me with a stipend which takes care of my financial issues for the duration of the program. But that duration is also a cost. Going to Chovevei would mean 5 years at the school (one year pre-smicha, four year smicha) and then another 3 year commitment to working in the states in the area of Jewish Leadership/Education. This is not something that I’m opposed to in principle, and definitely in line with my long term goals. But it means spending at least another 8 years away from Israel, which in my heart of heart is my home.

Just to throw my other options out there… I’ve been informally offered a job working for Chabad on Campus next year for the fall semester. It would take me right up to the point when I would be able to make Aliyah again, and be practical work experience in a field I want to pursue. I could then make Aliyah, serve my half year in the army, and be ready to go back to Yeshiva in Israel by Elul Zman of the following year. In a way, I’d love to go back to Bat Ayin, I just don’t see the financial feasibility of such an action, but what G-d wills can and will happen, especially if I work hard for it. Bat Ayin would be a 5 year smicha program, and the focus and end result would be quite different then Chovevei. Afterwards I would also be urged to do a period of Shlichut. These are really the two options I’m playing with at this point. There are some others, but non that really keeps my attention that long. Of course the whole thing is still moot if I don’t pass my interview.

As far as advice, I keep getting all kinds of conflicting responses, sometimes even from the same people. There are pluses and minuses to both, above and beyond what I’d mentioned above. Not to mention the impact the decision has on the subsequent years, and on the shape of my future family life that I’d like to be starting. Even dating is going to be starkly different depending on where I end up. At this point I have faith that Hakodesh Baruch Hu will lead me to the right path. At the same time, I have to do everything I can to bring myself there. My prayer each night is for guidance. I ask him to mold my will into his own, to help me to fulfill my mission in this world, to find my basheret, and to bring comfort to all his people. I keep my options open, and try to continually re-evaluate both options. It’s going to be interesting to see how this one shapes up.

1 comment:

amechad said...

But how do you make a living as a rabbi in Israel?

(And if you have an answer, I would love to know as I would love smicha but unless I also get a Ph.D. and be an academic, I don't see it happening and I don't see me being able to do that 10 year time committment of schooling.)