On January 1, 2002 I will be in the old part of Jerusalem, in the lovely land of Israel. This is just one of quite a few ways in which this will be a verily New year for me.
Since I’m going to be graduating from college in a matter of days, a couple of weeks if you really want to be specific (but how quickly those weeks go by), and don’t really have any job prospects lined up, I have decided to do something special. I will be going to study at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, specifically Ohr Somayach. A yeshiva, incidentally, according to a dictionary I found online, is defined as “an Orthodox Jewish school of higher instruction in Jewish learning.” It also mentions something about people going on to become rabbis, but I can assure you here that this is not my intention or reason for going. You see, for me this is something that I feel I should have started doing a long time ago, when I was growing up. There isn’t any point right now to start blaming people for why it is that I never went to a serious place of religious learning growing up, or a yeshiva high school, because I have taken the initiative now and am seeking the education myself. One of the better known Rabbis historically, Rabbi Hillel, is attributed with having said "If not now, when?" A good question, indeed.
Isn’t that a bit… dangerous?
Yes, it is a little dangerous to be going to Israel at this point in time. However, I do believe that the place I am going, the older part of Jerusalem, is considerably safer than other areas of Israel at this moment. Also, I am a strong believer that we are put on this earth for a purpose, and that it is the creator who decides when we are to be leaving this green earth, not people. I believe that said creator takes care of us, cares deeply about us (in much the same way that a mother would love her children), and that it is quite important that I go to study Judaism. On top of that, I’m going to be taking every precaution I can to keep safe.
Besides being the first new year in which I am going to be not in my country of birth, this will be the first new year wherein I am no longer bound to continue going to any school of higher learning. After being at Rutgers University since the fall of 1996, I am thankfully graduating with a degree in communication. It’s funny to me that now that I am finished with one sort of higher learning I am turning to the holy land for an entirely different sort of "higher learning" – one which some argue is fundamentally more important in life than a degree in communication could ever be. Communication, after all, covers but one aspect of life. Studying Torah and Talmud, believe it or not, covers just about all of them. It’s something to look into if you’re at all interested, I strongly suggest it. There are many online resources which cover it, such as 613.org (613 is the number of mitzvahs the Jewish people are to follow) and shiur.net which has a lot of informative lectures recorded in mp3 format.
I would like to go off on a little bit of a tangent, on that note. Ever since I was young, I couldn’t help but notice that there were many people who absolutely hated being in school. At one point I really didn’t want to be in school, but that was because I felt completely left out and picked on and didn’t even want to wake up in the morning to do anything school related to schooling. I had a best friend growing up who used to say he didn’t understand why he had to learn mathematics such as addition and subtraction when all he wanted to do in life was to fly a fighter plane – a person didn’t need mathematics to fly planes, did they? The answer of course is that you actually do need mathematics to fly planes. That’s not quite the point, though. Many people hold a mistaken belief that learning takes place only within the four walls of a house of education, that only by means of a teacher or professor are we ever edified. Lo and behold, this is not at all the case. How do we know this? There are quite a few people who are held in great esteem, for example, who didn’t do all that much in school. From whence did their pools of knowledge come from?
From living. Not frum living, although I’m sure that many people learned while living in a frum way – yeshivas haven’t always been around, you know. Yes, that was a fairly awful pun, but I felt the need to bring that back into this for a brief moment. Wherever you are, and whatever you do, you are learning something every day. Yes, it’s an old trite expression, but you really do learn something new every day. This could be anything from learning a word that you didn’t know before or learning a new meaning to a word that you thought you knew, but now you know in a better way. One could even learn something about themselves which they didn’t know before – I think that’s one of the more significant things a person can learn about. For if a person knows them self, they can understand things outside of themselves much better. That, in a way, is part of what I’m trying to do. I came to Rutgers and thought that I was going to be a Computer Science major, only to realize that this wasn’t like me at all. I took a year off and when I came back I took a Communication class out of curiosity. Three years later I am a hair away from graduating with a degree in Communication.
Since this is the last column of the year, I would like to conclude by saying that it is incredibly amazing how much can happen to a person in the course of a year, and how much one individual can learn about them self in such a seemingly short amount of time. I can imagine that if I were to go back in time to December 12, 2000 and told myself all of the things that happened in the course of the year, my younger self would have laughed and said that it wasn’t at all possible. Either that, or he would have just screamed at the sight of someone who looked exactly like him, but with a kippa on his head. And, of course, a Trey Anastasio Band t-shirt from a tour that hadn’t even happened at that point.