Today was Shalom Gershon’s last day of school here, and the last day of my own zman (term) in yeshiva. Although I may be able to pop in a bit when seder resumes in Elul, that will be our last week here and there will be a lot of packing, etc., keeping me from really getting back into it. So, for all intents and purposes, this marks the end of my sojourn this year as an avreich (full-time adult yeshiva student).
There’s a tefillah that we say when leaving the beis medrash (study hall) after a day of learning:
…מודה אני לפניך ה’ אלוקי ואלוקי אבותי ששמת חלקי מיושבי בית המדרש ולא שמת חלקי קרנות
“Thank you, Hashem, my G-d and G-d of my fathers, for placing my portion among those who sit in the study hall, and not placing my portion among those who hang around on corners…” (loosely translated)
Leaving the beis medrash today, I had a really hard time saying the tefillah. I have a first-rate job, and a terrific life, waiting back in Chicago. It’s not exactly hanging out on street corners. But having my portion among those in the beis medrash…
This entire year, I’ve been intending to write up some discussion of what learning in yeshiva is like. I keep putting it off because it’s easier to write about other things. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to capture its essence, and there are aspects to many of the subject matters we’ve been learning that people might find distracting and cause them to miss the point. But I do need to try, since it has been the central point of our little adventure. B’li neder, I’ll try to put something together. (I also plan to put together a post on how the boys’ year in school has been.)
But I’m feeling the pain of leaving full-time learning behind on a lot of levels. It isn’t just that I’m going to have to massively cut back on an activity that I’ve come to enjoy so viscerally. Nor is it just (“just!”) the fact that we consider Torah learning to be the pinnacle activity for personal development and reward. There’s also the fact that, as a latecomer to observant Judaism, I’m so far behind in the skills and knowledge necessary to be part of the learning community – which is to say the mainstream. After a year, on top of what I have been able to cobble together in the past few years, I feel like I’m on the entrance ramp. I have basic abilities, though my language skills are still lacking. It seems like a little more work and the world of Jewish texts would really open up to me.
I knew that, whatever progress I made this year, I wouldn’t be satisfied with it. I’m sure if I’d gotten even further, I still would feel like I just need a little more. Satisfaction is always just out of reach, and I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing. So the question now is how much I’ll be able to close the gap back in Chicago, when I’m back in the regular routine. Of course, now matter how much it is, it won’t be enough.