Mid-winter Return to Reality-an alumna returns
Mid-winter Return to Reality
(Or, How I Spent My Winter Vacation)
While in America, planning a long-awaited return—however briefly—to She’arim, I often referred to the trip in conversation as a needed ‘inoculation’ of spirituality to my everyday life. I felt I needed a booster shot of intensive, transcendent learning to propel me through the humdrum regularity of dating/waiting/davening/dating/working/waiting/working/davening that had become my routine (in addition to activities such as emailing and writing about dating/davening/waiting and working).
This was the wrong metaphor.
Learning full-time at She’arim for two weeks was indeed intensive and transcendent, providing a palpable connection to the infinite and clearer perception of what is True (and how appropriate that Rebbetzin Friedman’s Shiur Gimel Chumash class culminated with the creation of the Gan and the planting of its tempting knowledge tree). My mind was afire with Mussar, Halacha, Navi, Parasha, Prayer, and History. I met inspiring women from every continent (save the southernmost one), eager to seek, discover, and explore our heritage. Jet-lag overcome, I had finally begun sleeping through the night! I had figured out how to get to Ge’ula! I had Caught the Inspiration!
But was this an inoculation? As I sit here in the West, my heart in the East, I sense that everyday life needs no cure. Rather, the challenge for me is to find inspiration from within the everyday patterns of reality. As I learned in Rebbetzin Tavin’s Mussar shiur, it is not only the great and mighty deeds which are of value in bringing the world to its ultimate purpose (and thereby, bringing forth the Final Redemption, may it be soon); rather, every single day in our everyday lives we have opportunities to perform small, wondrous acts of chesed, tefilah, learning, and prayer. And these acts count!
This idea was solidified for me during the week following my return to America. I listened to a recording of Rebbetzin Brussel’s weekly Shabbat telephone shiur. As I sat on a train from Washington, DC, to Baltimore, Maryland, fully immersed in the everyday, Rebbetzin Brussel taught Rabbi Pincus’s (z”l) view of Shabbat as a taste of ‘reality’ that can enlighten the seeming ‘unreality’ of the whole week. As a result, the entire ordinary week is imbued with a sense of holiness. I realized that She’arim’s midwinter program was much the same for me: everyday life (i.e., the week) can become shrouded in confusion—What are my goals in life? How do I become my best self? How does becoming my best self relate to paying my taxes and my rent? Connecting oneself to Torah (i.e., Shabbat) has the power, not to immunize, but to enlighten. The challenge is not to shield myself from everyday life with a brief, intensive dose of Torah, but to live my everyday life, enlightened and guided with my Torah learning at She’arim (and back in America), so as to achieve my true goals.
I am grateful to HKB”H and She’arim for the opportunity.