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MMY 5775 – Breaking the Ice

  By Joy Feinberg

We’ve been here a little over a week at MMY, and forgive me for being so cliché but it feels like I have been here for months. Already some of us (those not in the dinner plan MMY offers) have been able to cook our own dinners, buy our own groceries, do our own laundry and behave like true adults. For some of us, it is our first real time away from home and on our own. But for all of us, it is our first concrete steps out of the more sheltered lives we’ve been living since childhood. 

And yet somehow, every second I have been in this land has carried with it something incredible. I’ve never felt more alive, or more excited to learn. History and religion lives and breathes in the air around us. On Wednesday, only a day after arriving here, we took a Tanach tour. We went as a school to the spot where Avraham Avinu looked out to the mountain where he would almost sacrifice his son. We then went to the cave where Shmuel HaNavi may have been buried. To stand in their place, reading Torah lines I’d learned in a white-walled classroom not months ago, was almost too surreal to be believed. Ancient history was being uncovered and discovered around us and we are all a part of it.

We went to Bat-Yam in Tel-Aviv for a very literal icebreaker and some fun in the water. It was a complete shock to me when the lifeguards got on the speaker system and called out in Hebrew, “Dear girls, how nice it is to see how tzniut you are in the water.” Only in Israel was the sole response I could muster up. That was when it truly clicked for me. I was in a country where Yahadut was not only understood or tolerated, but was the lauded norm. It has not stopped being incredible since.

We’ve had a Shabbos together and already you can see how close we’re all becoming. Chavrutas that lead to shopping trips that end with walks to the kotel are just some of the ways we’re all slowly becoming family. And with classes chosen and well under way, I’ve already poured over texts and Gemaras and had beliefs I’ve held since elementary school shattered in the course of a two hour class. All of us can see the long weeks and months stretching before us filled with learning the origins of the oral torah, the appropriate ways to serve Hashem, Rav Kook’s path of Teshuvah and beyond and we have never been more excited.

On our very first night in Jerusalem, Rabbi Katz took all of us down to the kotel. We sat around in a circle as he told us, “Shavuot is tomorrow.” This year will be over before we can blink and if we want to take anything from it, we need to know what we want from ourselves at the end of the year. We must begin, to quote my only recently learned mussar, with the end in mind. This is a year of breaking down boundaries that either you, your teachers, or someone else erected around you and seeing what you truly can accomplish.

It’s a question we’re all still struggling to answer. 

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