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Elul 5759 – Maintaining Your Growth From Seminary

15 Menachem Av 5759

Dear Chana,

I’ve just arrived home from a year in Sem. During that year I broke many bad habits and formed a much healthier attitude. Now I am back in my home, full of old memories, feeling the way I behaved in the past and the attitudes that went with it. I am very worried about slipping back into those bad habits. I really want to retain my healthier happier attitude about Jewish Life and Hashem. I’m especially worried about meeting up with people from the past. I’m finding it hard to stick to my guns and not get back into my old social patterns. Would you be able to help me? I want to be strong in myself without feeling like I am stepping on toes.

[Name withheld to protect privacy]
Bnot Chayil 5759

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I came back from Seminary about a year ago and I still can’t get over how inspiring it was to go to class each day. During my last year in high school I finally began to appreciate learning and how much my teachers had to offer. Better late than never, I guess. When I came to seminary, I was determined to get the most out of every minute I spent in the classroom. Fortunately, that didn’t take too much effort because I truly loved every single teacher and class. I couldn’t get enough of it and I was even considering returning for another year, but I was unable to.

Now that I am back in America and college, I can no longer take advantage of the learning that was offered to me on a daily basis. I alone must make the effort to learn without anyone else handing it to me on a silver platter. The problem is that in a classroom I feel I can learn much more by being part of a discussion, participating, and asking questions when something is unclear. Now all I have are Shiurim which, to be honest, I don’t enjoy very much. It’s much harder to pay attention to a speech, especially when it’s usually addressing a topic that I’ve heard many times before. I go to Shiurim when there is a special guest speaker that I find especially inspiring. How can one continue to learn and find inspiration once one leaves the classroom?

[Name withheld to protect privacy]
Bnot Torah Institute 5758

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Dear All,

I’m a big believer in lists. Make a list of all the things that you gained and took on while you were in Israel. Think of all the opinions that you formed, the thoughts that you had as your world widened. Remember with each thing what you felt when you learned it, when you made it part of your life. Look at this list every day – keep to it. Surround yourself with growing friends, share your thoughts and triumphs with them as well as your setbacks, be M’chazik each other. Seek out teachers or married couples who can be role models for you, so you can continue to learn from others. Tell yourself that you know who you really are and where you really want to be going. Keep alive that firm resolve that you felt when you left Eretz Yisroel, and keep away from things and environments that keep you away from your goals.

A person can be who they really need to be anywhere in the world. Yes, Eretz Yisroel was a gift [on that silver platter] and a gem of an opportunity. Continue to make it part of you and let all those things LIVE through you. You CAN do it!

About continuing learning and classes that are available to you now: Well, you said it, in your own words, You, and You alone must make the effort now. DO go to Shiurim that you find particularly interesting – this is terrific! My father used to say that if you can come away from a lecture with one clear thought to hold close to you, than going and listening was completely worthwhile. So when you go to classes be fine tuned and on the look out for at least one thing to come away with – perhaps write it down [another list!] and keep a page of just such insights. Seek out other, perhaps, smaller classes or learning groups that you CAN participate in. There is so much available everywhere today, that you should be able to find something. Get a chavrusa once or twice a week and learn something together that really excites you. Always be choosing and reading an English Judaica book, just for a few minutes each day. There is so much out now and such fascinating things. One to try: ‘Seasons of Life’ – it’ll give you an amazing glimpse into nature and how it all completely relates to Torah! You also may want to see my column from 1 Nissan – entitled ‘Maintaining spirituality in Chutz L’aretz after Sem’.

Don’t sink into complacency – keep striving and yearning. Make your Hishtadlus today!

Sincerely,
Chana