The Journey of Torah - A Continuous Journey
For those of us who remember the ride from Jerusalem to Elkana before the days of Kvish 6, we all remember the 90-minute drive. At the age of 16, I remember that first trip to Orot quite vividly, when I came to visit the Michalala for the first time. That captivating journey into the hills of the Shomron, and to recall that first left turn onto the Orot campus brings genuine joy. Perhaps it was the serene calm atmosphere of the landscape. Perhaps it was the excited buzz and murmur within the walls of the Beit Midrash. Perhaps it was warm embrace of the staff upon stepping through the office doors. Whatever it was, it was the beginning of a journey into the world of the true Israel experience, when I returned a year later to begin my 'Shana Alef'. Describing those magnificent 10 months as a student in Orot is like explaining Shabbat to someone who has never heard of Shabbat. You cannot describe it; you need to experience it.
My love for the Land of Israel was simplistic in nature. There was a gravitational pull to her physical beauty, her biblical and modern-day history, and the all-encompassing notion that Israel is Jewish in nature. Being raised in the USA, in a Zionistic, and Torah filled home, had me fascinated by this concept. However, it was not until I sat down at my 'makom' in the Beit Midrash, or sat in the front row in the classroom, when this innate connection to Torat Yisrael, Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael was cultivated, as it matured through opening new texts, connecting with peers, chevrutot, teachers and role models, and delving deeper into all realms of learning. This translated in multiple ways, not just through learning, but through song, conversing in Hebrew with Israeli roommates, tiyulim, chesed initiatives, and experiencing Shabbatot and chagim, whether in Orot, or with a variety of different types of families.
I was meant to continue my studies in Orot for a second year and attend Stern College thereafter. However, towards the end of the year, the notion of returning to the States did not sit well with me, as I could not imagine continuing my life outside of Israel. While there were no shortages of teachers who discouraged me from going back to the States, it was Nomi Spanglet who laid down the reality of what would happen upon the completion of the year of study. Leaving this nurtured environment of Torah learning would propel me into "real life" which would consist of managing a new and foreign system, working through bureaucracy, separating from family, kindling new relationships, building a new community, all while acclimating to a "foreign" language. It would be a decision that would change my life forever, and a decision that would also come with sacrifice as well as reward. It was a conversation I would treasure, as I headed out to apply to Bar Ilan, equipped with months of spiritual, and refined academic "Torah Tools" that my rabbanim and teachers provided me with.
I was fortunate to complete a BA in Education and Music and return to Orot as a Madricha. It was a true gift of time to bring learning to the next level whilst working with the staff and enjoying the most special group of chanichot.
That year I would meet my future husband, Oriya. It goes without saying that one of the most cherished gifts we received when we got married, was a set of Netivot Shalom given to us by my chanichot of Bat-Tzion. To me, this present carries with it the most precious memories of Orot. These seforim embodied the echoes of joy and gratification of learning within the walls of the Beit Midrash, the ability to grapple with texts, together in chevruta, and to unravel the messages and lessons to enhance our spiritual entities. In addition, the Torah connection with its enraptured beauty propelled the preparation for the next stage of life.
As each year passes, and distances from that most pivotal crossroad in my life, I realize that this experience was not only an exclusive opportunity to further my own academic skills and spiritual connection to my Jewish roots. Those precious months spent on the Michlelet Orot campus, served as monumental building blocks upon which I still benefit from until this very day. The ability to navigate through books of halacha, extrapolate texts of Tanach, machshava, Jewish literature, and chassidut, were imperative tools gained, retained, and remain relevant, though the experience took place over 20 years ago.
Today, I work at the Jewish Distribution Committee, for the Europe, Africa & Asia division, which specializes in providing aid for vulnerable Jews, and strengthening Jewish communities across the region. Oriya and I reside in Efrat, and are parents of 4 wonderful children, who I am proud to say, also benefit from the Torah that was taught to me in Orot more than 2 decades ago. I would like to take this wonderful opportunity to thank the myriads of role models of Michlelet Orot who helped shape where I am today.