Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I'm confused. (As usual.)

So here I am, in Israel: The Holy Land, Land of Our Forefathers, Land of Our Birth, Land of Milk and Honey, Land of Spirituality, etc etc etc. And I hate to break it to you, but I don't feel so spiritual. Ok, so this is partially my own fault: I applied to a seminay that I knew nothing about save for the fact that it was new and bound to be unorganized, and then when it, shall we say, "didn't work out," I left without having anywhere else to go. Now, I could just go home. I have seriously considered and reconsidered and considered again going home. I have even actually decided to go home. BUT. (It seems there is always a BUT...) The problem is that I've gotten so much flak from so many people about going home that I've started to wonder if maybe I am passing up this huge opportunity. So I decided to analyze a bit. Here It Is:

Every time I mention leaving I keep getting the whole "but you're passing up such an amazing opportunity, this is you're once-in-a-lifetime chance to just take a whole year out and learn and grow" shpiel. Oh, and that's my favorite part, by the way: "And GROW." Grow?? Where? Vertically? Horizontally? Diagnally? And I'm just sitting there thinking, "Honey, I hate to break it to you but this is as tall as I'm gonna get, and the only reason I'm growing horizontally is because I've been in Israel for six months already..." In all seriousness, though, this whole "growing" thing is an enigma to me. I've tried to sort it out, and here's what I got:
When I learn new things, am I growing? Well let's see, am I getting larger? No- but I'm still changing. So does change=Grow? (I never was good at math.) When I encompass new things, I am growing. Or rather, when I encompass new things and apply them then I must be growing in some way. Wow, so if I am a thinking person, I could grow everyday. (Who would have thought?) Ok, so I'm amenable to that, sounds good to me.

Now- on to the learning part. This is actually not as easy as one might think. "Learning" in Israel usually connotes that dreaded S-Word. No, not "shit," I meant SEMINARY. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no interest in sitting in a building for 14 hours a day having people try to shove ignorant and narrow-minded hashkafot into my brain via my ear. It works for some people, but it's really not my cup of tea... To be fair, there are a few (and I mean FEW) schools that actually don't try to convince you to get married 10 out of 14 hours a day, and actually let you think, and let you think for yourself while you're at it. However, it's so hard to get in anywhere this late in the year, so of course it would be even harder to get into a half-decent place. And then there's always the "but I've had such a bad time of it so far, I don't even know if sem is really for me at all, and I don't know if I want to sit and learn all day and I just want to go home already" factor. And it's a pretty big factor, at least in my case. I don't go around all bitter about the fact that I went to a crap (fake) sem, but it did make me wonder whether or not I really want to sit and learn all day. It's a really hard call to make. But every time I decide to call it quits and just pack it in and go home, I get this little niggling doubt that maybe, just maybe, (a very tiny maybe) I actually am passing something up. Now, I know I could just open a sefer and leran on my own, but it's just not the same, and to be very honest, I don't think I'm really disciplined enough for that.

And so here I am, stuck in between. My learning now consists of sitting in on classes at various seminaries, all of which I would never ever consider going to (but go there anyway because I'm just that desperate to keep my brain from rusting and none of the "good" schools will let me do that continuously, or are too far away), and learning gemara (or whatever was interesting that day) over the phone with my friend. (It's a good review for him, and enjoyable for me.) If you think this is a pathetic existence, I'd be the first to agree with you. Surely there is some sort of alternative? I just wish I knew what it was...


Blogger Tova said...

As someone who never went to seminary, and didn't go to Israel till she was married for 8 months, I say "go home."

If you're not getting anything out of being there (and I don't know what you're supposed to "get" anyway), why not go home and actually _start_ your life? Will you go to college at home? Will you start a job? Will you right away look for someone to marry? Even lounging around at home would probably be better than staying in Israel w/o any direction.

I'm amazed that your family is letting you stay w/o plans...Where are you living? Where are you getting $ for food?

You sound like you think sem just promotes marriage and kollel, which is what I thought and the reason I didn't go in the first place. In fact, when I found out that a shiur I was going to once a week was considered "night sem," I stopped going.

Sorry for the rambling; I'm tired but had to comment. :)

February 9, 2005 at 8:18 PM  
Blogger fluffykneidle said...

Baby! I'm gna miss you either way! (so will Avril)

February 10, 2005 at 4:35 AM  
Blogger Hoezentragerin said...

Guess it all depends on what you're planing on doing when you get back home.

February 10, 2005 at 4:56 AM  
Blogger Avrum said...

Why not go to a Israeli university? some of them are pretty good.

February 10, 2005 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger Stx said...

As someone who DID go to seminary, and who knows the magic and the "growth" that can happen there...I'm not going to try to convince you to do anything.

The question is, which is better? The sitch you'd be in at home, or the one you're in now? (This is assuming that getting into the sem of your choice isn't an option, just for clarity's sake.)

Are you enjoying Shabbosim there? Have you been to really amazing people's homes, seen how the families run, become a part of some of them?

Does the concept of being in Israel feel special to you at all. In this post, it seems that it doesn't. Does the kotel excite you? The old city? Anywhere?

What are you doing now during the day? What would you be doing at home during the day? Do you have any friends there? Would you have any at home? Would you be looking foward to going home, family-wise?

If you're just kvetching, let us know. One of the best parts of blogging is kvetching and commiserating. But if you want advice, we need more info...

February 11, 2005 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Jake said...

if u go there wil be trouble

February 14, 2005 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger iconoclasmic said...

I've been putting off responding to all these questions for a really long time, so here goes:

Tova- I will (hopefully) go to college at home, provided I can find a way to pay for it. I will also start a job. (That's to do with the "paying for it" bit.)And I'm not even gonna touch the one about marriage. Just for the record, though, my family is by no means letting me just stay in Israel w/o plans; they are actively trying to help me find a solution, however stubborn I may be.

Avrum- If I was going to go to university (which I am) why not just go home? I can then get a job to actually support myself, and be surrounded with people who speak my language. However, the problem is that the semster has already started in both countries, so I'm stuck until September.

Stx- Your Q about the my situation is a good one- but while I'm here I'm doing nothing all day, and at least at home I could get a job and make some money for college...but that's where the whole guilt trip comes in. I do have friends in both places, though; a lot of people I know came to Israel and have left within the past few months. As far as the "magic" goes: I'm not really that type of person. I enjoy Shabbosim here, but not particularly more than anywhere else. I love the land, and it IS special to me, but more from a historical point of view. I feel like I "feel" like it's special only because I've been told that it is, you know? For example, everyone always talks about how you can feel the kedushah at the Kotel, and they all cry, etc. But the first thing I thought was, "God it's so SMALL." And then I was upset because I didn't feel anything. It's just a wall. So no, I guess it doesn't excite me that much, although, sometimes I feel like it should. What can I say?

Jake- What kind of trouble, cuz right now I'm so bored I'd probably welcome anything.

Thanks to all of you for the advice (except for Jake; was that a threat?) even though I still can't make up my mind.

February 14, 2005 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger Stx said...

Okay, I'm going to do something I've never done on a blog. I'm going to share something with y'all. It's an excerpt from my diary.

I can't help it. IC, I read your last comment and thought, "Now where on earth have I heard THAT one before?" And I found it. One of them is from quite a while ago, and I'm pretty impressed that I still have this one! So here goes...

July 15, 2000
"...I didn't talk [in my diary yet] about the Kotel. It was inspiring, but in the beginning it just looked kind a wall. But then I asked Hashem for stuff and thanked Him for everything and it got better..."

Vav Tamuz/ June 25, 2004
"...Y'know what? You _can't_ feel extra at the Kotel--unless you _want_ to feel it."

Hmmm...change in thoughts there? I think that very few people actually feel the amount of inspiration that they expect to feel. In the end, you can see it as just a wall. It's only our desire to use it as a relationship-building device that gives way to the inspiration...

Hatzlacha in figuring everything out...

February 15, 2005 at 1:21 AM  
Blogger iconoclasmic said...

Hmmm...change in thoughts there? I think that very few people actually feel the amount of inspiration that they expect to feel. In the end, you can see it as just a wall. It's only our desire to use it as a relationship-building device that gives way to the inspiration...

The thing is, I don't need an "intermediary" as a "relationship-building device," as you put it. I look around me and am inspired by G-d's work and the things He does. But that will happen for me whether in Israel or not. The Kotel is, as you said, just a wall. The reason that we daven there is because it's the closest point we can get nowadays to the place where the kodesh kedashim was in the times of the Bet HaMikdash. The wall itself has nothing to do with it. The fact that it has been turned into this spiritual icon does nothing to change the fact that it is still just a wall- a wall, in fact, not even built by Jews, but built up by every other non-Jewish power to rule after the time of Herod, who built it in the first place. Inspiring? I think not.

February 15, 2005 at 2:22 AM  
Blogger Eli7 said...

As a former "sem girl" myself (and i would have rolled over and died if someone had told me i'd be calling myself that 3 years ago), i can only say that seminary was by far the best thing that ever happened to me. and i am not one of those girls who loves fluffy classes, or being told she can't learn gemara, or being told that she should get married tomorrow (or by now, yesterday). and quite honestly, all that is part of the seminary experience, take it or leave it.
I did not love my seminary in the begining, i did not even love it when i left it after my year. however, since, i've been in secular college (which i for the record do love), and i cannot imagine where i would be without my year in seminary.
was it magic? no. is it for everyone? definitely not. BUT i would argue that seminary can be an awesome thing: for the friends you make, for the 3am discussions you'll have about the meaning of life, for the midnight baking, for the relationships you make with teachers, for the thinking you do about what you believe, and yeah sometimes even for the classes.
I don't know you, and i don't know whether or not you should stay, and i certainly don't think my rather long post on the greatness of seminary is going to convince you of anything. But i would argue that what you get out of your year in israel is much more dependent on your attitude, your goals, and what you spend your time doing.
If you're convinced that they're just shoving marriage down your throat and you close your mind to everything they have to say, you're not going to get anything out of it, so go home. but if you keep your mind just a little bit more open and are willing to at least think critically about what they teach in whatever school you're at, then you may just figure out what YOU believe - and that is growing.

February 15, 2005 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Jake said...

the reason i wrote what i wrote was because i thought that the name of this post was making a reference to a song

"should i stay or should i go, now
if i go there will be trouble
but if i stay it will be trouble
so come on and let me know
should i stay or should i go"
-the clash

ive wanted to send u an email but i cant find an address on this site. if u want u can email me at the email address i put on my blog for helping guys

February 16, 2005 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger iconoclasmic said...

good song

February 17, 2005 at 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you're happy to learn co-ed (which you seem to be doing on the phone anyway) try some classes at Pardes. You'll get gemara and open minds.

February 18, 2005 at 6:54 AM  
Blogger Jake said...

pardes? yeah u will get gemara and open minds but dont forget the apikorsus and kefira!

im neither some sort of chareidi fundamentalist nor an uptight old person and i vote that if u want seminary do it right. if u want work, do that right. dont "compromise"

February 20, 2005 at 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

jake - apikorsus and kefira like exactly what? when I learned there all I got was torah, rambam, mishna and shulchan aruch.

February 21, 2005 at 5:02 AM  
Blogger iconoclasmic said...

Thanks for the advice guys, but I'm becoming a kibbutznik

(btw, Jake, did you ever get my email?)

February 23, 2005 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger Jake said...

no i never got your email. please resend with something in the subject to indicate its not junk mail

March 18, 2005 at 7:45 AM  
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