By Ariel Fox
High school was a continuous mountain of work, each year coming with an increase of pressure, studying, and obviously, more work. When I finally reached the top – that is, graduation – there was a sense of achievement and accomplishment because I knew for one year I was free of school-related responsibilities and ready to go to Israel. Everyone has their own unique experience during their year in Israel, but most of us can agree it is a year free of tests, homework, and any academic responsibility. It was a nice feeling to go to sleep at night not worrying about upcoming due dates or assignments, and to just learn for the sake of learning. The transition from spending a year studying in Israel to college, though, was a difficult one.
One can make the argument that summer break is a great way to prepare for the upcoming school year, but for many, including myself, there are so many factors that prevent this motivation. The first is that I, for one, like to procrastinate, and summer is a great excuse for that. Second, many people work at summer camps such as HASC, Kaylie, Simcha, Moshava, etc. after their year in Israel. Most of these camps are two months long, and leave little time to prepare for school. Last, but certainly not least, most of us just want to enjoy our last hoorah before a year filled with stress, work, and exams. I certainly took advantage of my summer to be with friends, have fun, and to enjoy my vacation to its fullest.
When Stern orientation was over and classes began, the realization of being in secular classes and not simply Judaic ones was shocking because the reality of life was tangible. All my grades and anything I did in college would affect how I would fare in the real world. I personally felt a little taken aback because I loved learning Torah, especially in Jerusalem, and leaving my Kollel (full-time Torah study) type life was a strange feeling. Obviously, I knew that one day I would have to go back to secular classes, but the actuality of not being in my “Torah bubble” and having to work and study was something I was not fully prepared for.
After my first week, I was completely exhausted and looked forward to the weekend. I knew that I had to change my perspective from “chill” to “work” mode and start motivating myself to be the academic student I once was. It was not easy to change this mindset; however, it dawned on me that as a Jew living in a modern world, I had to learn how to balance regular work and my Torah life. As amazing as seminary was, and as much I as a recognize the importance of a gap year, I understand that it is not ideal to remain in the “bubble.” In the Bible, there are hardly any characters who lived a Kollel life; each person was able to fulfill their role in the physical world while maintaining their connection to God. I believe we can all benefit from this lesson, and as Jews we should all work to find a balance between our religious and academic lives.