You are probably very different from who you used to be 10 years ago. That's likely because 10 years ago you were shorter, had a higher-pitched voice, and spent most of your time watching Phineas and Ferb on the Disney Channel. Even so, it's safe to say that you will be a very different person in another 10 years.
That's about where I am at right now. Recently, I sat down to consider how my year in Yeshiva has impacted me, looking back from ten years down the line. Certainly, each person has unique experiences in Yeshiva/Seminary that leaves a distinctive impression on them. For me, my year in Yeshiva left me with an enthusiasm for observing and learning Torah, as well as a hunger to live in Eretz Yisrael. Both of these notions have guided my (sometimes strange) behavior and driven some of my accomplishments over the past decade.
Unlike nowadays, where many students have the ability to stay multiple years, I was only granted a single year to learn in Yeshiva. Despite my parents warning me from the start that it would only be a one-year deal, I still tried to convince them to send me back for a second year. They didn't budge, though; as a compromise, instead of attending my original destination for college, my parents agreed to send me to a university where I would also have the opportunity to spend time learning in a Yeshiva. Who knows - maybe not getting a second year was actually beneficial for me, since it gave me a sense of urgency. I knew I would be leaving soon; if I wanted to come out with anything, I would need to chap arayn.
Being pretty disappointed that I could not continue learning in Israel after my first year, I told myself that I would make the years that followed into my Shana Bet. Baruch Hashem, I was able to maintain and cultivate the enthusiasm for Torah that I developed during my year in Yeshiva. Fast-forward 10 years, and my enthusiasm led me to take off a few years after finishing my degree to pursue a rabbinic degree. Yup, I'm a (non-practicing) rabbi, no big deal. (Although, maybe I just did it for the thrill of seeing "Rabbi" in front of my name on wedding invitations...)
I also mentioned that my year in Israel instilled within me a drive to live in Eretz Yisrael. All the trips and tiyulim we went on that exposed us to the beauty of the land and all of the talks we heard stressing the importance and centrality of the land to Judaism, left me wanting more. I recall shortly after returning from Israel, I had a dentist appointment (yes, I made sure to brush my teeth and floss beforehand, so that I could say "yes, I have been flossing.").
As I sat down in the office, I was greeted by a hygienist who seemed to be young enough to understand the high I was on from my time in Israel. I started telling her about my incredible experiences. When I described my excitement about ultimately moving to Israel, the hygienist chuckled and said, "Oh, don't worry, that'll go away soon enough." I was so annoyed and angry at that dismissive comment that I was speechless for a good 15 minutes (partially because I had dental instruments and rubber-gloved fingers in my mouth). That comment always stuck with me and caused me to double down on my desire to live in Israel. I made aliyah a few years ago and feel so fortunate to be here. Take that, random cynical hygienist lady!
There are those who spend multiple years in Israel, yet have very little to show for it once it's over. There are others who didn't have the chance to spend time in Israel at all, yet manage to find inspiration and motivation elsewhere. While the year in Israel is not the only way to learn to aspire and grow, and not even a guaranteed way to do so, it is an incredible opportunity which can make an enduring impression on your life, should you actually take advantage of it. My year in Israel was a catalyst that set in motion a lot of what I aspired to become, and eventually became, over the next ten years.
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