One of the more practical goals of learning in Yeshiva and Seminary is to prepare for a time when you won’t have an entire day available for learning. While your daily schedule in Israel can seem incredibly long, often stretching from 7am to 11 or 12pm (or more!), you have to look at the bigger picture. Your one, two, and even three years in Israel will very quickly pale when compared to the 4-year programs flanking it on either side: high school and college. What will you have to show from this year down the line?
For this reason, you have to take time to write notes on the things you learn. While this really applies to everything you learn, as writing notes is a great way to process and retain what you’ve learnt, it pays special dividends in specific areas:
This year, you have the luxury of spending as much time as you want on Parshat HaShavua. There is likely at least one Parsha shiur each week, although likely more. Some programs work in daily slots to work on Shnayim Mikra V’Echad Targum. You may even be writing and sending out weekly Divrei Torah to family and friends. Regardless, you have more than enough time available to go through the Parsha properly. In a few years, once you’re midway through college, working your first job, or starting and growing your family, you’ll have MUCH less time to dedicate to combing through the Parsha each week, looking for inspiration, direction, or a nice Vort. By recording notes and highlights of Shiurim, Mefarshim, and Divrei Torah throughout the year, you’ll have a repository to look back on down the line. Instead of starting from scratch to put together a Sheva Brachos speech, you can just read through your notes, find one that sounds like a good fit, and work with that. If you want to give a Parsha shiur, an old Dvar Torah you wrote can be a perfect way to get started. Try to jot down the highlights of the Parsha and Mefarshim over the course of the week, and take a few minutes Motzei Shabbos to add in any interesting ideas you heard on Shabbos.
Another area where notes are especially useful is for Moadim. While you generally won’t spend as much consistent time on them as you do for Parsha, preparing for the highlights of the yearly cycle is an integral part of the Yom Tov experience in Israel. You will likely have a Yom Iyun with different Shiurim on each Chag before each one, as well as the opportunity to learn about each Chag more in-depth as each one approaches. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur would not be the same for me without Rav Nevenzahl’s Sichos on the Yamim Nora’im and Rav Solovetichik’s Divrei Torah in Har’rei Kedem; Pesach gets its flavor from the Haggados of the Malbim and Rav Samson Rephael Hirsch. In a couple of years, you won’t have nearly as much time to prepare for each Yom Tov, but you’ll still want the ideas and inspiration to chew on. A good folder or notebook of ideas, shiurim, and themes to think about will enhance your Yomim Tovim for years to come.
Finally, take advantage of your Halacha limmudim. Seminaries do this especially well: Hilchos Shabbos and Kashrus Shiurim are often given pride of place in the weekly schedule. Some programs actually make one of the two classes mandatory, making it the linchpin of the curriculum for both textual and outside study. Notes from those classes become a crucial resource down the line, in addition to the tens of Seforim and other resources available. A Yeshiva will often have a Halacha seder after Shachris, as well as optional Halacha courses in different topics. Maximize both opportunities by taking notes on what you learn, especially in the Shiurim. You’ll walk out with comprehensive knowledge of a subject that you might never have time to learn in depth on your own, especially if you don’t end up learning on some sort of Semicha track. For example, when you have your own home or apartment, or even just work in a shared office space, all sorts of Kashrus questions will come up. However, many people don’t have more than a foggy knowledge of what they grew up with at home to deal with those questions. Good notes from a year’s worth of Shiurim in Yeshiva can give you the background to deal with the most common questions that can come up.
Taking the time to write notes on what you learn is a terrific long-term investment. Even just a short summary after a Seder or Shiur has a significant impact on retaining the information that you learned. Even more important, good notes from your year(s) of full-time learning can provide a repository of content and ideas that you’ll revisit and update over and over for the rest of your life. The weekly Parsha, yearly cycle of Moadim, and entire swathes of Halacha that you learned well in Israel will remain relevant and fresh year after year due to the notes that you wrote while learning.
See Here for note-taking tips
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