The word “Bereishis” greeted me like a positive sign, and I knew I’d found a fitting place to begin my journey
Like many girls who spend a year in Israel post high school, by the end of seminary I was riding high on the wings of ruchniyus. It had been a year where my only task was to immerse myself in Torah and Eretz Yisrael as I tried to scale the mountains of spiritual growth.
But I sensed what was just up ahead: adulthood, complete with its boatload of responsibilities and mundane tasks. I found myself pondering the classic post-seminary dilemma: How could I bridge the gap back into the “real world” while holding on to as much spirituality as possible?
I knew I needed to find an IV drip of inspiration. I didn’t want to lose that seminary spark and decided the best way to keep it aflame was to commit to a learning project with manageable units of daily study.
It started with learning a daily perek of Tanach. I remember the moment it began quite clearly: During one of my last days of seminary, I sat in a room pulsating with lively girls learning around me. I took out a new green Tanach and opened to the first page. The word “Bereishis” greeted me like a positive sign, and I knew I’d found a fitting place to begin my journey.
Within a few months I was in college, and starting Vayikra. There was a lot of homework (and socializing!), and sometimes I returned to my apartment at 2 a.m. I often proceeded to fall asleep over my now patina-green, worn-out Tanach and had to jolt myself awake again and again until the perek was finished. I missed the excitement of a room full of girls learning around me. But I did it. Every night. And with a project like this, that was what counted.
By sophomore year I was deep into Neviim, by junior year I was on to Kesuvim, and by the end of that year, lo and behold, I had finished all of Tanach and started my next learning project. After I graduated, life picked up pace, as did the types of learning projects I finished with my IV-drip ruchniyus plan.
I got married and my husband would smile when I’d plunk my current sefer down and learn next to him for a few minutes at night: Rashi and Rav Hirsch on Chumash, mussar seforim, machshavah seforim, halachah l’maaseh seforim. Children, professional career, daily tasks. It all weaved together into a slow-growing but gratifying tapestry.
The experience has taught me so much about commitment and grit, about small choices and big gains. Nowadays, I’m often invited to give shiurim, and a common question I get after is, “How did you know all that? When did you have the time to learn it?”
The answer? I didn’t. I just started with one page, and 20 years later, a little bit of anything adds up to a lot. Just ask Rabi Akiva….
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 758)
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