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Mar 11, 2013

In Need of Some Kiruv

I’ve been away a while. Well, perhaps “away” would not adequately describe the circumstances surrounding my reduced presence on the blogosphere. But the blogosphere isn’t the only part of my life that I’ve been away from.

To say that graduate school has kept me busy is an understatement. After my 80 hour weeks consisting of class, fieldwork, reading, papers, and commuting in between, I’ve found I barely have enough discipline to stand up straight. I’m always exhausted, regardless of how little (or how much) I’m sleeping. I find myself running out in the morning with a prayer for forgiveness because I’ve missed davening (again). I haven’t been to shul on time in recent memory, even on Shabbat/Yom Tov. On that note, thank goodness for Shabbat! Every moment not having to stress is a blessing, and having time to eat, drink, sleep(!), play games and spend time with friends/family is an absolute pleasure.

My learning consists of a one hour a week chavruta that doesn’t meet as consistently as I’d like. With so much pressure, I’ve rearranged my priorities and every few months I take a moment to reflect –often the first moment in as many months I have to breathe or think about myself –and realize that my observance is not at the top of that list.

I think in an ideal world, I would be able to keep my Jewish observance as priority number one. I’ve slowly been realizing that either (a) I’m sacrificing (some of) my observance in this stage of my life, or (b) it’s not possible to place observance as priority number one all the time. When I was in Yeshiva, I thought it’s possible to keep one foot in yeshiva and one in university. I had expected that to extend so that I could keep one foot in grad school and one in learning Torah, one foot in (field)work and one in davening, one foot in the gym and one in the beit midrash, one foot in research and one in dating.

Was I ever wrong! I only have two feet, and I’m finding that I can’t handle all of the demands, requirements, and obligations for graduate school on one foot. So I end up doing this funky dance with my one other foot, a dance I'm struggling to keep up with. 

I’ve been polling my friends informally about dating and graduate school, and I’m finding that it’s not just me (at least dating-wise). Some of my friends reflected that they rarely give their date a chance during the semester, often thinking to themselves that they’d rather be studying than out. Usualy, dating during semester breaks (or possibly summer) reveals a different, more open mind in those same friends (and for myself as well). I have to say that my experience has been similar, having to plan and create a 4+ hour block of time to get ready, travel, go on a date, and return within a decent time frame to get half a night’s sleep can be stressful just to think about. 

So maybe (in line with the most recent issue of The Beacon) I'm in need of a little kiruv. Almost every week, after davening, I take a moment to thank Hashem that I'm still connected, but I also know I'm not nearly where I'd like to be.