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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.


  1. Hmmm, isn't that what life is all about? If you're able to keep your priorities straight in a vacuum, how valuable is that? It's really all about what happens when you collide with the 'real world' and fitting everything in when you leave that focused yeshiva system. It's extremely difficult to successfully straddle the fence. (Love your "one foot" dance metaphor, btw.)

    And each thing in its time. Hang in there. Grad school is tough. Perhaps for this stage of life your priorities need to be different. That being said, don't lose sight of the ultimate goal...

  2. Hm. I get what you're saying. Luckily, I can count the number of times I missed davening with a minyan on my hands, and the number of times I missed davening on just one hand (and it's always mincha), but my observance has certainly dropped since entering the real world. I don't learn nearly as much as I like, as well as other matters of Halacha that I find myself not caring about as much as I should not as much as I wish I did. And as for dating, when I was studying for the LSAT, I really didn't give the girls I went out with a proper chance, bc all I can think of was studying. I'm trying to work on myself though. I don't know of I'll ever get back to where I was, and while I regret that, I'm honestly not sure if I want to. But I try anyways, because if you're not going up, you're going down. I never even believed that until recently.

  3. It's also been a tough road for me with regards to maintaining the amount of learning I want do, school and work. It's intense, bone-dead tiring and there really isn't enough time in the day. As SPDR said, it's about what happens when you leave the yeshiva system and move into the real world. It's an adjustment that everyone goes through, and I think that if you recognize that you're struggling with it and want to improve, eventually it'll happen. "If not now, when?" is crucial to keep in mind, but having the mindset is a good first step.