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Eitan Cooper

Looking back at my teenage years, I can count on one hand the times that I shed a tear. But on September 1st, 2008, I sat in the stall of a bathroom in JFK airport sobbing. I had been the first student to meet the first madrich of the first Isralight yeshiva, and - without going into too many details - the experience was somewhat traumatizing. I had no idea where I was going, who was going with me, or what I would be doing when I arrived. Instead of feeling the normal jolt of independence that many teens experience when going off to Israel for a year, I felt completely alone. All I had with me was my giant duffel bag, my cell phone, and lots of toilet paper in the bathroom stall.

Ten months later, as I sat at the last Orayta Shabbat, the sun setting in the window for the last time on my yeshiva experience, I could barely sing. The zmirot that I learned to love were inaccessible, simply because I knew that if I started to sing I would start to cry. I sat at the table with my head down, with a giant lump in my throat. It was as if I was parting with a loved one. And, when the meal was finished, I went up on the roof and tried to take one last look at the view while wiping away my tears.

Last Shabbat- my first Shabbat back in yeshiva since leaving- I sat at an eerily similar seudah shlishit, with a very different lump in my throat. This time, as I looked around at the new Orayta- the students, parents and Rabbis, I new that I was home. I feel so blessed to have been part of this community, and to know that I will always be able to come back.

As Rav Binny often says, the week’s parsha can sometimes have a mystical connection to the current state of our lives. And as my last Shabbat visiting Israel approaches - Shabbat parshat Shemot - I struggle with returning to exile in the “mitzrayim” that is America. However, I feel incredibly thankful for having gone to Orayta, and for having been able to visit these past two weeks. Orayta has allowed me to shed the tears of fear, sadness, and happiness. I cannot thank this yeshiva enough - not just for teaching me to cry, but for instilling in me amazing life lessons that can empower me anywhere I go.

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