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Gabe Schwartz

As a recent transfer, I have just completed my 4th full week at Orayta. To say that I’m satisfied thus far would be an understatement of epic proportions.

Upon arriving at Orayta, I felt cordially welcomed as one of the guys. I immediately felt like a participant in the camaraderie of the Beit Midrash. It was an environment in which I felt an eagerness to learn that was unprecedented in my life. Walking around hearing exchanges about Tosfos, Kabbalah, and Rambam, was both astonishing and unbelievably relieving. Hitherto, I had been in an environment that was disconcerting due to its’ prevalent apathy. Therefore, the motivation circulating throughout the Beis was utterly contagious.

Through chavruta and Rav Dovid’s shiur, I—for the first time in my life—have been able to experience the true intellectual rigor Gemara has to offer. After “chapping” my 1st Tosfos,” as it’s commonly referred to among the boys, I felt nothing but sheer joy and accomplishment. Unlike counterfeit pleasures, which are nothing more than ephemeral, the pleasure that I received from this tough task was truly genuine and has left a prominent impression on me. It was a moment that I will always remember. Much to my surprise, and with great thanks to Rav Dovid’s method of teaching, I now get out of bed each morning with enthusiasm, anticipating the challenge of grappling with a new daf in the always-stimulating Talmud Bavli.

After shvitzing over a heated debate with my chavruta regarding the relevance of a given sugyah to my immediate life, I am privileged to sit in on Rav Binny’s shiur: Rambam’s Hilchot De’ot. In this important work, Rambam offers his advice essential to living a balanced, more meaningful life. Stressing the importance of vigilance, Rambam says, “The two extremes of each trait, which are at a distance from one another, do not reflect a proper path. It is not fitting that a man should behave in accordance with these extremes or teach them to himself.” Here, Rambam points out that it isn’t fitting for one to have any extreme character traits. Although this is seemingly intuitive, it is often disregarded. Therefore, Rav Binny constantly emphasizes Rambam’s notion of balance, as it is undeniably pertinent to our lives.

The idea of a morning so jam-packed with learning—yet still spiritually and intellectually engaging—was previously unbeknownst to me. Two months ago if someone had told me I’d be learning until—and waking up at—ungodly hours, I would have been speechless. However, total immersion in an environment such as Orayta’s, has reversed my attitude entirely.

My experiences at Orayta thus far have so exceeded any previous expectations within the scope of conceivability. Not only am I learning a vast amount of Jewish texts that are so vital to our tradition, but, more importantly, I’m making friendships that will undoubtedly last a lifetime. All in all, switching to Orayta has been the most rewarding decision I’ve made in my life thus far.

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