When deciding whether to come to Israel or not, it's important to decide what goals you would like to accomplish over the year. The primary reason for many of the students here is probably something along the lines of using a full year to really study and understand Judaism, and hopefully by the end of the process, really internalize those values. Understanding Judaism isn't so simple though, especially when there are so many different perspectives on almost every issue. Internalizing the values is even more difficult, since studying alone can only take you so far in that respect. It seems that it would be impossible to really understand Judaism from a rational perspective as well as internalizing what you learn in just one year. Unless you happen to go to Orayta.
The open minded nature of Orayta is nearly unparalleled; at least in any other American yeshiva I've had exposure too. We shy away from no topic, with an intellectual honesty that can sometimes be frightening, but is always rewarding. Most other schools would not be willing to have classes on Heschel, Biblical Archaeology, Biblical Criticism, for fear that this could turn students off to classical Modern Orthodox Theology. Not only is our variety of topics unparalleled, but the variety of opinions we are offered by our teachers is unique. We have super-rationalists, neo-chassidic orthodox thinkers, Rav Yair (who of course gets his own category), and a Kabbalist. After hearing thinkers who have such a wide spectrum of thought, one can see a topic from so many different angles, and understand that topic on a level that would be difficult to achieve otherwise. Exposure like this causes a student to want to know everything about Judaism, and study a large variety of thinkers, and before you know it, you have so many books you don't even know where to keep them.
But how is one to internalize values when they're so focused on constantly reading different articles, hearing shiurim, and basically gaining a higher level of rational conception of these topics, but never actually experiencing them? I may understand the value of Shabbos, Kashrut or Tzitzit, but this understanding might not immediately flow into action. That can only come from experiencing its value. In Orayta, the Rabbis don't just make us think differently, they are capable of making us feel different things as well.
Whether its Rav Yair riling the students up for pre-Mincha ruach, or Rav Binny leading a Kabbalat Shabbos on the roof of our beis, it's because of experiences such as these that a student leaves Orayta not just understanding Judaism from many different perspectives, but loving it from equally many perspectives as well.
At the beginning of this week I was overwhelmed with the amount of reading I planned on doing. Over five new books on my desk, ten to fifteen articles on my laptop, and I began to feel like I was drowning in the pure knowledge I was trying to immerse myself in. As the week wore on, Rav Dovid surprised his shiur with a spontaneous trip to the Mir, which included a tour of some of the facilities, a shiur from Rav Yitzchak Ezrachi, as well as a most Hamish meal of Potato Kugel and Cholent in Mea Shearim. It's moments like these where I could feel the Judaism, and really understood what the point of all that learning was. As we go into Purim, a prime opportunity to experience Judaism, hopefully we will be able to take that experience and use it to internalize all the knowledge we absorbed over this year.