Wednesday, June 20, 2018

(Credit: Ari Gordon)

“Odeh et Hashem Elokai bechol levavi ve’achabda shimcha le’olam—I thank Hashem, my God, with all of my heart, and will honor His name forever.”

I’m happy to announce that, after five very long years, I’ve completed my time at Machon Lev and earned my BS/first degree in electrical and electronics engineering. It’s been a long haul, especially while also working during the last two years, and especially with the constant pressure of my final projects this past year. But now it’s over.

My time at Machon Lev has been a whirlwind. I’ve switched majors, added a minor, lived in four different rooms with six different roommates, each of a different nationality and background. I’ve learned Torah, completed an entire cycle of Shas, Mishnayot and Tanach during my time at JCT, and made very close connections with rebbeim, ones that I hope to keep and cultivate for the rest of my life. I’ve learned one of the more difficult bachelor’s degrees, in a foreign language no less, and managed to maintain a decent average, and, even more importantly, retain the important information I’ll need for my professional life as an engineer in Israel. I’ve made friends, some so close that they’re more akin to family, beginning friendships I know will last forever.

Yada yada yada... I can continue forever about the good that has come from my experiences at Machon Lev, but, when I was standing and presenting my final projects on Monday and awaiting the last grade that would seal my graduation, I’ll admit that none of these thoughts were running through my head. As my partner and I were called in to receive our grade (baruch Hashem, the highest possible one), all that I felt was relief. It had been a long haul, there had been many setbacks, but finally, here was the culmination of all of that effort. As Yirmiyahu HaNavi put it so succinctly, “ki yesh sachar lepe’ulataich,” there is a reward for your hard work.

Choosing to study at Machon Lev, knowing that I would be starting a very challenging degree, in a language I could barely speak when I began, surrounded by peers significantly smarter than me, I knew that the path I had chosen would not be one that would yield a lot of gratification. It took me a while to adjust to this, to get used to leaving a class and not being able to fully comprehend the conversation my friends were having about it because I still needed to review my notes to make sure I understood the lesson correctly (sometimes it took several review sessions to get it, and there are still concepts I’m not sure I’ll ever understand). It took a while to appreciate getting a grade in the high 70s on an exam, where others had gotten in the low 90s. It took a while to get used to the loneliness of living on a campus that completely emptied out Thursday evening until Sunday
morning, knowing that if I didn’t travel away for Shabbat, I would likely spend most of it by myself.

These were not easy adjustments, but the lesson I learned from this is one that I think each and every one of us can gain immensely from in our own daily struggles: We all know that the classic litmus test of whether one is an optimist or pessimist is to present them a glass containing only half its capacity of liquid, and to ask them whether the glass is half full or half empty. After some time, I came to realize that before evaluating how full or empty a glass is, it’s important to first appreciate having a glass to put the liquid into.

For over 2,000 years, Jews wandered the world, sent from one nation to the next, yearning to return home. In our times, we have been given an opportunity to do what they couldn’t—and live in Eretz Yisrael, in our own country. With over half of world Jewry living in the Land of Israel now, and a potent combination of a rise in Zionism and spike in external threats causing the aliyah rate to keep on multiplying (2,000 American Jews made aliyah this summer alone, according to Nefesh B’Nefesh), it’s been high time for everyone living outside of Israel to consider how and when they should make the journey. For me, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to make my home here very early on in my life. I didn’t choose the easy path; not by a long shot. But, on those difficult nights when I felt homesick, just failed a test I had studied so hard for, had a frustrating altercation with the JCT administration about permission to work that left me in tears, or had other personal setbacks, and I would wonder why I was dealt such a difficult lot, why the glass was half empty, I eventually remembered and gained a tremendous amount of chizuk from this idea, realizing how lucky I am to have a glass at all, to be here.

As I finish one big journey and prepare to begin my next adventure of drafting into the IDF and giving the next two and a half years of my life to the country that has given me a new life and the same hope that Naftali Herz Imber described as “ha-tikvah bat shenot alpayim” (the 2,000-year hope) in the poem that eventually became our somber national anthem, I wish to each and every one of you that you’ll also be able to find “your glass,” the value and mission, the purpose, that is so important to you that it drives everything you do in your life and gives you hope when everything else seems lost.

I would like to publicly thank the administration of Machon Lev/JCT/The Lev Academic Center for all of the support they’ve given me during this journey. A special thank you to JCT president Professor Chaim Sukenik for his personal concern and chizuk, to Rosh Yeshiva Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon for his warmth and religious guidance, to my ra”m Rav Menachem Akerman for his empathy, support and trust, and to JCT dean of the engineering faculty, Professor Shlomo Engelberg, for his invaluable help in getting an Anglo oleh through a system that isn’t overly friendly to chutznikim.

Lastly, I’d like to once again thank Hashem for being with me throughout this journey, for the faith and hope He has given me to allow me to fulfill the difficult decisions I’ve made, and for the tremendous opportunity He has granted me by allowing me to live the dreams of over 2,000 years of Jews.

By Tzvi Silver/JLNJ Israel

Tzvi Silver, a Teaneck native, has been living in Israel since 2011. He recently graduated electrical engineering at JCT-Machon Lev in Jerusalem, works as an investigator for Israel’s Ministry of Justice and serves as JLNJ and JLBWC’s senior Israel correspondent. He will be drafting into the IDF at the end of the year to serve as an academic officer in his field.