Posted on June 9, 2013 by Tadea Klein
A little over a year ago, I went out for my first shawarma. I walked past the Kinyon Hadar, and turned into this vaguely sketchy open-wall joint that said “15 Shekel Shawarma” in big neon letters. Bogo, who was accompanying me, showed me what to order. When we were finished eating, he pulled out a small little pamphlet from his wallet and said “you don’t have to wait for me if you don’t want to.” Not really understanding what he was doing, and worried about being late for my next class, I hurried back to Pardes.
The sign now reads “18 Shekel Shawarma,” and I generally order falafel from across the street, since I don’t want to pause for three hours before buying an ice cream. And yes, I now not only know what benching is, I actually asked my parents to wait for me in restaurants so that I can fulfill the mitzvah. Perhaps Bogo, being the kind soul that he is, has forgiven me for my rudeness; I, however, have become that person who glares at the yackers in shul who interrupt the service with their chatter.
This has been a year and a half of firsts. First Shabbat lunch, first shalosh regalim, first leading tfillah, first living on my own, first d’var torah, first study of Chumash / Gemara / Midrash in the original, first experience having anything in common with more than a handful of my peers…
And that’s the thing: while I was learning all those texts, struggling with Hebrew and Aramaic and sleep deprivation, while I was absorbing torah and trying to become an informed, educated Jew, I was also learning about people. I was learning how to act and interact with people my age, how to ask for help when I needed it and recognize the offer of it. To enjoy people’s company outside of the classroom, and to trust that their interest in me was genuine and not temporary—all these little things that we often take for granted, but that were new experiences for me.
Another story: at the end of the year barbeque for the gimmel class, someone mentioned that college seems like it was just a second ago. For me, the opposite is true: in two years I have changed so much, that college seems like half a lifetime ago. I came out of college a child, and now feel like I’ve taken my first steps into adulthood, and benching, Torah, and Pardes all helped that happen.