Rivka Herzfeld

The Job That Is and In Torah

I know it’s going to be a shock to read this, given who I am now… But I was not always good at learning. Or at least I was led to believe that I wasn’t.

You see, I was that girl at The Moriah School who had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. I was the girl who took her Torah seriously. My pasuk (verse) in our yearbook should have been ״מה אהבתי תורתך, כל היום היא שיחתי״ (Oh, how love I Your law! It is my meditation all the day.) (It wasn’t.)

All of my teachers who had signed my yearbook had written something along the lines of being proud of me for how diligent a Torah student I am.

Unfortunately, my wanting to have been in the honors class in high school quashed my love a little bit. I wasn’t doing well on tests. I was somehow failing at Torah.

So Torah and I had a little bit of a broken relationship.

Because feeling that I was failing at Torah made me feel that Torah was failing me. The dependable friend that I had had forever was somehow letting me down.

Teachers talked down to me. That led to my believing that they thought I was stupid… And so I started to believe I was stupid.

When I told an Israel guidance counselor that I wanted a full-time learning program, she was shocked.

That was highly insulting.

She suggested that I apply to schools other than my dream school, Midreshet Moriah.

For my essay application to Midreshet, they asked the following question as a prompt: Name a person in Tanach to whom you feel connected, and why. I wrote about Iyov (Job).

I have never learned it before… So I learned it. The whole sefer on my own. It was the first time I had done that.

I made comparisons to myself and him; how he is tested in the loss of his cattle, his children, his home, his bodily health. And then I wrote about how I was slowly, losing my ability to walk. And how it was really hard for me. Iyov (Job) has some pretty awful friends… and how some friends had abandoned me… And I thought it was because of my disability. But, that like Iyov (Job), I do not lose faith in HaShem (God), and how I believed that, just as Iyov’s (Job’s) family, health, and possessions were given back to him, mine will be given back to me.

I had ended my essay on a hopeful note, still thinking that I could stave off whatever this mysterious condition was.

While at Midreshet Moriah, I repaired my relationship with Torah.

I took a class in every slot.

When there was a class that I did not want to take, I used it as a Beit Midrash (study hall) period.

Midreshet Moriah requires each student to have 40 hours of learning in her week… Because it’s your job during that year. Each semester I had at least 42 hours per week.

So when it was offered to me to give a shiur for tikkun leil Shavuot (the all night learning marathon), I jumped at the chance.

And this was the session I gave.

Because I have been learning Gemara (Talmud) since sixth grade… But not everybody thinks that it is OK for women to learn at a high-level.

I do daf yomi (a daily page of Talmud learning).

Some people don’t like that.

Some people tell me that men will be intimidated from dating me.

I like learning Jewish texts at a high-level.

I’m the person who asks questions during a shiur at shul.

I don’t get to teach… That is a post for a different time. But this is the first time that I taught. This was the first thing that I taught. And I live this every day.

לֹא יָמוּשׁ סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֶּה מִפִּיךָ וְהָגִיתָ בּוֹ יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה לְמַעַן תִּשְׁמֹר לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּכָל הַכָּתוּב בּוֹ כִּי אָז תַּצְלִיחַ אֶת דְּרָכֶךָ וְאָז תַּשְׂכִּיל.

This book of the law [Torah] shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then you shall make your ways prosperous, and then you will have good success.

I hope I always will.

About the Author
Rivka Herzfeld earned an M.A. in Tanach from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Judaic Studies. She enjoys teaching Tanach to all ages and backgrounds. Rivka is also a respected disability awareness educator. She is personable, easygoing, has a terrific sense of humor, and loves sharing puns. She is passionate about politics, human rights, and “liberty and justice for all.” Rivka is determined to make her voice count.
Related Topics
Related Posts