By Galit Wernick, Nishmat Shana Ba'aretz
Three years ago, I was a person whose goals in life were material.
I wanted to go to a great college and then to a great law school.
I dreamt of becoming a criminal defense attorney so that, first and foremost, I could make a lot of money.
I believed that a family would just come along by itself.
When I arrived at the Masa Israel-accredited Nishmat, a women’s center for Torah study in Israel, right after graduating high school, I was so focused on achieving these goals that I was sure the experience in Israel wouldn’t change me.
But looking back on that time, I see that Nishmat was, in fact, the cocoon that caused me to transform from a caterpillar into a butterfly.
Somehow during the year, my goals completely changed—and my identity along them.
I continued to care about college and a career, but while studying Talmud and other Jewish texts each day, the focus of my life shifted to include new goals.
I wanted to build and sustain a family, and I wanted to study all forty tractates of the Talmud.
While in Israel, I began to see the value of relationships and how important they were to me. I felt as though I had finally begun to see clearly for the first time, and that for once, I was internalizing the Jewish learning I’d spent my life doing.
These changes took place gradually, but it was during one evening while I sat on the Nishmat roof when I felt everything that I had once been sure of slip away from me.
While I had previously denied the divinity of the Torah, I suddenly felt compelled to question my conclusions.
I felt forced to consider the bigger picture, and ever since that night, my mind has kept on going.
It’s as though my thoughts that night gave me the energy to start climbing the mountain of knowledge.
To this day, three years later, I have not stopped climbing. When I think back on that night, I have no idea what caused the change in my thoughts, other than that it truly felt right.
Perhaps my transformation was a result of being in Israel, or just an inevitable part of me growing up and maturing.
Whatever it was, that powerful night on the roof of Nishmat remains etched in my mind.