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The Truth About "Truth School": From a Newcomer
By Dani Abrams - EYAHT alumna

A few months ago, I arrived in Israel to study at EYAHT, the Aish HaTorah College of Jewish Studies for women, founded and headed by Rebbezin Denah Weinberg.

The term “seminary” is a little cumbersome, so in my head I have replaced it with the phrase “Truth School” because it is here that we learn the truth about life, love and everything else.

Yes, now I am singing the praises of this special place, although it took me two years to finally get here. My reasons for stalling were based on the following premises, which I now see are nothing more than myths.

MYTH 1: PREPARE TO BE BRAINWASHED

Hey, what´s this microchip doing in my arm?

Just kidding. Contrary to popular belief, it is, in fact, the outside world that specializes in brainwashing. Our immersion in secularity is responsible for many of the warped worldviews we accept as givens, yet which are based on utter falsehood.

Take, for example, the emphasis placed on external qualities. Billboards, women´s magazines and cruel change-room mirrors incessantly inform us with perfectly made-up lips: beauty is everything.

Our religion tells us otherwise. There is a famous line in the song “Aishes Chayil” (An Accomplished Woman), a tribute to the Jewish woman, which reads, “Sheker hachein vehevel hayofi”—“Grace is false and beauty is nothingness.” What? You mean my worth is not inversely proportional to the amount of wrinkles on my face?

The song continues by explaining which quality is worthwhile: “Isha yiras Hashem hi tis-hala”—“A woman who is G-d-conscious is to be praised.” (Incidentally, the name EYAHT is an acronym of this verse.) What this means is that a truly beautiful woman is one who is fulfilling her God-given task in this world, which is doing good deeds.

So, maybe it´s not Kirsten Dunst who should be our Cosmo cover star. Rather, the woman we should stare at in admiration should be the old lady down the road who secretly feeds 10 beggars every night. I can just see the cover story: “Ladies, in the summer, the focus was on arms. This season, the focus shifts to neshamas. Here are 10 tips for superb mitzvah performance that will really please your man!”

Yes, this sounds ludicrous. But that´s just because the words are being processed by our scrub-till-there´s-nothing-left brains.

The worshipping of the external is just one of many examples of how topsy-turvy our thinking has become. Truth School strives to replace the scrambled messages we´ve been ingesting our whole lives with healthy thought processes that will help us decipher what´s actually going on in life.

But this new way of thinking is not force-fed to us here. Independent thought and intense soul-searching are the order of the day. In a recent meeting with Rebbezin Weinberg, I asked if there was anything the Rebbezin thought I needed to hear that would aid my growth. Her reply: “Ask more questions!”

MYTH 2: SEM IS NOT FOR NORMAL PEOPLE LIKE ME

I was warned before I came here: “EYAHT is a serious place for serious girls.” A picture began forming in my mind: The atmosphere here would be similar to that in the monastery in “The Sound of Music.” I saw myself as a Jewish Maria, escaping the confines of my oppressive environment by running (in a modest way, of course) over
the hills of Jerusalem, singing loudly (in my head, obviously).

Upon arrival, I discovered that yes, the girls here are serious—serious about being amazing, that is. Everyone here is striving to be the best Jewish woman she can be. This is a challenging task, especially for girls who are returning to this path after a lifetime´s exile in the secular world. I was heartened to find that the conflicts plaguing some of the girls here are comfortingly similar to mine. I mean, I love learning about “Rachel and Yaacov,” but is it okay that I still care about “Rachel and Ross”? It is liberating to be able to share such concerns with like-minded, nonjudgmental people.

The girls I have met here are intelligent, spunky, kind, courageous and
deep-thinking. So yes, perhaps “normal” is not an appropriate word to describe them. “Extraordinary” fits better, I think.

MYTH 3: I DON´T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!

This myth is the main reason it took me two years to get here. I always wanted to come, really I did, but how could I just up and leave my family/friends/job/flat/car, etc.? How irresponsible that would be.

But coming here is not dropping out of life, as some may think. Rather, it is confronting life and its mysteries head-on. Where else can one spend extended quality time figuring out things like: what kind of person should I marry, how can I best use my talents to improve the world, and how is it that “Elite” Israeli-brand chocolate is so, so good?

Hopefully, most of us will live many more years. So a few months in Israel is a comparatively small portion of time when you consider that it is one of the best investments you can make in the rest of this life—and the next.

And when you return home, your family and friends will still be there, and you can find a new flat and car. And as for the job—perhaps you´ll find that your career aspirations have changed and you are now looking for a position as a rabbi or rebbetzin!