Sunday, October 13, 2013

On Being a Kollel Wife

Since I last posted, I've become a kollel wife.

I'm a married woman who learns full-time in a beit midrash.

I suppose that's not the first image that pops into your mind when you hear "kollel wife." But isn't that the idea behind a punch line? Perhaps it's more appropriate to refer to my husband as a "kollel husband," but I don't think that's as funny.

I never thought I would learn Judaism formally, much less full-time. I hope that'll translate into more blogging here too. I'm certainly full of ideas! But the time to write them...? 

I'm thankful for the opportunity, and it's been a welcome distraction from the less happy side of life. I've spent more time out of state the last few months than not because my mother was diagnosed with a new round of cancer. And this time, she's not going to beat it. (You can daven for the comfort and peace of Judy bat Edith if you'd like to.) It's been a rough few months, as you can imagine.

But learning? That's amazing. But it's also frustrating and tiring, even before considering that I commute four hours a day for the privilege. My brain hurts from reading the tiny script of the old Jastrow dictionary, the grammar, trying to understand the arguments when half the information isn't present, Hebrew without vowels when I can barely read with vowels, and...dun dun DUN...even some Aramaic. Yet the teachers say we'll be learning Gemara by January. That sounds unbelievable for the level I'm at now. But...women learning Gemara? Scandalous, I know. I can't wait. 

Being able to understand Jewish texts in the original language is a necessity in our topsy-turvy orthodox world today. I have been filled with so much misinformation, misunderstandings, and unnecessary chumrot that this learning is like the key to my derech, without having to rely on the second-hand information of halacha books and internet and crazy or misinformed people. That's a powerful skill, one that could change my life.

When the rest of life is so complicated, it's a relief to immerse myself in something so nerd-friendly. It connects to who I am, beyond all the trappings of the world. Being free to think and learn, removed from the pressure of grades, is an incredible freedom.