Claire Segal, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Council Rock High School South
Machon Maayan 2018-2019
Why did you choose to attend Machon Maayan?
I went to public school, and I wanted a seminary where the students didn’t come from just one type of background: the perfect seminary student who has been religious her whole life and has never known anything besides for a Jewish day school or yeshiva. I knew that Machon Maayan students come from diverse backgrounds, and that Machon Maayan doesn’t want its students to all be the same; Machon Maayan wants each student to come in as her own person and leave as her own person, but more educated, more in tune with with herself, and more connected to Hashem and the Torah. The outlook that Machon Maayan has on growth is one that most other seminaries don’t have. Here, the administration and staff really, truly care for each individual, and they really want us to look forward to class everyday and enjoy what we are learning. With so many options for classes, it’s difficult to find one that you don’t want to take, and I feel that that Machon Maayan has accomplished something spectacular that is very difficult to achieve: Students in the beginning of the semester were struggling to choose which class to take, because they didn’t want to miss another class (or two) that occur at the same time slot. Shouldn’t that be what a year of growth and Torah is all about?
I chose Machon Maayan because I wanted to be somewhere where I could finally learn Torah in a formal setting, which I never got the chance to do. I felt that at Machon Maayan, I would finally be able to do so without falling behind but while still learning. Machon Maayan’s welcome atmosphere and want–need–to make sure that each student reaches her full potential only lured me in more, and I am so, so grateful that I made the decision to come here!
What’s one thing that you learned this week?
This isn’t something that I learned, but more something that I realized. Last week, we talked a lot about Chanuka, since it was Rosh Chodesh Kislev. Every time I pass a bakery, I see sufganiyot, and it made me think about where I’m going to be in year from now: in college in America, hearing Christmas songs play everywhere beginning in October. Right now, it’s mid-November, and all I can think about is how excited I am to see menorahs outside of every house wherever I step foot in this country. Chanuka is the holiday of light, and I think the message gets thrown under the bus in America. Here, in historical Eretz Yisrael, Chanuka signifies the Jews being the light of the world since our beginning. Since our foundation, we have been shining a light onto the world, and that is why our flame has been burning bright for thousands of years. I believe that, in America, Chanuka’s message gets lost amongst presents and Christmas songs. It’s so ironic, because we should be emphasizing and spreading the light, not extinguishing it! Jews tend to forget that we light up the whole world, not just the Middle East, and that includes America, Canada, England, and every single other country. Chanuka is about taking the light of our Judaism and our Torah and spreading it with the world–a mission that we have been lacking. Here in Israel, everyone lights their menorahs outdoors, which only emphasizes this point–to share light with the world. And so, that’s what I’ve learned this week: to spread the light that is within me.
What is your favorite quote?
גם זה יעבור, or “This too shall pass.” This quote is from Shlomo HaMelech, and I feel that it applies to every situation. In times of bad, it helps me realize that the bad won’t last forever. Everything happens for a reason and it reminds me to always try to look at the positive side of every situation. In good times, it reminds me that the good times will pass, too, and to always live in the moment, before it’s gone.
Who is your favorite character in Tanach? Why?
One of my favorite characters in Tanach is Dovid HaMelech. Dovid HaMelech has so much depth: he was an army general, he was a king, he is the author of most of Tehillim, he was a musician, he had a deep love for Hashem, and so much more. The more you look at him, the deeper you get and the more you discover. He was a poet and musician, yet he also led battles and wars. He sinned multiple times, yet he and Hashem were still on an extremely close level. Dovid HaMelech had so many aspects to him, and every time I learn something new, I become more and more awed by him.
My other favorite persona in Tanach is Rochel Imeinu. Rochel’s father was Lavan, and she grew up in a house full of deceit, but she still cared for others. She told Leah the signs that Rochel and Yaakov had created so that her sister would not be embarrassed–she let her sister marry the love of her life simply because Rochel didn’t want Leah to feel embarrassed when Yaakov discovered that she didn’t know the codes. Not only was Rochel sensitive to save Leah from embarrassment, but she also gave up her rightful spot in Maarat HaMachpela, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Rochel gave up her burial spot next to her beloved husband, Yaakov, in Chevron, one of the holiest cities in Eretz Yisrael, to be buried on the side of the road. What?! Rochel prophesied that, in the future, the Jews would be exiled and would have no one to daven by. So she asked Yaakov to be buried on the side of the road, so that, in the future, her children would be able to daven by her kever. Rochel is the essence of one who truly cares for others, and I try to be like her to the best of my ability every day.