As Thursday night winds down and my long week at Orayta is coming to a close, I walk downstairs and claim my regular seat near the front of the table in Rav Binny's office. With my list of questions for Rav Binny in one hand and the serving spoon in the other, I scoop some of the mouthwatering cholent into my bowl and get ready for my favorite moment of the week: Rav Binny's cholent challenge.
The cholent challenge is the culmination of an exhausting five days of yeshiva life in which I am exposed to the wide array of what Orayta offers. Shiurim (classes) taught by Rabbis of diverse backgrounds cover endless topics pertaining to Jewish philosophy, Tefillah (prayer), meaning of Mitzvot and Halacha (Jewish law), and text study. Chaburot (small group study sessions) given by peers allow students to create their own insights into Jewish ideas and share them together. Chevrutot (study partners) with both staff and friends allow for personal relationships that will extend well beyond this year. There is not a second that goes by when I do not marvel at the opportunities I have this year.
This feeling does not cease, even while I finish off my bowl, as I cannot help but view the cholent challenge as a microcosm for my year at Orayta. Cholent is unique because it is an amalgamation of foods that could otherwise stand alone, but whose combination creates a new experience. Similarly, the mixture of everything I encounter shows me what Orayta is all about. Orayta is not just a year of learning. It is opportunity to add tremendous meaning to a Jewish lifestyle, discover identity, venture into the world of Jewish thought, and become a more mature person.
Yoni Cooper is from S outh Orange, NJ and attended Frisch. He will be attending Penn next year.