On Seminary Matters
Updated: May 19, 2021
The year after high school is fraught with possibility. One could throw themselves into dating in a hope to shorten the arduous shidduchim process. One could also opt to attend college and further their education and widen the scope of careers from which they have to choose.
However the choice made by the vast majority of girls is to spend the year in Israel cementing the foundation of their Jewish education, potentially earning a Beis Yaakov Teacher's Certificate (a tradition passed down from the founder of Beis Yaakov, Sara Schneier), making new friends and having "chavayas" or crazy experiences.
In the last 30 years seminary has moved from a luxury or something that aspiring kodesh teachers needed to an absolute for each girl.
For many, many girls I believe it is a great experience. They get to feel the ownership of Eretz Yisrael that one can only get from living in a place for an extended time. They make friends who are similar to themselves. And they learn Torah from some of the greats.
However there are many girls who are not cut out for seminary who force themselves to go because they feel it is the thing to do. These are girls who either already have the foundation they'll need in Torah or aren't interested in learning more full time. They may have aversions to the overall third-worldness that is Israel. They may feel that there is not an appropriate place for them, that they will be too homesick to enjoy themselves, or that a dorm filled with 100 girls who aren't allowed to leave sounds like a special layer of hell.
I was one of these girls. For a combination of reasons I decided that seminary would not be a good experience for me. It was actually one of the first times I really listened to my inner voice, which, after I toured my college's small campus, told me that was where I belonged. It was right, not going to seminary was an excellent choice for me and I adored college.
But when I was applying to seminaries, despite the fact that I knew in my soul that I didn't want to go, another voice in my head told me I would not get married unless I went.
I have yet to prove that voice wrong however I do know girls who did not go to seminary and got married. I also know girls who went to top seminaries and bottom seminaries and seminaries that go either way who are not married.
Seminary does not decide your spouse. Hashem does.
However, seminary can make it easier for people to put you into a box. People in boxes match up well with other people in boxes. If you went to a certain seminary it should not define you for life but it does make it easier for someone to understand who you are. I try to explain that I am a Sagittarius Hufflepuff with some Ravenclaw who was Republican until 2016 and now is Twitter liberal except not about Israel and no one gets it.
There's that problem about not going to seminary. Then there's the other problem of that the only surefire thing boys know to ask about is seminary.
Seminary isn't on my resume. If you spent more then 10 seconds looking at my resume you would know that. But still, on nearly every date, guys ask me if I enjoyed Israel.
I like to have a bit of fun on my dates (who? Me??? Yup!) and to this end I have made up a whole contingent of seminaries where I tell people that I have gone and then wait to see how long it takes them to realize that I am joking. I have excellent deadpan delivery and most people don't really listen on dates so it can often be quite a while before they realize. Here are a few of my favorites:
This is my favorite go to because it just rolls off the tongue and sounds like a real seminary. If you went here you have major issues when your younger sibling gets something before you do. You are also that type of girl that when a teacher brings up a sticky issue in tanach-maybe slavery or something-you are going to force the class to listen to some ridiculous diatribe that doesn't make sense for over an hour and your classmates will end up catatonic because no one cares. This seminary is not into mountain climbing, they are far more interested in heading to valleys, caves, and other underground attractions
The admission test for this place is to see how much fruit you can carry. You've probably got Yichus that you talk about way too much if you go here. Your Yichus has also given you a self esteem crisis where you have no confidence and you try to cover it up with swagger. Every single field trip ends in the middle with girls getting scared and begging to go back to the dorms. The dorm has a pet grasshopper named Spike who has been living there for 46 years. Also these girls run the seminary "Gossip Girl/Lady Whistledown" Whatsapp chat that has the hot goss(ip) on everything going down at every seminary. Watch out BJJ, they know secrets that would make your hair curl.
The entire seminary smells like fish. Every girl who goes here has a boyfriend but they all plan on dumping them before Chanukah. They are all really good cooks and they all cook. for each other but no one ever touches the food so the trash cans are always full. When they go to town, they dress like 2007 era Britney Spears
You know that one girl who got an Escalade for her sweet 16 and had an actual DJ at her bas mitzvah? She goes here. She calls her father "Daddy" every single time she speaks to him which is once a day at 10:30 pm EST. Her mom is an alcoholic. When her father visits her for winter break he surprises her by taking her skiing in Aspen. Her mom was going to come on the trip too but she sprained her ankle. This seminary girl is fine though, it's all about Daddy for her. Wears a lot of pink and pig tails.
TimTum HaLev literally means blockage of the soul-it's the reason given in the Torah for why we cannot eat non kosher meat-it causes a blockage in our souls. This seminary is just every girl receives an iPad with an HBO Max account.
There was this empty lot in Yerushalayim where they were trying to build cause #realestate but a normal sized building wouldn't fit so they worked in a triangle shaped building instead. The girls here only eat triangle shaped foods, so, burekas. At the end of the year the group flight is only the seminary and even that strains the weight limit on the plane.
To catch you up if you didn't learn Navi, Yiftach was a Navi who promised in battle that if he won he would sacrifice the first thing that ran from his house to Hashem. He expected a chicken or goat to come running but instead his daughter ran out to see what had happened in the battle. Some sources say the girl had to be killed and others say that she simply remained a virgin her whole life and went into the mountains in isolation and once a year her friends would come and complain about their sheitels and they would all cry over her virginity together.
Bnos Yiftach girls have never spoken to a boy in their lives and they do a lot of hiking. Also, I think I'm in Bnos Yiftach now. I do a bunch of hiking, cry over my virginity, and sometimes hang out with friends who complain about their sheitels in front of me.
I was on a singles shabbaton in the mountains (in New York the mountains are anywhere outside of NYC, so, like, Fort Lee) and one girl decided to hike up a bit to daven to Hashem from above the campground. Naturally I yelled out: HEY THATS THE PLOT OF BNOS YIFTACH and I think she cried which hopefully made her tefilos better.
There are many ways to prepare one's self for marriage and for many seminary is one of them. If your seminary is going to be a Chochmas Meraglim, you'd do better staying home. While you're home for the year you can do some hiking and you may even run into me.
PS My favorite thing in the world is when I tell a boy "I went to Bnos Lot" and he goes "so did my cousin." Active listening, it's not something everyone possesses.