“I love deadlines – I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams
A medical school that one of my students recently interviewed at was particularly impressed that she had started a “Journal Club” with her peers during her “gap year” after college. Most industries have one or more leading peer-reviewed journals that enable readers to learn about the latest research and trends; she had invited some of the authors to present to and interact with her group. As in many other professions, journals, webinars, and conferences are excellent ways to keep current with developments in your chosen field, and often inspire future collaborations and initiatives.
Over two decades ago, as my graduation drew near, I considered my own gap year, realizing that once I started my career, I was very unlikely to have the time I’d had until then available for learning Torah. Even more remote would be the chance to spend an extended period learning full time. I knew that most jobs and careers in the 21st century require continuous learning just to stay abreast of developments, let alone to harness the knowledge and excel in a field. I didn’t want my Jewish knowledge and development to lag behind, and so I chose to spend the money I’d earned from side gigs in college to return to Israel and spend another six to eight months in yeshiva.
And so it was, after a wonderful Elul in Yerushalayim and uplifting Yomim Tovim, I found myself walking to my dinner hosts after maariv and hakafos on Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah. As I passed the shul of the Amshinover Rebbe, I noticed that all the mispalelim still had their arba minim in hand and were doing the hakafos of Hoshana Rabba! While the scene didn’t immediately sit well with my Yekke heritage, I watched for a few minutes, admiring a community that expressed their deveikus to Hashem through connection to the arba minim and Sukkos davening, well beyond the time that most of us had already said goodbye to Sukkos. (Of course, I then had to apologize to my hosts for arriving late!) The scene, still etched in my memory a few decades later, reminds me that when it comes to the teshuvah process – and mitzvos in general – it’s never too late. The Amshinover community embodies the concept that there’s always more time to do what you love.
Perhaps this is my long way of apologizing for scaring a few readers in a column before Rosh Hashana when I emphasized the importance of taking time now to plan ahead to avoid missing important application deadlines for schools, scholarships, internships, etc. I still maintain that this is incredibly important; however, if you’ve already missed one or two deadlines, don’t be despondent. Sometimes other similar opportunities are still available. Or maybe, like myself and many of our students, you’ll decide on deferring a year and use the opportunity to advance your secular or religious pursuits to help better prepare you for your career and enhance your competitiveness.
As we inaugurate our prayers for geshem this week, may we all pursue and receive both gashmiyus and ruchniyus at the time that Hashem deems best for us.