When I made my decision to study at the Conservative Yeshiva, I knew that by doing so I would receive a unique opportunity to learn from the unique people that fill the yeshiva. The Yeshiva, of course, is a very personable environment, and the students and teachers are not just intellectuals but rather intellectuals with a spiritual agenda. What this does is allow for learning from individuals around you who do avodah she-balev, service to God from the heart, and a forum for other students and teachers to inspire you yourself.
Unfortunately, David wasn't feeling well this morning and he peaced out a little early from class. So I paired up with a Ziegler rabbinical student, Elan, and we worked our way through the Rishonim (from Rashi up to before the Shulchan Aruch commentators), specifically the Rif, Ba'al Ha-me'or, and Ravad. Not easy stuff but we did a fine job working on it. After we finished going through the material, though, we had a nice conversation - about life. He gave me some great encouragement, based on what I have accomplished in terms of Jewish education and knowledge at this age, and to enjoy college and this world, and then of course spend the rest of my life doing the Jewish thing. He shared some experience, and the chizuk is always appreciated - it's always great to get encouragement to keep pursuing my ambition.
The other inspiring conversation from today came from Reb Shmuel's weekly sicha. He sort of picked up from last week, in which he talked about hirhur ha-lev - the thoughts that fill our hearts - and the consequence of us placing ourselves at the center of the world. This week, he went through many parts of the viduy (confession) and dissected them, explaining their relation to the issue of not seeing the un-self. He concluded by saying that while it takes years and years and much difficulty to take on these traits head-on, cleaning up our act starts with cleaning up our thoughts.
My question was: this is obviously difficult if we forget about viduy after Yom Kippur - how does that play out with the fact that the Conservative movement has removed viduy from the tachanun part of the service? His response essentially was that some viduy is necessary on a regular basis, but that which we have in the siddur would become rote and possibly meaningless on Yom Kippur if we said viduy on a regular basis. It leaves me to ponder how to work on t'shuva regularly throughout the year.