Who We Are
Noam Bloom

1. When were you at Hadar?

Summer of 2015 (in the Young Leader's Fellowship)

2. Where are you now (physically)?

Snuggling in my comforter, trying to keep warm on my bed in my cold, cold dorm. Locationally, I'm on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, Israel.

3. What are you up to now?

I'm learning at Yeshivat Maale Gilboa, from 7 in the morning to 11 at night. Maale Gilboa is an Israeli Yeshiva, so the majority of the students and classes are Israeli, which means a lot of hebrew and a lot of learning and a lot of work, and not a lot of sleep. But so much Torah!

4. Is there a beautiful piece of Torah from your Hadar days that you keep close to your heart?

I'm always thinking about something Dena talked to us about. She talked about the fact that there's some midrashot in which, at least the way she reads them, Moshe is portrayed as someone who has difficulty learning, or at least was not the best learner. In fact, the Torah itself seems to portray Moshe that way to an extent. I think she said it's this tension the Rabbis have between really caring about intellectualism, and also knowing there's a lot of important Torah that comes from outside the Beit Midrash. The idea that Moshe Rabbeinu, the guy who was supposed to have brought the whole Torah for us, was himself not the best talmid hakham in every sense, is super relieving for me, especially spending a year in Yeshiva. Often here, and all throughout life (-even trying to think of an answer to this question), I often find that I discredit myself, feeling that my torah isn't smart enough, good enough to share, or that I'm not a skilled enough learner. It's quite comforting to be able to say our Greatest Teacher struggled with the same things, and what made his torah great actually was not necessarily its intellectual complexity but its simple and deep insights.

5. If you could describe your experience at Hadar in one word what would it be (feel free to elaborate beyond a single word)

הדר! Splendor!

6. How have Torah and mitzvot changed your life (post Hadar)?

That's a big question. I think the right answer- an answer I'm super lucky to give- is that Torah and mitzvot are actually constantly changing my life in different ways. I am constantly re-thinking the ways in which to prioritize my life around tradition and halakha- (davening, Torah study, kashrut, clothing, shabbos) but also to make a life that is deeply influenced by those mitzvot and that learning (being intentional in my actions and speech, taking time for myself, taking time for others) in ways that I think have deeply made me a better person (although I still have a long way to go). It is those values which have also grounded in me the importance of fighting xenophobia, racism, misogyny, queerphobia, etc. Specifically, I don't know if I really would have considered spending a year in Yeshiva had it not been for Hadar, meeting other like-minded people who have truly been changed by spending a serious amount of time learning about themselves and the world. In yeshiva, we're learning Bava Batra- which is a really dense mesechet whose main subject is walls and property rights, which sounds really boring (and often is) but I am constantly struck by how relevant the questions the perek we're learning bring up- especially in a world which is becoming more and more about walls and property. I find myself often pleased in life to be around Torah: around people that care about becoming better people, doing good for the world, doing mitzvot. I guess the best answer I can give really is: how have they not?

6. How have Torah and mitzvot changed your life (post Hadar)?

I did an ulpan at Hebrew University over the summer to prepare for yeshiva. The davening options around Hebrew U aren't so great and my last shabbos there, I decided to have lots of friends over for dinner, and we had egal davening beforehand. I don't think I'd have had half the confidence to put that together if I hadn't spent a summer at Hadar. I find myself often looking back to that moment, especially now in this all male space, longing for more davening and learning that is more inclusive (especially having talked to friends at sem who say they wish they could be here), but also feeling confident they'll be many more opportunities for creating those kind of spaces in the future thanks to Hadar.