The High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot) are over. Now for us in Israel and at MJTI, we are beginning the 2019-20 school year. This is a busy time of year for me as the Academic Dean of MJTI, but it is also a bittersweet time as I think back to my years of study. As I have mentioned before, I love to study, especially in a classroom environment. I find that the interactions between the material, the instructor, and the students challenge me and make me think beyond my normal boundaries. This was especially true for me in the asynchronous class discussions (blogs) in my MJTI classes. Because the classes were online, the class discussion happened throughout week. Being in Israel, I was 7 to 10 hours ahead of most of my classmates. I would answer the questions in the morning, then later in the day or the next morning others in the class would answer the question and comment on my answer. In turn, I would comment on their answers or comments. Thus the discussion continued through the week. I greatly enjoyed this type of interaction because it gave me time to think about what I had read, the lecture, and the other student’s answers before I had to reply. This in turn helped me internalize the material and make it my own instead of just something I had to learn.
I miss taking classes, especially at MJTI. However, now I’m blessed to be able to teach classes, and I still get to enjoy the class discussions! These discussion threads provide the opportunities for my students to express themselves, explain what they are learning, and show how they are processing the material. Even as a teacher, I grow and learn more about God through their insights into Scripture, theology, relationships with God and others, and especially how it all applies to our lives. My students ask questions that I would never think to ask because each one has different experiences than me. I may not come up with the same answer as they do, but they challenge me to see God and His Word from a different perspective. In essence, these interactions broaden my understanding of who God is and the greatness of His work.
When I think of my experiences at MJTI as a student and as an instructor, even though I am a little wistful for the past, I get incredibly excited! I wish for nothing more than to communicate this passion with others in a way that’s contagious. MJTI has so much to offer—not only in the classes that we teach, but also in the way they are taught, the investment of our instructors, and the care that our students and faculty show each other. I cherish my days at MJTI, past and present. They are a meaningful highlight of my life. I pray that you too can have special days growing and learning as I have, and that if God wills it, you may have some of those days at MJTI.
This post was written by MJTI Academic Dean Rabbi Dr. Vered Hillel.