In Austin we met a driven student whose goal was to launch a successful startup and become an angel investor. He was inquisitive, with a solid base and appetite for Judaism. We spent a lot of time with him, learning together, taking part in the Seder and just schmoozing. He was with us every step of the way, smiling, asking questions, sharing insight and actively participating. A few days after Passover we got together just to talk.

I wanted to know more about him, and he was happy to share. He is of Iranian ancestry. His mother was tenth in her family and the only child to be born in Israel. He grew up in Texas in a traditional home. As a child he went to Chabad Hebrew schools and was friends with the children of the Chabad emissaries there.

I wanted to know more about him

I turned to the conversation to his future. "You’re a junior; do you have plans for after you graduate?"

"Well, I have always wanted to start my own business. I have an idea for a startup, and friend who lives in California. This summer I plan to go there and lay the groundwork, meet people, etc. I want to buy my ticket next week actually."

"Interesting," I replied.

"Yeah, you mentioned some entrepreneurial ideas you had. What did you study in school?"

"Environmental studies with a concentration in ecological economics with a double minor in philosophy and studio art."


"Yes, broad liberal arts," I said with a smile. "I spent many years working in Israel advocacy, soft diplomacy through service learning trips, designing and teaching immersive experiences in Israel, working with Jewish college students, and running my summer camp. I had plans for land-based enterprises and to grow my camp into a school focused on Judaism and experiential education through agricultural enterprises. But to be honest with you, my future really started to click once I pushed myself to go to Yeshiva.”

"Really,” he said, “I have always wanted to go. Just for two years though..."

"What!? Just for two years? Listen go for a week, a month or a summer program. Take the time now, before you start a business. Believe me it’s hard to pull away from a business after you start. Thank G‑d I was able to pull away this year and G‑d willing I will be able to for another year.

"I hear that, but..."

"But what? Is there something that is holding you back?"

"I'm just afraid I'll like it."

"I'm not following,” I said “I have heard people say that about many other things, but not learning Torah!"

"I just have a feeling I will be pulled in for a while."

"AndI'm just afraid I'll like it what’s wrong with that, if that is really what your soul needs? Listen, I would not be telling you a thing, let alone advocating for you to go, unless I knew it would be a positive experience. It will help focus you, sharpen your mind, and give you a foundation for the rest of your life. Plus, being a student in yeshiva is like being in the Garden of Eden. Everything you need is there."

"That makes sense."

"Listen, honestly, before I went myself, I had similar feeling. But once I settled in and got into the swing of things, I couldn’t believe I’d waited so long."

"How old are you?"

"Thirty,” I said. “Trust me, use the time you have now. Whatever you want to do in life will be enriched with the time you spent in yeshiva.”

”I'm going to have to think about it," he said.

"For sure. Perhaps we can set up a fixed time to learn together weekly?”

"That would be awesome. Like, on Skype?"

"Sure. Skype, FaceTime, whatever works . . . as long as it’s steady."

"Ok, cool."

We prepared to learn, but there was one more thing to do.

“By the way,” I asked, “Have you put on tefilin today?

"No, that’s a good idea."

After he put on tefilin we took out the HaYom Yom and learned the day’s portion. I shared a relevant story about keeping the mind focused during prayer. It all seemed to tie in, our conversation, the topics we had discussed, the weekly Torah portion and now this entry in HaYom Yom.

“It’s interesting how we can flow from one thing to another and still have the same thread," he said with a broad smile.

"Yeah, Judaism is awesome."