My first thorough exposure to in-depth Torah learning occurred when I was around 18 years old, attending a seminary in Israel. I was excited about gaining a deep understanding of Chassidic thought and embracing the implications of that knowledge. It was indeed an eye-opening experience that exposed me to an enticing world of ideas that had been previously unknown to me. At the same time, I noticed an implicit understanding amongst the students that we would remain passive recipients of our teachers’ knowledge, rather than active participants in the learning process. As young women, we felt that by studying Torah in depth, we were invading a foreign territory, and as a consequence, we should be content to lurk around the edges, silently observing, without conspicuously breaching the invisible borders.
Fast-forward a couple of years and I found echoes of this experience while sitting at a Shabbos meal with a friend’s family. My friend’s father and brothers were animately discussing a concept connected to the parsha among themselves and my curiosity was piqued. I turned to my friend and asked her to fill me in on the beginning of the conversation. She paused for a moment and said that she never really follows their conversations because they tend to use jargon she doesn’t understand. As I listened more closely, I realized that they were debating a philosophical point about which I had recently done some reading. I briefly entertained the possibility