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Student perspectives

Giving Tzedakah

In this week’s parsha, Vayakhel, which means “And he assembled," Moshe gathers the People of Israel to tell them about working on 6 days and resting on Shabbat. He also tells them of G-d’s commandment to build the Mishkan, and goes into great detail regarding the types of materials required, which include gold, silver, fabrics like wool, linen and skins, wood, oil, spices, and precious stones. Right away, the people went to bring the materials needed to build the Mishkan. In fact, they brought so much that Moshe had to tell them to stop because they had a surpluss of materials.

One lesson we learn in this parsha is the idea of contributing to a society in which everyone plays a role. It is a mitzvah to give tzedakah, and the word mitzvah often gets misinterpreted as a “good deed” when it is really a commandment. In fact, the word “tzedakah” comes from the word “tzedek”, which means righteous. From this, we learn that giving tzedakah is the right thing to do, not just a good thing to do. Giving tzedakah is an obligation to the Jewish people, and this parsha demonstrates the necessity of everyone participating and giving what they can for a greater purpose.

By doing mitzvot, we are acting as partners of G-d in His creation, and we are fulfilling our obligation as His people to help. Further, nothing in this world truly “belongs” to us; just as we sometimes say “my school” or “my house” when it doesn’t officially or permanently belong to us, this world is not our world, but in the present, it seems as if it is. We live temporarily in this physical world, and G-d is trusting us to take care of everything; therefore, we must do our part to take care of others. So that being said, my hope is that the idea of giving tzedakah becomes one in which all Jewish people see as a beautiful thing to do, but also as an obligation for each and every one of us.

Marissa Finkelman is pictured below.

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Tu B'Shvat and a New Semester - a Fresh Beginning

About 50 students joined together on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center to celebrate Tu B’Shvat with a Fondue Social. The hour-long event allowed students who had gone home for the break to reconnect with friends over chocolate fondue and a make-your-own smoothie station. In the welcoming atmosphere of the Chabad House, students also had the chance to mingle with Rabbi Zev and Ariela Johnson, and play with their adorable five children.

Freshman Sheera Krengel said she was happy to be back in the liveliness and warmth of the Chabad House.

“After a great winter break at home, it is such a nice feeling to have Chabad to return to,” Krengel said. “There is no better place to fill that familial comfort of home than with Rabbi Zev and his family and my friends at the Chabad House.”

While people discussed their breaks and their plans for the new semester, Rabbi Zev led a discussion about the origins of Tu B’shvat as the New Year for the Trees. The holiday’s theme as a fresh start could not  have been more fitting for those who returned to Austin for a semester filled with new courses, professors, friends and experiences ahead of them.

Rachel Goodman, right, poses for a picture at the Chocolate Fondue Tu B'Shvat Social on Jan. 15. Sheera Krengel is on the left.

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