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Student perspectives

Balance in School, Work, and Spirituality

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 Welcome to our first grad student and UT alumni Shabbat dinner here at Chabad! I would just like to give a shoutout to Rabbi Zev for coming up with this excellent idea, to Ariela for cooking your usual delicious meal, and to all of the other hosts this evening – your help has been essential to the success of the night, so thank you.

For those of you who are new to Shabbat dinners at Chabad, it’s typical for a few students to give a Dvar Torah, or word of Torah, in order to spark our Jewish souls and learn something new that we can’t find in our respective fields of study.

So with that, this week’s parsha is parshat Shmini. Shmini, which stems from the root word for the number eight, shmoneh, marks the eighth inaugural day of the Mishkan, or the portable temple the Jewish people had when they were in the desert before getting to the Land of Israel. The parsha begins with the story of the death of Aaron’s two sons. These two brothers, Nadav and Avihu, entered the holiest part of the Mishkan while drunk and tried to give a fiery incense offering to Hashem, even though they were not commanded to do so. Next thing we know, Hashem consumes them and their fire offering, and they die. What’s concerning about this story is that Nadav and Avihu were very pious people, and they were trying to do something good for Hashem by giving him an offering. So why would Hashem respond by killing them?

Chassidic thought provides a great explanation: As we all know, being drunk can make us very passionate and excited, so these brothers wanted to garner that feeling and put it towards their excitement and love for Hashem. Perhaps Nadav and Avihu got drunk not for the physical effects per se, but rather so they can have a heightened spiritual awareness and sensitivity. However, this desire for spirituality was unbalanced, as they got so close to Hashem in that moment that they didn’t even want to be physically connected; they actually wanted an out-of-body or spiritual connection with Hashem. And while it is indeed appropriate and admirable for a Jewish person to want to have that intense yearning for Hashem, just like Nadav and Avihu, one must be able to refocus spiritual inspiration back into everyday life in order to maintain that balance between the physical and spiritual realms of life.

Now, you may ask, how does this apply to us? Well, I am pretty certain that everyone in this room has at least tried alcohol. We drink not only to feel good, but it can also bring us together and connect us with one another. However, it is important to remember this concept of balance, as everything, even good things, needs to be in moderation. I know that graduate school and jobs can be very challenging and require an immense amount of attention and energy on our parts, but we have to remember to balance our lives by putting our books down sometimes, going out and grabbing a drink, and even being spiritual to focus on Hashem like we are doing tonight at Shabbat. Sometimes it’s hard to find the balance in grad school or professional life, but we should all try to focus on the need to balance so we can maintain each sphere as successfully as possible.

So, with that, I wish everyone success in finding your own balance, perspective, and strength to connect to Hashem, get our work done, and most importantly to come together for Jewish celebrations such as this delicious one.

Shabbat Shalom! 

Carly Sheridan is a first year student in the sociology graduate program and has been involved with Chabad since she started school. She is pictured in the center.

 

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