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Student perspectives

An AEPi Shabbat


 I want to interrupt dinner for just a second to speak about the incredible partnership of AEPi and Chabad at Texas. While I don’t want this to turn into a D’var, I think this week’s parshah speaks very well to the relationship of these two great organization that have completely shaped my time here at Texas. As y’all know we just left parshah Yitro and are moving into this week’s parshah of Mishpatim. Both of this readings begin to detail Hashem’s revelations to Israelites via Moses atop Mount Sinai. One question that has always pestered me about this story is ‘Why Mount Sinai?’. What made this place holy enough to be the site of one of the most crucial and impactful moments of the entire Torah. In fact, I learned that Sinai is not even one Mountain but rather a collection of many mountains situation on top of one another. From a distance the Israelites looked up at the Mountain and saw one unified mass but the further up Sinai they went, it became clear to them that this impressive mountain would be nothing if each peak stoop independently.

 In many ways, this embodies the Jewish life here at Texas. Without the many Jewish organizations working together we could not stand unified as the strong Jewish community that we are. Through these incredible partnerships like that of Texas AEPi and Chabad on campus, we would be nothing worthy of the great potential we hold as a full community.

So I’d like to have a L’chaim to one of the 12 Alpha Epsilon Pi International partners, and a long standing ally of Texas Gamma Deuteron, Chabad at Texas.

Asher Intebi is the president of AEPi fraternity.

(Taken from his Shabbos speech.) 



Help send a thank-you to Boba Leah!


 Thank you all for joining last night for what turned out to be an amazing, heartfelt, and poignant evening. We loved hearing the questions from you guys, and hope you learned a great deal, and very much appreciated your participation in this event!

We'd like to send Bobe Leah the picture above as well as y'alls comments and reflections and thanks to her, in appreciation for her sharing her story and message with the UT Austin community.

Please comment below and thank you again for making this evening a success!

For more info on Mrs. Leah Johnson see


ZBT Shabbat

Louis.jpgShabbat shalom everyone. 

My name is Louis Andres and I am the president of ZBT here at UT. It's great to be here tonight representing ZBT and the Jewish Greek community. ZBT has a longstanding relationship with Chabad that we plan to continue and grow year after year.

Judaism as a whole has become a bigger part of ZBT this new year. Over winter break, I worked closely with Elan Koggut to create a ZBT Judaic Council that he is now the chairman of. This council will be planning Shabbat dinners and fun activities throughout the semester to raise Judaic awareness in the fraternity and in the community. This is an exciting step for us and we're all looking forward to seeing where the council goes from here.

It was just three days ago when I was sitting down with the council and we realized how busy of a schedule we had this semester. I said to Ethan Prescott, "We may not have a good Friday to do ZBT Shabbat until April." Ethan immediately called up Rabbi Zev and asked if we could hold our biannual ZBT Shabbat this coming Friday. Zev loved the idea and got the plan into action instantly. 

Thank you Rabbi Zev and your whole family for having us tonight. It's great to see such a big turnout of ZBT guys and friends of the fraternity here. This is a tradition we are sure to keep strong and prosperous. We can't wait to do many more Judaic events like this throughout the year. I hope everyone has a great dinner and a great evening. 

Shabbat shalom.

Louis Andres is the president of ZBT fraternity at UT.

(Printed from Shabbat speech). 

The fourth complaint

Efrat.jpgWhen I was told I was to give the Dvar Torah with week, I immediately went to look at this week’s Parsha - Beshalach. But, it turns out, there are A LOT of things that happen in this week’s Parsha. It’s packed! So I’ve settled and have selected a few pieces to highlight in hopes of sharing some interesting knowledge and, as many Dvar Torahs do, leaving you with some sort of useful lesson.

As I mentioned, quite a lot happened in this week’s Parsha. In summary, this is the Parsha in which:

- Pharoah lets the Israelites people go

- Pharoah changes his mind

- The Israelites get stuck between the Egyptians and the Red Sea,

- The Red Seat splits! Dancing and singing ensue!

- God sweetens the water at Marah

- Moshe strikes the rock, which then produces water

- Manna falls from the heavens

- The tribe of Amalek attacks, but is ultimately defeated


Basically: Freedom from Egypt, miracle food and water in the desert, defeat of Amalek in battle.

So let’s go back. The Israelites had a goal when they left Egypt. They had a game plan, a mission: To go be free and to go serve God. We see this when Moshe, God’s sidekick, says to Pharoah: “Let my people go, that they may serve me”. (“Me” in this case refers to God). Sure enough, when the Israelites go forth from Egypt, they find themselves at a new beginning, with the new mission of follow in the ways of God.

It turns out to be easier said than done. I mentioned, there was A LOT that happened in this Parsha. That includes a lot of complaining. Seriously. The Israelites have a pattern of complaining in this Parsha. Their shining moments are:

1) At Red Sea, when Pharoah’s army comes after them. The Israelites ask “What is this that you have done to us to take us out of Egypt?” (14:11) Moshe, as any good sidekick would, encourages them not to be afraid and ensures that God will come and save the day. (He does).

2) They come to a place, which they call Marah because it means  “bitter”; the water there is bitter and undrinkable. There are complaints. Hashem instructs Moshe to throw a piece of wood into the water, and voila! Sweet water! This episode ends and leaves the Israelites with the message: If you listen to the commandments and statues given by Hashem, he will not harm them the way he did the Egyptians, and he will “heal” you (15:26). This message isn’t really new information, but rather a reminder to the Israelite’s of the game plan they had when they’d left Egypt.

3) In the desert, the Israelites get hungry. “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat, when we ate bread to our fill!” (16:3) God responds by sending Manna from heaven.

4). They arrive to a place called Rephidim. They say, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to make me and my children and my livestock die of thirst?” (17:3) Moshe hits rock, and water comes forth from it.

Now, if you take a look at all these complaints, you might start to realize that the reasoning behind the complaints are perfectly understandable. If you found yourself in the desert and began to get hungry or thirsty, then you might complain too! Especially if you don’t know from where or when your next piece of bread or water will come.

Alright. But what is interesting is the fourth (the last) complaint. It came with another line: “Is God in our midsts or not? (17:7) The very next sentence is “Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim.” (17:8)

“Is God in our midsts or not?” is more than a complaint for food and water. It is doubt … in God! It seems a little crazy that after all the miracles that the Israelites have seen God perform until this moment that they come to question his existence among them! Even after they left Egypt with the devout mission to serve and follow God, they now question his existence!

The Midrash Rabba suggests that the Amalek attack in the next sentence is not a coincidence. The MR indicates that the arrival of Amalek was a bit of “chastisement” for Israel, and in this case, it is in response to their doubt.

Gematriah is a system that assigns a number to every Hebrew letter, and it is used to uncover deeper meanings from the Torah text. Using Gematriah, adding together the letters in Hebrew work for “doubt” – safek – equals 160. If you add together the numbers that make up the work Amalek, you will also get 160. Interesting, right? This further suggests that there is a connection between the kind of doubt that Israelites experienced, and the Amalek attack noted in the very next verse. As we know, the Israelites end up defeating the Amalekites in this battle.

There is something else happening this week: Tu-beshvat! This holiday is dubbed “The New Year of the Trees”, even though it’s still technically wintertime. It’s at this time that the earliest-blooming trees in Israel begin their cycle.  Despite the cooler, the windier, rainier weather that winter brings, these trees and plants fight through and end up producing flowers –  being productive - ,  they end up fruitful, they end up successful.

There is one other “beginning” happening right now. We are at the beginning of the semester, here at UT. I’d venture to say that many of us have set goals for ourselves this semester. For me, I have goals related to fitness and time management. For some of us, the goal we have is getting to class on time. For other, it may be to do the class’s reading before class. Whatever it is, there’s something we are excited about and are eager to accomplish.

And then we hit a wall. It could be some months later … a few weeks later … two days later.  We find ourselves with an obstacle to that goal we had so determinedly set. We want to give in to the desire to quite, give into the doubt, and even readily question the goal itself.

So I leave you with this:  Remember that there was a reason that you set out to do whatever it was you set out to do! Keep that in mind! Find your Moshe, your sidekick and support system, and remember why you set your goal in the first place. And, in the end, may you find yourself meeting that goal and accomplishing your mission. May you find yourself productive, fruitful and successful ☺

Shabbat Shalom!

Efrat Birenbaum is a graduate student at UT. 

(Printed from her Shabbat speech).

Guest blog: Speaking out about breast cancer


 It was an honor and a privilege to be invited by Rabbi Zev to speak at Chabad @ UT’s Pink Shabbat this past Friday night. I was asked to share my story about what my journey has been like throughout my diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. This was my first occasion to speak publicly about this subject and I was unsure of how the students would respond. Many college age students have been very blessed and have not had to face adversity of this magnitude before.

I could never have anticipated what a heartwarming, lovely evening it would be. Ariela did a fabulous job, seamlessly putting together a seated dinner for over 200 people. Students continued to pile in throughout the evening and additional tables were quickly and efficiently brought in and set up to accommodate the overflow. The food was abundant and delicious and the room was filled with a beautiful community of students, friends and family.

As I stood in the corner of the room, attempting to be visible to all, I looked around at the all of the guests sitting at the surrounding tables, piled on couches, and even sitting on the floor and I was amazed at how many people had come to listen to me speak. As I told my story, they were silent and engaged. I felt at ease as I shared my experiences, fears and challenges, relaying the need to look positively toward the future and the importance of always striving to be the best that you can be.

Upon finishing, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with some of the students. I met some who had family members recently diagnosed and others who knew of or were related to survivors, as well as those who had lost their battle with this dreaded disease. Through our conversations, it was clear that my message had been received and was much appreciated. I was overwhelmed with their genuine interest, empathy and gratitude. Pink Shabbat was one of my most memorable and meaningful experiences of this winding, seven month long journey.

Amy Mosier is a mother of two current UT students. 

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