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Student perspectives

Rosh Hashanah 2nd Night

Grace GilbertIf you walk around campus and west campus you see a lot of construction. Buildings are being renovated and soon there will probably be a new Villas. I am no contractor or construction person, but when you begin to build a structure like an apartment complex or a school building, or just a house, you start from the outside structure. Only when the structure is complete do we begin to focus on the interior of the building. But in the Torah, there is a story in Exodus where G-d is instructing us to build the tabernacle and he says to start with the Torah on the inside and work on the outer framework last. The lesson is simple: when building a home, a community, a friendship, we must place the most important things in the centre and build around it - if we build everything else first, there may not be any room left for what we care most about.

This story comes from the parsha Terumah and the root of Terumah translates to “to elevate”. So, lets try as we start the New Year to take the ordinary aspects of our lives and elevate them with more purpose. Lets fill our cups with only the good stuff and remember to focus less on where you physically are sometimes and more on who you are with and what you want those around you to take form your experiences with them.

To a sweet, healthy, fun, and successful new year, shana tova.

Rosh Hashanah

Ali Wolf.pngHi everyone, my name is Ali Wolf and I’m from Miami, Florida. I am so happy and lucky to be here with all of you. The other day my sister sent me this story and I thought it would be very meaningful to share. 

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and shoves you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere. Why did you spill the coffee? "Well because someone bumped into me, of course!" Wrong answer. You spilled the coffee because coffee was in the cup. If tea had been in it, you would have spilled tea. Whatever is inside the cup is what will come out. Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which will happen), whatever is inside of you will come out. So we have to ask ourselves....what's in my cup. When life gets tough, what spills over? Joy, gratefulness, and humility? Or anger, bitterness, harsh words and actions? It’s your choice! 

Keeping that story in mind, Rosh Hashana marks the first day of the new year and is the holiday when G-d begins to judge us all the way through Yom Kippur. It is a time where we must reflect on ourselves and on our behaviors in order to become better people and ask for forgiveness. There are things that we do on this holiday to remind us of our new task, which truly make this holiday so special. For example, we dip apples and our challah in honey to ensure a sweet new year and we have a head of a fish on the table to remind us to be leaders and not followers like the tail. We also have round challahs to symbolize something with no end. We want to live lives and get blessings and make wishes that will never end. Finally, we want to distinguish our last year from the year that's about to begin by trying something new because by trying something new we are acknowledging that we are new people and plan on doing things differently.

Therefore, let's work together towards filling our cups with gratitude, forgiveness, joy, words of affirmation to yourself and others, kindness, gentleness, and love on this incredibly meaningful and special holiday! Shana Tova! 

A Glimpse of JTribe Shabbat Dvar Torah Speech

 Nitzavim:Noah Graff.png

In Nitzavim, God gives the Jewish people a choice between life and death and implores them to choose life so that they may live. Obviously, physical life and death aren't what's being discussed here. He's referring to spiritual, emotional life and death. If the Jewish people choose to follow primal desires, their spirits will die. If they subvert physical wants for a higher path, they will live. We face these choices every day, and they don't solely regard following Torah law. Every time you decide to wake up early and work out before class, you choose life. Every time you hit snooze until you just barely have time to roll out of bed and make it class in your pjs, that's choosing death. In the moment, hitting that snooze button and going back to sleep feels amazing, but not doing that feels more fulfilling in the long term.


Moses tells the Jewish people he is dying and announces that Joshua will succeed him. However, a righteous person never truly dies because their good deeds create ripples and affect the world long after their soul leaves the physical world.

Dvar Torah: Ki Tavo

 Dvar Torah: Ki TavoJustin Fasman
by Justin Fasman

I feel very blessed and fortunate to be speaking in front of everyone tonight at Sammy Shabbat. But to be completely honest, my Dvar Torah is a reflection of the people I’ve surrounded myself with over the past year. So in essence, my words is a combination of learning and thinking of my Jewish identity, being a brother of Sammy, and surviving (and “thriving”) as a student at the University of Texas. Thank you Rabbi Zev and Sammy for letting me speak and
share this night with our awesome new pc and all the actives here tonight.
Last year felt like a long time; I think it was because every experience I had was a new one. College courses reached a new academic intensity that I’d yet to experience, the city I lived in was brand new, and I didn’t really have a sense of identity yet in the new journey I was beginning to embark on. Some may have felt lost in that situation, which is absolutely normal
and okay, but I took at as a learning experience.
This week’s Parshah is Ki Tavo. G-d provided the people of Israel land that represents their eternal heritage. Moses instructed those people, as they entered the land, to settle it, cultivate it, and bring the first-ripened fruits to the Holy Temple. Moses then told the people of Israel to declare their gratitude for all that G-d has done for them. He reminded the people that they are
G-d’s chosen people, and that they, in turn, have chosen G-d.
The people of Israel entered the land without knowledge of their future life. The way I interpret is that although the unknown can be frightening, they had a place that demonstrated their eternal heritage and a place to settle and cultivate the land given to them. This week’s Parshah translates to “When you Enter,” and I find that to be analogous to the way I view my life in Texas.

I entered Texas with an open-mind that all students here should, regardless of where you’re from. UT is a fruitful place, an institution to freely think, debate, learn, and grow. Entering the land that G-d had provided His people was theirs to settle and cultivate. I view UT and Chabad with the same vision. In the classroom, students will grow intellectually. At Chabad, we learn the
importance of coming together, all as individuals, but with the same identity. The two work hand-in- hand, and without Rabbi Zev and his family, that wouldn’t be possible. This place is special, so….
Most importantly, say Thank You and remember to express gratitude to the people that supported you and pushed you along the way. Without them, you would most likely not be sitting here right now—together as a community, and together as Sammy. The world given to us by G-d is ours to keep. I hope that with our education and commitment to help one another, we will stand together to protect our world, Israel, and each other.
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