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Student perspectives

Behar-Bechukotai

eli.PNGThis week’s parashah is Behar-Bechukotai and, to sum it up, G-d is explaining to Moses the laws of the sabbatical year – every seventh year all work on the land should stop and the produce becomes free for the taking for man and beast, and every fiftieth year all work on the land stops, indentured servants are free… and more rules. G-d promises prosperity if you follow his rules, and exile if you don’t. But, although you will be exiled, he explains that he will not cast you away, destroy you, or break his covenant with you if you don’t follow his rules.

Similar to Shabbat, these rules remind us to take a breath and evaluate what we have. Those that have land and are working hard for 6 years can lose sight of how lucky they are. When the 7th year comes, it is almost like a breath of fresh air. You can look back to recognize and appreciate what you have. Paralleling Shabbat where you can look back on the last 6 days, this is a time where you can look back on the last 6 years and take a second, or a year, to think back. Whether it’s learning from your mistakes, remembering good times, or taking the time to spend with people you love, G-d reminds us to give ourselves this time to reflect. Although it’s cliché, graduation is also a time of reflection. As we are all sad about leaving this incredible city and the Chabad that we all love, it can also be a time of appreciation. In the last 4 years we’ve done a lot of work and this summer, hopefully, we’ll be able to stop for a few months before beginning our jobs. And if you’re starting right away after college, I hope you don’t get exiled. Although it might not be the exact sabbatical year, it can be considered a more modern sabbatical summer. But either way, it is a time of reflection of the last four years to recognize how lucky we have been to have attended such an amazing university, find such great friends, and create incredible memories.

 For more information on this Torah portion click here and here.

Emor

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Nine years ago today I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah.  The day a middle schooler somehow becomes a woman in the Jewish world. We accept the obligations and are expected to fast, light candles, accept the commandments, and respect Jewish law and ethics. But after the celebration, the rest of life went on. I returned to middle school Monday morning, begged my parents to add more minutes on my razor phone, figured out who’s dress I could borrow for the Bar-Mitzvah the next weekend, and went bike riding with my friends. Well here I am 9 years later, and with graduation in two weeks I’m starting to associate with the term “woman” a little bit more. As a woman, I’m responsible for my actions, the way I treat my peers, and have grown the strength to speak up for myself. Thanks to UT, I’ve made friends from places I did not know existed and through this I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that what makes us different is our best quality, it is not something that should isolate us. And finally, I’ve gained the confidence to speak for myself and to be proud of my opinions and my own voice. The Hebrew word Emor means speak. In this week’s Torah portion Emor, we learn about the rules and high standards of the Kohanim.

Kohanim are prohibited from coming in contact with a human corpse, marrying divorced women, sacrificing child and mother animals on the same day, and many other things. Emor ends with the punishments for all of the rules. They are all encompassed by an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Don’t do to someone what you would not want done to you. 

Yesterday was Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day between Passover and Shavuot. This is the one day of the Omer that Jewish law permits weddings, bonfires, and getting haircuts, a day of light in a period of mourning. The Omer is a time of mourning for Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students who were killed for not treating each other respectfully. The students spoke poorly about each other and were competing to be the best, most respected student in the class, and this is why they all died.  This time of mourning is a reminder to treat each other kindly and how we would like to be treated. As we remember these students this month, we take time to learn about our peers and learn from them. Rabbi Akiva continued to live by the saying “All that God does, He does for the good”. Throughout the tragedy that has struck the Jewish population, we continue to grow, come together, learn, and have faith in God. This perseverance is what I love so much about being Jewish.

We can learn and grow from these 24,000 students who lost their lives, and use it as a reminder for our every day actions. Rabbi Zev and Ariella, thank you for welcoming us into your home for such a lovely dinner not only tonight, but every Shabbat. I had not been to Chabad since freshman year, joined Sinai Scholars this semester, and I am leading Birthright with Zev. You welcomed me into your home with open arms, regardless of where I had been in the past. You have faith in every student you meet, and I admire your willingness to teach us all like Rabbi Akiva did with his students. I wish I had taken advantage of the matzah ball soup, endless challah, and amazing hospitality earlier, but I’m so happy I discovered it now and brought some new friends with me. I have loved getting to know you both and your children and can’t wait to lead Birthright with you Rabbi Zev. I am so grateful that this trip has given me so much more than a trip to Israel, but new friends, experiences, and hopefully a great tan. I am so excited to grow as a leader and show my friends what I love so much about Israel and being Jewish. Good luck everybody on finals and Shabbat Shalom!

 To learn more about this past weeks Torah portion click here.

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