Religious : : Thoughts from Our Rabbi

Some young people in your family or extended family are leaving or have left home for college. If I could speak to those Jewish young people about their leaving home, I’d share my teacher Rabbi Ed Feinstein’s words: This is the beginning of your life’s great adventure. You’re leaving home, going away to school, beginning your life as an independent person. It’s exhilarating – and terrifying – for both of your parents! So, just in case they forget to say this when they drop you off at the airport or dorm, here to carry with you are several bits of wisdom from our Torah, our source of truth.

In the beginning, God created heaven & earth. The earth was unformed & void. And God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. … & God separated the light from the darkness; it was evening & morning, a first day.

You won’t know that you are really independent until the day arrives — when you run out of clean socks and underwear. In college, clean socks don’t magically materialize in your dresser like they did at home. On that fateful day, you will carry your bulging laundry bag down to the laundry room, together with a box of detergent and quarters or a swipe card. There you will face a great decision: Do I follow mom’s instructions and separate the lights from the darks, or do I throw it all into the washer at onetime? This is not an insignificant dilemma: Do you abide by the wisdom of tradition, or blaze your own trail? No doubt, you will choose your own way… the road less traveled, and all that. You’ll throw it all into the washer. Then for the rest of the semester, you’ll have colored underwear, murky brown T-shirts & pants shrunk a size too small. Listen to the words of Torah: Separate the light from the dark. Sometimes those older than you actually do know something.

God said: “Let there be a firmament in midst of the waters. And let the waters be gathered; that dry land may appear;” It was evening and morning, a second day.

In college, people drink. People drink a lot. It’s hard to find any social moment in college life without drinking. So be careful. I would tell you not to drink at all, ever. But I realize that’s not reasonable. At college, as in the rest of life, you need to develop judgment, discretion and the ability to say, “Enough.” — So notice the way people drink. If they can’t seem to have a good time without alcohol, these aren’t people you want to be with. If friendship, conversation or intimacy depends upon alcohol, or other drugs, go find other friends. You’re better than that. Your soul is more valuable than that.

God said: “Let the earth sprout vegetation” It was evening & morning, a third day.

God created fruits and vegetables. They’re food. Good food. So eat them. Every day. People in college think – Top Ramen, doughnuts and pizza are essential food groups. They think – beer provides a day’s vitamins. That’s no way to live. Eat reasonably, you’ll find it easier to pay attention in class, easier to stay healthy and to feel well. Contrary to the conviction of every adolescent, you’re not invincible. So take care of your body.

B’vrachot, blessings,

Rabbi Dennis