Becoming Inspired at YU

By: Daniella Weiss  |  September 19, 2022

By Daniella Weiss 

We are about to start a new year of life with Rosh Hashana and a new school year at YU.  It is therefore time for each one of us to make the changes we haven’t made until this point! We can all work towards growing in our Judaism and relationship with Hashem through finding inspiration and helping others do the same, enhancing their Judaism as well! 

In Pirkei Avos 1:14, Hillel asks “Im Ein Ani Li, Mi Li– if I am not for myself, who will be for me?” The lesson from this is that it’s up to each one of us to be proactive to become inspired in our Judaism and relationship with G-d. Hashem loves each of us no matter where we are or how inspired we feel. From whatever place we may be in now, though, we have the potential to grow and become more inspired; as long as we work towards gaining inspiration, there is nowhere to go but up.  

If you are a student at YU who hasn’t felt so inspired or connected to their Judaism in the past, YU is your opportunity. Through any of the Judaic classes you are taking, you can reach out to the teacher to ask whatever questions you may have, or you can build a relationship with them. You can even possibly go to the teacher for Shabbat; many teachers are happy to host students for Shabbat meals. YU also has many classes each night from a variety of speakers on multiple topics that could inspire you in your Judaism. We can also draw inspiration from our peers. When you’re in the cafeteria, you can always walk up to a student who inspires you and start talking to them. 

For those who feel they are already very connected to their Judaism, you have the ability  to inspire your fellow classmates: everyone has a part to play. Maybe go over to someone new during lunch and just say hi when you see them around campus to create a friendly atmosphere and show that you care. We know that Shavuos 39a says “Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh B’Zeh– all of the Jewish people are responsible for one another.” It’s not enough if we remain exhilarated by our own connections with Hashem; we should help others on their journeys of developing a connection, too! Each person can model what it means to be a Jew for them with joy and excitement for a life of meaning. The more that those who feel inspired are friendly with those who don’t seem to have the same inspiration, the more passionate our fellow classmates will become.  

When each student puts in the effort to create an environment where we care for one another, the more we become one unified family, just as Hashem wants us to be. In Pirkei Avos 4:5, Rabbi Yishmael explains that simply learning Torah isn’t enough: one should learn with the intention of fulfilling and practicing the Torah’s commandments as well, and not just learn as an end unto itself. If we want to practice the Torah, this includes teaching others the same. As one people, we need to teach and motivate others who might not know what we have learnt, so that all of us can practice the Torah as a nation. 

Each person, no matter their background, is made in Hashem’s image and has unconditional priceless worth. In this critical beginning stage of the year, we at YU have an opportunity to step out of our comfort zones, and make new friends outside of our set groups. There are many students who might not have grown up in an Orthodox environment or who know very few people at YU. We need to show those students that we care about them unconditionally, and this will go a long way to enhance their time at YU. I personally made a great new friend after going out of my comfort zone and introducing myself to a student who didn’t feel as connected to our community. If each student will do their part, this year could be the year that we can truly become an am echad– one nation. 

The opportunities are here before us. Even as you go to do laundry, you can greet another student that’s there, even if they’re not exactly like you. Although there are times when you could choose to sit alone and be more comfortable, maybe extend yourself and sit with the student you think you don’t have anything in common with, because we always have something in common with each other. As you walk up and down flights of stairs, you have the choice to shine a smile to each student. We can only gain from being kind to one another.

It’s up to us to make a change and open our eyes. This is the time to change. May Hashem give us a year of life, blessing, and unity. It begins with each one of us!