I originally wrote this as a status on facebook for fundraising purposes but decided it belonged on my blog too…
I just made a contribution to Chabad of Tallahassee & FSU Jewish FSU led by Rabbi Oirechman and Rebbetzin Chana Oirechman for their fundraising campaign. Please consider giving them a donation on http://www.chabadtallahassee.com/ within the next 6 hours to help them reach their goal of $100,000 to continue their amazing works of Kiddush Hashem.
Here’s why. Nearly 5 years ago I started consistently celebrating Shabbat thanks to them and have never stopped. This transformation didn’t happen over night though…
After attending Yeshivat Orayta in Israel I enrolled at Florida State University. Some thought it was not the best idea after coming out of such a Jewish environment to then go to a place which is nearly the exact opposite. I can tell you that when you’re a Seminole the last thing on your mind is “keeping Shabbat.” Nonetheless I regressed in my practice a little, but with my background I still loved and looked forward to going to Chabad at every opportunity. Since my first week freshman year I went for Shabbat dinner every single week. Before driving back to campus on Friday night, Rabbi Oirechman always used to say, “Danny! Why don’t you keep Shabbos this week???”
Like. Every. Other. Student. I would awkwardly squirm out of dinner with a really bad excuse as to why I was not going to stay and keep Shabbos. And before I could fully articulate that excuse I was already out the door. However, I would just go out with friends to a party or something.
This continued until spring semester of my senior year when I recall having a very bad week. I was very stressed so I asked Rabbi if he had some time to chat. He suggested we go to Starbucks near the Integration Statue in the middle of campus. Shortly towards the end of conversation he said once again like a broken record, “Danny! Why don’t you keep Shabbos this week???” So I thought to myself, fine – YOLO.
I didn’t decide to keep Shabbat that week necessarily because it was a mitzvah, but because I needed a break and wanted to be recharged. I turned off my phone, canceled Friday night plans to go out, cancelled my regular homework routine on Saturday afternoon, and made plans to crash at Chabad. That Saturday night I left feeling quite refreshed and learned that my friend’s plans ended up falling through. I just found on learnhebrew.org.il the Hebrew phrase “Mitoch shelo lishmah ba lishmah,” which literally means “What’s not for its own sake will come from its own sake,” and idiomatically “Good intentions will follow good actions.”
From that Friday, I came back the next Friday, and the next, and the next, until I graduated, decided to stop “KEEPING” Shabbat and start “CELEBRATING” Shabbat for myself, and fast forward nearly 5 years it has become a central part of my life.
The beauty about Chabad and the beauty about Chabad at FSU in particular is that in the face of a campus with a million and one reasons to prevent you from growing as a Jew, they persist with a resilience and joy that cuts the challenge like a hot knife through butter. Thank G-D they were persistent with me because I don’t know where I would be right now without Shabbat as the catalyst for so much more.
It was also not just religious practice. They were also a key part to my involvement in Israel Advocacy and our programming with Noles for Israel and Florida Loves Israel (FLI).
As an artist I’ve come to find that a key part of being creative is cyclically celebrating where the source of that creativity comes from every week. Six days a week I work to literally create and on the 7th day I am just created. This balance and appreciation is just a spark of the joy and life enhancement I have discovered in Shabbat. Celebrating Shabbat at FSU gave me the strength to celebrate Shabbat when I lived in Virginia and would walk miles round trip by myself to the Chabad there. I could have never done that without building my foundation at FSU. And thankfully today, I know only have a short walk to both Chabad and my job in DC.
Your investment in Chabad FSU doesn’t cash out in four years. Its value grows. As I find myself now going through Chemo Therapy for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Rabbi Oirechman takes time out of his week to learn Torah with my on Google Hangout. If I am not on the computer we chat learn on the phone. Let me tell you I am writing this post right now nauseous out of my mind from the chemo!
At Florida State University, Rabbi Oirechman and Rebbetzin Chanie taught me how to create the reality you want no matter the environment. This lesson has guided me through so many phases of my life. There are thousands of Jewish students at FSU – I was just one. Thank you!