Just Another Cliche
How many times have you heard the phrase “Everything happens for a reason”? Probably over a million. Of course as Jews we believe that it’s true, but, more often than not, we can’t help but have our doubts. If everything happens for a reason, then why did I fail my exam after studying so hard? If everything happens for a reason, then why am I the one who has to beg my other roommates to clean? I mean really, what did that add to my life? Did I really gain something out of that experience? Doubtful. And yet, we express the cliche all the time. It soothes us and placates us to hear, well, at least everything happens for a reason.
And you know what? It does. Everything does actually happen for a reason. And I’d like to thank you (yes, YOU) for that.
Coming to Yeshiva University was not a natural choice for me. All my life I attended public school, and my priorities lay in my academics. I took many AP’s as I dreamed of attending Columbia, Barnard, or NYU; Judaism was on the back burner. Yes, my family celebrated Shabbat, the holidays, and kept a kosher home, but past that I was uninvolved in Judaism. I remember my first day of orientation at Stern when so many girls asked me what seminary I went to - I kid you not, I had no idea what seminary was. I had never heard the term in life. When people in my hometown first heard I decided to attend YU, they would often ask me, “Why YU?” and have even told me that they never imagined me here. My answer used to be simple: honors program, scholarship, and YU is in the City. When I visited YU prior to my acceptance I did note the unusually warm environment; still, at the time, I never would have imagined that this one aspect of YU - the kindness and accepting nature of the students and faculty - would be what I would need the most.
Last year, as I stepped foot into 245 Lex as a freshman, I remember sitting in my first ever Jewish classes. I found certain classes interesting, and yet, overall it felt like a chore and a setback. Rather than studying for my “important” classes that were necessary for my major, I was studying Bereishit or Hebrew. Yet these classes would soon become my source of strength. At the time, though, I didn’t know it.
In late December 2015 my father was diagnosed with Lymphoma. A month later he had his first treatment, and, after many ups and downs, my father passed away in November 2016. Throughout all of this, from the beginning to the end, I was supported by the community I had around me here at YU. We often say “#NoWhereButHere” without much thought, but I know for a fact that the people who surround me here, and the people who raise my spirits day in and day out, can in fact be found nowhere but here. My friends and classmates have many times gone out of their way to offer what they could, whether it be notes, a lunch date, or just a relaxing hour in the dorms together. Each and every gesture has meant so much to me. Coming from a public school environment, I’ve never seen a community this caring, this invested in helping one another. Every time I try to imagine going through this past year at a different school, I know that I wouldn’t have had the support system I have here, the caring teachers I have here, and the giving environment I have here. I have been truly amazed.
My Jewish classes that I dreaded so much also became my source of strength. Learning about Judaism and the Torah on a deeper level gave me hope and faith throughout this difficult journey. The energy I gained from those classes remains with me to this very moment. Once I began to look deeply into the Torah and the many traditions we practice each week, I realized how many Jewish ideas are conceptually related to one another. Simply analyzing the Torah word-by-word reveals a huge criss-cross of intersecting lines, uniting one teaching to another without one unnecessary word. The same theme of unity and connection becomes visible when learning about our traditions and our holidays. This unity transcends the depth of Judaism. Throughout everything we have faced as Jews, we have managed to unite and overcome.
So too for my journey. This is the same way that the people at YU have united around me, and I have been left in awe. Many times we don’t know what we need, but God does. Next time you hear the words, “Everything happens for a reason,” I implore you not to pass it off as just another cliche.