By: The Commentator Staff  | 

From the Commie Archives: Advice for Incoming and Returning Students

Editor’s Note: As the school year begins, students may feel an array of emotions, whether they are returning or incoming. Below is a pair of articles written by President Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm zt”l and mashgiach ruchani Rabbi Yosef Blau containing advice and encouragement as students begin the new year. 

Title: From the Commie Archives (August 23, 1998; Volume LXIII, Issue 2) — Message from the University President, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm: Some Friendly Advice 

Author: Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm

On behalf of the faculties and the administration, I am delighted to welcome you all -- old students and new ones -- to our undergraduate campuses. Berukhim ha-ba'im! Your main function is to grow --­ intellectually, Jewishly, academically, culturally. The program of Torah U'Maddah is a most demanding one, especially because it insists on the integrity of each of the two poles and expects that you will commit your every effort to excelling in your studies. If you are merely smart, you will figure out all kinds of ways, legal or devious, to get out as soon as you can. But if you are wise, you will take full advantage of the remarkable resources of both Torah and Maddah that you will find here at Yeshiva. There is no other place where you can have available for you such an array of distinguished talmidei chakhamim for your Jewish studies, and outstanding academic faculty for your college studies. Exploit this golden opportunity; do not neglect it! 

But there is yet one other precious opportunity you have here for the next few years, and that is--the friends you will make, the networking of like-minded young Jews and Jewesses who are resolved to exploit the fantastic intellectual assets of Yeshiva and are determined to rebuild and enhance the Jewish world beyond the one they find before them now. Nourish these friendships well. In years to come you will reap the benefits of this kind of social and intellectual ideological companionship. 

Immediately before sounding the shofar, we recite the words of Tehillim (Ps.47:6) "Alah Elokim bi'teruah," which loosely translated means that God, as it were, is exalted at the sound of the teruah or straight blast of the shofar. Hasidim have an interesting interpretation of that verse. They say that teruah is derived from the word reia--both words from the root of resh and ayin--which means friend or friendship. (I have seen this in the name of R' Shlomo Leib of Lenchno and, a bit earlier, R' Shneur Zalman of Llady.) The love and loyalty amongst friends is important to the Almighty, and he is exalted when those who serve Him do so in fellowship and mutual love and esteem. 

I hope that you will succeed not only in your studies but also in finding and holding on to these deep and mutually fruitful friendships, and that the spirit of camaraderie will indeed assist you in growing from ve'ahavta le'reiakha kamokha to ve'ahavta et Hashem Elokekha. May you be inscribed le'shana tovah ushenat chayyim ve'shalom.

Title: From the Commie Archives (August 23, 1998; Volume LXIII, Issue 2) — Anticipation and Anxiety by Mashgiach Ruchani Rabbi Yosef Blau 

Author: Rabbi Yosef Blau 

For returning students the start of a new school year at Yeshiva is filled with excitement and anticipation. These years are a time of religious and personal growth. At Yeshiva, one has the opportunity for strengthening friendships and developing life-long relationships with mentors, while values become internalized and career plans are firmed. 

Emotions are different for the beginning student. For those returning from Israel doubts exist about the permanence of changes made and how to integrate the old and new elements in their lives. Those coming directly upon graduation from high school and early admission students · are nervous about the extent of the changes from high school. The anticipation of the returnees is balanced by the anxiety of the new students. 

While the bulk of responsibility of making the welcome positive and easing the tension rightfully falls on the administration and staff, much can be done as well by older students. Warmth and friendship can come from all of us. For most students Yeshiva is the largest yeshiva or school they have attended, and by far the most complex. The opportunities are not obvious to those who are overwhelmed and the demands appear to outweigh the potential rewards. A pleasant smile and a little friendly advice and support can accomplish wonders. 

Perhaps balancing anticipation and anxiety would be healthy for all of us as we start the year. It is the beginning of Elul, a time for reflection. Complacency limits growth as much as fear. Let us recognize the great potential that exists for deepening our commitments while studying at Yeshiva while not ignoring the full extent of the challenge. Working together is a critical component in maximizing success. 

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