IT ALL ADDS UP - OR DOES IT? REFLECTIONS ON NYU'S JEWS AT SHAVUOT
Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin
I had this flash the other day: did you ever wonder where the concept of 100% came from? Maybe its origin has something to do with the Jewish idea that there are 49 levels of impurity and 49 levels of holiness.
The lowest point is between zero and one. At that level, all civilization closes, and all is destroyed. This was the low-point of the Egyptian exile from which G-d himself redeemed us at Passover.
The highest point is a hundred, the work of perfection and completion. After having clambered up the 49 levels of impurity, the Jews embarked on attaining 49 levels of spiritual perfection. The high-point was Shavuot, seven weeks after Passover's start, the fiftieth day of the Omer-harvest count. On this day, the Jews attained unity with G-d at Mt. Sinai.
Now this might or might not be the source for the "Theory of 100%", and I doubt if my name will be submitted to the Nobel Committee for the upcoming award in Mathematical Theoretics. But one thing's for sure: things either add up or they don't.
So what am I getting at?
Thousands and thousands of young Jews in the prime of their lives do not know the meaning of numbers.
Example: What do you get when you cross a Jewish festival of numbers with an urge to wake up 15,000* dormant Jews at NYU?
The answer is easy: my article in the Forum, trying to grab the attention of at least a few distracted readers.
So why are NYU's roughly 15,000* (yes, FIFTEEN THOUSAND) Jewish students just an impressive statistic and not an energized mass of idealistic Jewish energy?
Obviously, there are at least 15,000* answers to this question. There are / were more Jews at NYU than at Columbia University, Brooklyn College, or even the University of Tel Aviv. Only Hebrew University in Jerusalem might have a comparable number, but not much more. Our "Shtetl in the Village" has enough Jews to fill a few villages/ shtetls.
This past year has seen some increase in Jewish activism, but we have a long way to go before we reach 100% success in Jewish life.
Forgive me for my assumption that a student always looks to score 100%. Couldn't we transfer a little of the same ambition to strengthening Jewish identity on campus? Any Jewish identity is better than appearing as a non-entity.
There are so many clubs, social events, religious groups, and there's even a genuine kosher kitchen (in Loeb). But where, oh where, are the thousands upon thousands of young Jews? A few are active, and they need your help. Look them up on the seventh floor of Loeb for starters -there's always someone at the J.C.F. office to help connect you with the group of your choice.
On the festival of Shavuot, we once saw Him at Mt. Sinai over 3300 years ago. We must always remember that we are and shall remain a people apart: the Jewish people, a "light unto the nations".
This year, as you either graduate or plan to come back, make plans to strengthen your Jewish identity, no matter where or who you are. Surely you can get 100% (or 75, or 50) in that?!
* Based on 1980's figures. Since the 1980's there are now considerably less Jews at NYU.
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