Touching Down on Yom Kippur: Jewish Aggies Stick to Their Values

Wednesday, 25 September, 2013 - 2:42 am

A sea of crimson and maroon pack the stands at Kyle Field, the third largest football field in Texas. The ever prized green grass turf, the newly painted white lines; first down, second, third, fourth. The teams pour out onto the field, jogging their way into the cacophony of shrieks, boos, and whoops. This was the event like no other, some would even say the chance of a lifetime. Was it really?

Since the founding of Texas A&M University in 1876, Texas A&M has been entrenched in long time traditions. These actions and cheers, this sense of alliance and belonging brings together the upperclassmen and the freshmen, the ‘reg’ and the cadet. It is here that many people find their voice, their place, among the sea of maroon and white. When the opposing team steps out onto the field, the Aggie fills with pride for their school and their tradition. In our second year in the SEC, The A&M v. Alabama game was a testament to Aggie commitment, to the team, and to football. How was our commitment as Jews?

The week leading up to the big game, also Yom Kippur, was a difficult time for some Jewish Aggies who grappled with this hard decision. For some like freshman Justin Katz, from Dallas, it was an easy choice to make. Justin said, “When I heard that the Alabama game was on Yom Kippur,  I  just said ‘oh well’ and brushed it off. The importance of Yom Kippur far exceeded the importance of one football game, at least in my eyes.” For a university student, especially at a school like Texas A&M, where college football is revered, it can take a lot for a student, who now has the independent right to choose whether or not to invest Jewishly and to invest spiritually. The concept of spirituality becomes even more muddled in today’s day and age where there is a tendency to look more towards physicality as an indicator of success. As Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff mentioned during our services at the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center at Texas A&M University, “The true purpose of Yom Kippur is to remember who we are, where we come from, where we are heading, and to whom we owe gratitude.” Rabbi Yossi shared with us a story of an elderly Chassid, Reb Mendel Futerfas, who once passed a group of students who were sitting around before Yom Kippur reflecting upon all of the transgressions they had ever committed in the past year. Seeing this, he asked them instead to compile a list of all of the good G-d had done for them; in doing so they could then find out what they needed to improve upon. Reflecting upon all the good G-d has done for you and then finding ways to reciprocate the love and devotion. This Reb Mendel proclaimed, is the essence of Yom Kippur.

At the end of the Yom Kippur service we cry out “Shema Yisroel..!” proclaiming that G-d is One and shout only on this day, a line we normally whisper, “Blessed be the name of the glory of our King forever and ever!” This act of blessing G-d as he has blessed us, acknowledges that there is not only a relationship between the individual and G-d, but an inherent connection that can never be severed. On this Yom Kippur it was inspiring to see Aggies streaming into synagogue for the big day. According to Franceska Flax, an undergraduate from Los Angeles, “Yom Kippur means the beginning of a new year, [that] all of my mistakes, trials and tribulations from last year are alleviated so that I can look forward to this coming year with a fresh page.” These Aggies understood and acknowledged that fasting and going to the synagogue was not only about repentance and fasting, but about connections and relationships. The ties between one Aggie and another may be strong and for life, but the relationship between one Jew and another, between a Jewish Aggie and G-d, is eternal. Former student Naomi Heller of Dallas returned to Aggieland for Yom Kippur to celebrate with her fellow Jewish Aggies at the Chabad at Texas A&M.  “At its heart, Yom Kippur is the one day a year any Jewish soul can connect with G-d in the most pure, deeply intimate way. The climax of this authentic connection occurs during Neilah, when our soul reaches a state of absolute oneness with G-d. How could anyone exchange such an opportunity for a football game?” Heller said.

Wishing everyone a good year! Shana Tova!


*Jacqulyn Subar is a student at Texas A&M University pursuing her Masters in Public Policy at the George Bush School of Public Service and Administration.

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