Many of you have just dropped off your child off on a college campus here in Georgia, or somewhere else around the country. You may also have thought about watching them grow up, with both the incredible blessings as well as the challenges, as you gave them a hug before heading back home. As we grapple with the mixed blessings of this moment, ultimately, we hope that they will be confident in their abilities, surround themselves with good friends, and do well in school.
Discovering who you are is one of the most important gifts that a college education can give to a student. And Hillel is there to help them along this journey, that can be lonely and challenging at times. Across the State of Georgia, the Hillels of Georgia team is working hard to make sure every student makes a connection and never feels alone. This is sacred work, and their main goal is to see the spark within each student and lift them up achieve their potential.
Recently, I was with our Kennesaw State University students at a Taste to the New Year event. I shared with them one of my favorite Rosh Hashanah stories. You might know it. It is about a young apple tree who was surrounded by big oak trees. One night, the apple tree looked up and saw a beautiful night sky filled with stars. The apple tree prayed to G-d and asked to have leaves like the oak trees that looked like the stars in the sky. G-d replied that the fragrant smell of the apple tree has delighted so many people and brought smiles to their faces. The apple tree once again prayed for stars on her branches. Soon, people enjoyed the delicious taste of the apples that the tree produced. And, once again, the tree prayed for stars on her branches. Just then, an apple fell from the tree and split open on the ground. Inside, the seeds formed a star. G-d said to the tree that your branches might not have stars, but you are a star on the inside and you have much to share with the world.
For our students, and ultimately for all of us, we indeed have stars within. May this New Year of 5784 allow us to bring out the stars in those we encounter and at the same time, may we discover the stars that have always been within us. L’Shana Tova u’metukah, a good and sweet New Year to all.
Rabbi Larry Sernovitz is the CEO, Hillels of Georgia.