The Significance of Room #
Because of the campus center construction,
bi-weekly Hillel Shabbat dinners have been moved from the Campus Center
Assembly Hall to Campus Center Room 375. Besides for the difference in room
size and accessibility, there's also the difference of the room name.
"Assembly Hall" seems fitting for a communal Shabbat dinner, especially
since the Hebrew word for synagogue "Beit HaKnesset" has a very similar
meaning. But Room 375? An impersonal, random number? What meaning can this
have for us?
Personally, I'm not so into "Gematria" which
is a fascinating and technical method of studying Torah using numerical
equivalents of Hebrew letters. But if you were to simply spell "375" in
Hebrew letters you would get the word "Sha'ah" which means both hour and
Our getting together as
a community happen once a week (whether at Shabbos House or at Hillel) for
an hour or two on Friday Nights. Some may think little of it, how important
can one hour a week be anyways? This is the message of Room 375 which spells
Sha'ah or hour in Hebrew. One hour together as a community, doing a Mitzvah,
celebrating Shabbat - this is powerful!
Sha'ah can also mean a
turn. And that's relevant here as well, because it symbolizes the good turns
and positive changes that have come from these Shabbat dinners together. May
this year of Shabbat celebrations and Jewish life at UAlbany turn out to be
as wonderful as the years before, and continue the pattern of growth.
Jack Lauber's Mysterious
Jack Lauber, from
Schenectady NY, worked for years as a scientist/engineer for NYS Department
of Environmental Conservation. He was an advocate for safe waste-to-energy
possibilities. His passion however was Zionism. He was a tireless activist
and advocate for Israel, in the media, in the community, and was steadfast
and unwavering in his dedication to Israel and the Jewish people. If he got
to know you or of you, you might have become the recipient of dozens of
monthly emails relating to Israel.
One Sunday in August
Jack Lauber met Rabbi Israel Rubin at the Shalom Festival in Saratoga's
Congress Park. Jack was there with his wife Ruth, his son and
daughter-in-law and grandchild. Jack liked to get out to Jewish events in
the community. More than once during the festival he went over to Rabbi
Rubin and told him that he very much wanted to tell him the story of "The
Mysterious Shofar." It was a busy afternoon for Rabbi Rubin, but finally,
before leaving the park, Jack sat Rabbi Rubin down and told him the story.
Some years earlier he was
in Boston for a medical check-up/opinion. It was during Passover, and the
weather was nice, so in between appointments, Jack and his wife Ruth sat
down in a Boston park near the hospital. It so happens that this park had a
Holocaust Memorial Garden, so that's where they went. Some time later, a
bearded Israeli stopped by where they were sitting. He asked them if they
wanted to hear him blow the Shofar. The Laubers were surprised since it was
Passover, not Rosh-Hashanah. So they asked, "Where will we get a Shofar this
time of year?" The man pulled out a Shofar from his backpack and blew a
number of notes and then walked off into the park. And that's the last they
heard of him.
A few days after the Shalom Festival, Jack
suffered a massive stroke and a few days after that, he passed away. Rabbi
Rubin suddenly felt more urgency to the unusual story Jack insisted on
telling him one week prior. What's the message? What do we learn from a
Shofar blown on Passover?
At Jack's funeral, Rabbi Rubin shared this
story. He also shared the following insight/interpretation to this bizarre
story, and Jack's insistence that he tell it to Rabbi Rubin just before his
passing: Jack was the Shofar! Jack's whole life was a series of sounding off
about the things he was most passionate about. Like a shofar, he publicly
broadcasted innermost things that many of us feel deep within ourselves, but
don't always find the courage or articulation to share with others.
I'm telling this story
tonight because this week was Jack's funeral. It's one way to honor his
memory. It's also a great message for Jewish students entering a new year of
campus life at UAlbany. Often, we're afraid to publicly share or display
matters of Jewishness or Jewish pride. Some of us do so happily and proudly,
and when done with sensitivity and thoughtfulness, are even respected for it
by non-Jews around us. Like Jack and the Shofar, let's share what's
innermost within, and not bury it deep inside ourselves.