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Friday, September 5, 2014
The Sounds of Silence
by Miranda Siler
Entering the year 2014, I had one New Year’s resolution: to go to more Shabbat services. Now I know that many people from home and Shaare Emeth will hear that and think, “What? You’re at Shabbat services almost every Friday! What could you possibly mean by more?” While this was certainly the case at home, it was not during my first semester of college. I had plenty of excuses for not going; I was tired, it was too cold and too far to walk, etc. But deep down I knew the real reason why I didn’t want to go to Shabbat services, I was afraid of going alone.
Going into freshman year, everyone is hungry to make friends, and you quickly latch on to certain people. You eat at the dining hall together, study together, go on excursions together. It’s amazing how quickly you make your best friends, turning first semester into a simultaneously strange and awesome time. Out of the people that I became close with right away, some, but not many, were Jewish, and even fewer were the type to go to services. Maybe Shabbat dinner afterwards, but not services. I was not used to going to services alone. Even though I am often the only person my age at synagogue, I’m still with my family. And even if I were to go to services alone, I’ve been a part of the Shaare Emeth community for so long, that I still feel as if I’m among people I know. I have a Shabbat posse so to speak. I was afraid of not having that posse going into services, of not having a group to sit with at dinner, and therefore spent my first semester of college barely going at all.
A little more about my first semester of college. It was a ton of fun and I made a lot of amazing friends, but it was also loud. Not exactly in a volume-turned-all-the-way-up sense (although it could be at times), but more in a metaphorical sense. There was always something to do, a new way to participate, a new someone to connect with. I’m the type of person who likes staying busy, so I LOVED this aspect of college. I loved, and still do love, how alive campus is, how on a nice day you will see everyone chilling outside. There is a wonderful sense of community. But near the end of the semester, I think I realized that I had been missing something: me time. I needed a little bit of silence to help me fully enjoy all the noise of my college life and not burn out.
At home, I enjoyed silence during some very specific times: in the 30 or so minutes that I had between school and dance class, and at night after everyone went to sleep. At college I didn’t have these. When I came home from class I always had a floormate that I was excited to talk to and I had a roommate who stayed up even later than I did. First semester, I was so busy building friendships that I didn’t make any time purely for myself.
Second semester, I changed that. I gave myself some silence. Once again, not in a physical sense, but a spiritual one. To me, silence was going to a café that was two subway stops away from campus. Silence was hiding under my blanket and watching American Horror Story. Before special events, silence was sitting on the floor, listening to Beyoncé and straightening my hair. And most importantly, silence was going to Shabbat services. I no longer viewed them as something that I had to do by myself, but something that I had the pleasure of doing by myself. Even as I become more involved with Hillel, and closer to the people in it, I still treat services as a time for me. They are a break from the din of college life, and I can recharge in that silence. And as for my Hillel friends? I’ll catch up with them at dinner.
As the new Jewish year approaches, I have a challenge for everyone reading this blog. Go to a Friday night Shabbat service alone. Even if you drive with family, try sitting a few rows apart. Take the time for yourself. See what happens when you immerse yourself in the sounds of silence.
Miranda Siler is now entering her sophomore year at Tufts University, just outside the great city of Boston. A member since she was four, she has been a part of the Shaare Emeth community in many ways including camper, madricha, avid SETYG member, counselor, religious school teacher, and regular service attendee. In college, she serves on her Hillel Board as Freshman Programming Co-Chair. Feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to send her care packages during the school year--she would be eternally grateful--or for other reasons.