Finding constants in our lives

Rachel LaVictoire, 18, is a recipient of the prestigious Nemerov Writing and Thomas H. Elliott Merit scholarships at Washington University, where she is a freshman. She grew up in Atlanta, where she is an active member of Temple Emanu-El and the Marcus Jewish Community Center. Rachel will be contributing regular commentaries and d’var Torah reflections, which will be posted on the Jewish Light’s website, — some of which will also be included in the Jewish Light’s print editions.

By Rachel LaVictoire

I mention these scheduling details to highlight the inconsistencies that haunt so many of our lives. One day you’re overwhelmed with too much to do, other days you’ve got nothing on tap and boredom sets in. Sometimes these swings don’t even wait for a new day, but rather keep you on your toes from hour to hour, minute to minute.

Take my Friday, for example, when I woke up at 8:20 am. I had gone to bed at 3:30 the night before. At the first sound of my alarm, I was angry. Snooze. I was fast asleep in 30 seconds. Five minutes later the chime went off again, and this time I was filled with more of a determined frustration. I got up, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and put in my contacts. I threw on some comfy clothes and a light layer of makeup. I packed my bag up, went to the dining hall, and immediately unpacked it. I was in a study-frenzy that left me with a racing heart, a frazzled brain, and eyes that darted from study sheet to study sheet.


At 9:54, I threw it all back in my bag and walked over to my exam. With a deep breath, I put my bag in a cubby and relaxed. I spent the next hour and a half jumping between confidence and frustration as I shuffled through 50 multiple- choice questions. At 11:30, I was overcome with relief—it was over.

The rest of the day continued in a similar fashion: By 12 I was bored, at 12:50 I beamed with joy at the sight of a good grade. I was engaged during Management and annoyed while setting up for a concert. Finally, when I got back to my dorm around 4 p.m. the exhaustion from sleep deprivation kicked in, and I fell asleep for two and a half hours.

I suppose there are some people who thrive off an ever-changing schedule—who enjoy spontaneity and variation—but I am not one of those people. I like schedules and lists. I like to know what’s coming in any given day and prepare for it accordingly.

Obviously, though, many things happen in our lives that our out of our control and cause us to fall victim to unpredictability as well as fluctuating emotions. It’s a fact of life, but not necessarily easy for those of us who like to feel in charge of our destiny.

In this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, G-d recognizes the human need for consistency. In recent events, the Israelites fled from Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, wandered through Sinai, received the Ten Commandments, received the Torah, and built a sanctuary. Only a short while their lives were filled with disparity and agonizing manual labor. Now they are a people, united under one G-d, with laws and leaders and purpose. Their lives have changed completely, and although the change is obviously for the better, G-d recognizes that it may still be unsettling. And so, the parshah this week beings with G-d’s instruction to Moses:

“And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle lamps continually. In the Tent of Meeting, outside the dividing curtain that is in front of the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall set it up before the Lord from evening to morning; it shall be an everlasting statue for their generations, from the children of Israel” (Exodus 27: 20-21).

This light is kindled forever—in times of war and in times of peace, in times of loss, and in times of celebration. While it is no longer a physical light, today it is still the warmth of the Jewish people. We can all take solace is knowing that no matter what emotion we are consumed with at what time during which day, we have people to rely on—whether it’s a rabbi, a teacher, or a best friend, it’s our community, our everlasting light.