Tonight I’m going to tell you a little bit about the number seven in Judaism.
Seven is one of the greatest power numbers, representing Creation, good fortune, and blessing. A Hebrew word for luck, gad, equals seven in gematria. Another Hebrew word for luck,mazal, equals seventy-seven.
The Bible is replete with things grouped in sevens. Besides the Creation and the exalted status of the Sabbath, the seventh day, there are seven laws of Noah and seven Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Several Jewish holidays are seven days long, and priestly ordination takes seven days. The Land of Israel was allowed to lie fallow one year in seven. The menorah in the Temple has seven branches.
This emphasis on seven continues post-biblically with seven wedding blessings, seven circuits performed about a groom, and seven days of mourning after the death of a close relative.
The first verse of the Torah consists of seven words and seven is the recurrent number in Pharaoh’s divinatory dreams in Genesis. In the Zohar, the seven lower sefirot are those aspects of God that are present in asiyah, our world of action. (Adapted from Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis, Judaism and Numbers)
So you’re getting the idea that 7 is a pretty big deal in Judaism…and it also happens to be the number of years I’ve worked for Hillel. The first two years were at Santa Cruz Hillel, and the next five were here at Stanford. As such, I have written seven gratitudes for each of my seven years as a Hillel professional.
2008-2009: Year 1 – I decided to work for Santa Cruz Hillel because I was grateful. I had been in a graduate program that was not a good fit for me, and I emerged from academia feeling lost and uncertain. Hillel was the center, the home I returned to whenever I felt lost, and once again, I am so grateful that it was there for me when I needed it. I applied for the position because I wanted to give back. Little did I know that it would continue to give me years of love, support, and opportunities for growth.
2009-2010: Year 2 – In my second year at Santa Cruz Hillel, I fell in love with students. I had an amazing team of interns – student leaders whose dedication to their communities still inspire me. I also took a life-altering American Jewish World Service trip to rural Nicaragua, where I learned about the many ways I could combine my passion for Jewish life with my dedication to making a difference. So, in honor of my second year, I am grateful to Hillel for inspiring me to serve, and for empowering me to give students opportunities to serve with me.
2010-2011: Year 3 – This was my first year at Hillel at Stanford, and my first year in Kesem. Learning how to Kesem and learning how to Stanford were pretty big projects, and what stands out to me when I look back on this year is that I had really outstanding mentors to help guide me through it. From my first Kesem team to the incredibly supportive Hillel staff, I never had to face any challenge alone. My gratitude for year 3 is for mentorship – Hillel has always provided me with people I could turn to for advice, feedback, and thought partnership.
2011-2012: Year 4 – In my fourth year of Hillel, my students gave to me…and gave to me, and gave to me, and gave to me. Year four is for all of you – I am grateful for every hug, every argument, every late-night text. Your trust is a gift. Thank you for sharing it with me.
2012-2013: Year 5 – In my fifth year in Hillel, I returned to graduate school, this time at Hebrew Union College, where I studied and completed a certificate program in Jewish experiential education. Hillel at Stanford covered half the cost of this program. I had the opportunity to share what I learned once a month in our staff meetings, and Hillel International published articles I wrote about the program on their blog. This support and interest in my personal as well as professional development made me feel so valued. Thank you, Hillel, for believing in me, and for giving me countless opportunities to learn.
2013-2014: Year 6 – This was my last year in Kesem. Kesem taught me many, many important lessons, but the one I learned in my final year is one that is still helping me today, and yes, even right now. In 2014, Kesem and Hillel taught me together that letting go, like holding on, is an act of love.
2014-2015: Year 7 – I have to dedicate year 7 to Hillel staff, past and present. This amazing team of humans – yes, they’re human – has nurtured me, challenged me, listened to me. They are the only ones who truly understand what it’s like to put in a 12-hour day…and then stay up for another two hours working on another project because they just care that much. The Hillel professionals you see in this room love you so much – they are here only to connect with you and to make your experience at Stanford a better one. Don’t forget that.
The people you meet in Hillel will stop at nothing to change the world.
Thank you, everyone, for spending seven years changing mine.