Sometimes we don’t even realize how normal, everyday things can make such a deep impact. Like eating Shabbos dinner with your family, or any family for that matter. For the most part I live in a social community. The people that I live, eat, study with, and talk to are all peers. Sure, I speak to my parents and siblings on the phone, but when I come home from school everyday I come home to friends, not family.
It’s a different lifestyle, and for the most part, I love it. It’s like transplanting the camp-like abundance of peers into a real-life setting. We are young, relatively unattached and independent, and the daily decisions that define our day are ours, and our alone.
But still, every now and then I find myself eating a Shabbos meal with a family in the community instead of my usual group of friends, and I sink into this warm fuzzy feeling that I can’t quite put my finger on. I realized that there’s something really special and unique about the family unit, but I just couldn’t figure it out.
I’ve been trying to pinpoint what exactly is so endearing about the familial community in contrast to the social one. And then it hit me: Permanence. A family is relatively stagnant. It is a settled stronghold unit that has once made a decision to be where it is, and there it remains. In essence, it is the start of our journey, and it is the end.
Right now, my peers and I are stuck somewhere in the middle. We grew up with our families, and we moved out. We live in the evanescent social community. This part of life is the exciting, growing experience. We make decisions about little things like meals and when to go to sleep, in training for the bigger decisions that come with the future familial unit. Life is a whirlwind of “figuring it out”. In our Hillel community we work to learn about what it means for strangers to come together to form a stronghold. We don’t have all the answers, but we are learning. We re comfortable and happy in our social community, but we also know that, in a short while, we will leave it. Sooner or later we have to grow up some more and move on.
The family setting represents the future, and the past that we hope to return to in our own right. We never stop learning and growing, of course, but I’ve realized that I live in a process, and the family is a goal from that process. When I’m eating with a real family, I remember that, as much as I love my social lifestyle, it’s not the ultimate goal. It is a period of crucial growth, but in the end, the familial community triumphs.