“Let's table the discussion" is an  Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children. (Dedicated to the Refuah Sheleima of Shalva Adina Bas Sarah Chana & Eliyahu Aharon Ben Yocheved Yetta Ettel).

Ever wonder what it takes to write a successful college or grad school admissions essay?


In 2010, NY Times blogger David Marcus wrote an essay entitled:  “Some of the more mundane moments in life make great essays.” In it, he examines what college admissions officers look for in reading hundreds and, at times, thousands, of essays.

Marcus notes that the average essay reads about some amazing humanitarian trip that someone took to help the disadvantaged, and how that translated into some lesson about the disadvantaged population.

However, to the admissions officers, this does not bring any satisfaction:

“I would love to have a student answer the question, ‘Why is it that you have everything and they have nothing?’ ” said Cezar Mesquita, admissions director at theCollege of Wooster. “Or ‘What did others learn from your participation in the trip?’”

In other words, the admissions officers are not looking for a checked off box in the slot marked Participation in Mandatory Chessed but rather for an awareness of personal growth and awareness as a result of life experiences.

Marcus goes on to prove that the same awareness of self and world do not require expensive trips in order to be actualized. He quotes Christopher Burkmar,Princeton University’sAssociate Dean of Admissions who added that “some of the more mundane moments in life make great essays.” As an example, Mr. Burkmar said he had recently savored a few hundred words about a family’s dinner conversations.

“The best essays make us laugh, cry or wince,” said Matthew Whelan,Stony Brook University’sassistant provost for admissions and financial aid. “They help us understand why we want the applicant here.”

Parshiyos Achrei Mos and Kedoshim on the surface appear to be 2 of the strangest parshiyos to pair together. After all, one parsha deals with the spiritual experience of Yom HaKippurim and the holy Avodah therein while the other focuses on a myriad of laws that govern daily functioning. Why the two are merged is almost a mystery.

At the same time, the Parshiyos seem to be mislabeled. Shouldn’t the Parsha that deals with the holiest time, place and person – the Kohein Gadol in the holy of holies on Yom Kippur – be the one called Kedoshim? Why does the Parsha of daily living get introduced with the message of Kedusha?

Rav Yonasan Sacks Shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Lander’s noted that it is the  balance of loyal adherence to the Dvar Hashem and the importance of spiritual growth and creativity, that underlie the Parshiyos of Acharei Mos and Kedoshim. That loyal adherence does not only take place at one moment in one place on the Jewish calendar. Rather, each Jewish experience has the potential to be a moment of Kedusha. Each one can impact the person who is aware of personal growth that come out of that experience.  Sometimes it is the special trip and the special moment that has the power to be transforming for the person. At other times, it is the person who transforms himself and experiences that s/he might have otherwise found mundane.

As with the College Admissions officers, who seek within their applicants the potential for academic success, Hashem seeks to have us find our spiritual growth toward Kedusha in our lives – in the identifiable holy moments and in the moments we work to realize that we can make holy as well.

How can YOU energize and transform daily living into moments for spiritual growth and Kedusha awareness?

Let’s  “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting  discussion into our homes and communities.