Crimson opinion writer
Spencer W. Glassman
There is still room in the Jewish prayer service to ask God for whatever we personally need. Nevertheless, the prevailing mantra in our minds must be that we are inextricably linked to all of our fellows, and that we must organize our days around realizing how much they give to us, and how much we are indebted to them.
Every Harvard tour mentions the many hours of deep discussion a first-year has in Annenberg, or the close-knit community formed in the Houses — as if each dining hall is like a family table. As I became an Orthodox Jew, I left behind the endless rows of the Berg and the ornate ceilings of Leverett to eat in a building some students don’t even know serves food: Harvard Hillel.
As Jews, we believe each moment can be made holy through following Halacha, or Jewish law, and fulfilling mitzvot, or commandments. When I began to observe these rules more strictly, I was overwhelmed and scared by how much was demanded of my time. Each moment was to be important, and contained in it an opportunity to do something of monumental significance. How could I live up to that?
Harvard created its own problem. A language requirement would be a lot simpler if students were required to come into the College with a solid grasp of a language. Then, Harvard would know that whoever enrolls will only require two or four semesters, whatever language it may be, until she has not only the exposure to a language, but skill.
We have to aspire first and foremost to be good. A legacy is ultimately meaningless. We need only to focus on being as kind, grateful, and humble as we can in our own lives. Social justice does not matter without individual justice. It is easy to shout about how other people need to change and other people need to do things, but the only way we can actually effectuate change is through embodying it ourselves. Through doing good and modeling virtue for others we can start to create a more just society.
The humanities must be studied for their own sake, not as shells of what they once were, nor as stepping-stones to something “actually important.” The humanities cannot beat the sciences at their own game, and they shouldn’t try. Each discipline has fundamentally different goals. In order for the humanities to recapture importance we must relitigate the question of materialism. Studying the Humanities is fruitful apart from anything else.