[PCJE Dvar Torah] Emulating my Grandparents

Ariel Eliach FormanThis week’s Parsha, Parshat Kedoshim uses the literary device of an “inclusio”. It starts and ends with the same line.

דַּבֵּר אֶל-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל
וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם–קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ: כִּי קָדוֹשׁ, אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.

 
and ends with:

וִהְיִיתֶם לִי קְדֹשִׁים, כִּי
קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְהוָה;

 
In the middle, the parsha talks about all the ways and laws in which we should adhere to in order to be a nation and individuals worthy of being called קדש. What i see through this “inclusio” is the notion of emulation. God is saying be holy and do this through emulating Me your God. This is not only an answer to how it should be done but why it is commanded in the first place. We are commanded to be קדש in its multiple meanings because God embodies קדושה and created a nation with the potential for the same. In order to fully understand this big idea we have to delve into the meaning of emulation. Dicitionary.com defines emulation as “to match or surpass (a person or achievement), typically by imitation.” When one tries to emulate another person there is a certain sense of imitation and longing to be similar or like that person. This essentially means that people try to imitate certain traits, characteristics and personas of others to incorporate those traits into their own lives. Continue reading

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choosing what kind of God to serve

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smallthe relationships we have with our parents form a template for our relationship with the Divine. i grew up giving my parents a very hard time, constantly bucking their authority. we fought all the time. this power struggle is present in my relationship with God, as it is in my relationships with everyone and everything. here is an example of a conversation from last week:
 
God: don’t eat that spelt matzah.
 
me: no. who do you think you are? it’s in my lunch bag and i want to eat it with my egg.
 
i then proceeded to eat it, throwing my body out of whack for several days.
 
this power struggle was at the core of my passover journey this year. i realized that i need to change the God that i serve. i would rather serve a God who asks, ‘do you really want to eat that spelt matzah?’ instead of one who tells me what to do from a distance.
 
which means i need to soften inside of myself, soften and open. to release the hardness from my heart and find my way into a different relationship with the Everything that brought me into being. here’s to the journey of freedom that is ongoing…
 


 
read more from my blog here.

[PCJE Dvar Torah] Pesach, Matzah, Marror

naozasOver the last week, I and most of my fellow PEPers, have been traveling around the States, doing model lessons for schools in hopes of gainful employment. One of my favorite model lessons that I’ve done focused on the Passover Seder and the way that we tell our story of leaving Egypt year after year.

In Mishna Pesachim 10:5, Rabban Gamliel demands of each Jew to see themselves as if they personally left Egypt, recreating the cycle of slavery to freedom at the Seder. But is it really possible to see ourselves as slaves? Continue reading

More Than Four Faces of Israel | Part 4

From my blog:

SarpoA few weeks ago, an actress came to Pardes to do a kind of skit, stereotyping Four Faces of Israel, or four different people that one will inevitably encounter in Israel. She portrayed the narratives of a Haredi woman, a settler, a kibbutznik and an Arab woman. Somehow, every experience that I have, everyone that I encounter, draws my mind back to that day. The more I think about it, the more I realize that there is so much more to the melting pot that is Israel because of all of the people that don’t fit into the portrayal. I’m on the Social Justice Track at Pardes, a class designed to teach a wide range of text relating to various social justice topics and show students what’s actually going on in Israel. For the first part, we sit in the beit midrash, the house of study, discussing with our hevrutastudy partner. For the second part, we take field trips, talk to tour guides, but more importantly, talk to individuals.

While the people that we have met have been vastly different, one thing echoes from their collective stories — that they’re happy to tell us their story and wish that we tell it to others. I’ve alluded to these individuals in some of my other blogs, but Continue reading

Intentional Community: Creative Thinking

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cargerA few weeks ago, an email came across my inbox (and probably yours, too) from David Levin-Kruss.

“Ask me about this great opportunity to do Shabbat in Beer Sheva,” read the subject line. “City of Abraham, City of Opportunity.”

I read it and figured, “Yeah, why not?” I had never been to Beer Sheva before, and am always interested in opportunities to get to know Israel outside of Jerusalem. And Andrew Shapiro Katz (Kollel, PEP 2001-03), who organized the weekend alongside his wife, Emily (Faculty, Summer ’06), currently works for the new Negev campus of the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, which I wanted to hear more about. Emily works for the “Go South!” program of Nefesh b’Nefesh, which also peaked my curiosity. Continue reading

Why were the Israelites Enslaved?

971449_4644531405224_479491692_nOn Passover night, we ask many questions. Here is one you may have never asked: why did the Egyptians want to subjugate the Israelites into slavery in the first place? What can we learn about ourselves by connecting Torah, the history of its interpretation, and Jewish conflict resolution theory? Welcome to the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution housed in the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.

The details of the Exodus story are not distributed evenly. Many years of Jewish history are glossed over in one verse or are omitted entirely in the Torah. Thus, it takes great skill to fill in the details left out of the story, aided by small hints in the text. For example, Continue reading

Continually opting in to Orthodoxy

From my blog, Redefining Rebbetzin:

mel roundThere has been a lot of talk online over the past few months about Orthodox Feminism – ranging from how it is not possible, to how oppressed we are, to why we stay Orthodox. The posts on the latter topic seem to come mostly from women who grew up within the structure of Halacha that Orthodoxy provides, and “don’t know what they’re missing” in more liberal streams where egalitarianism reigns along with the thoughts of our oppression. Continue reading

New tunes amisdt the old

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From my blog:

lonkleA few nights ago I went to a music and light festival in the old city.

Earlier that day, I signed a contract for my job next year- working with Jewish communities in the South, based in Jackson Mississippi.

I’ve become aware of what little time I have left in Israel, and the huge shift that will take place with this next move in my life.

As we entered the Jaffa gate, we were greeted by a Tom Jones-esque man, singing to a crowd of young, hip Israelis. Continue reading

Cleaning the Kitchen with Underwear

From my blog:

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(No, not cleaning the kitchen in my underwear. I’m not that much of an exhibitionist. And it wasn’t even my kitchen, so cleaning in my underwear might have been a wee bit inappropriate.)

Thank goodness for Passover, the holiday without which most Jews would never clean their kitchens. But in preparation for the holiday that requires the elimination of all bread-ish products from our homes, Jews in Jerusalem bring out the big guns (and by ‘guns’ I mean cleaning products). On almost every telephone pole and bus stop wall this time of year, signs in Hebrew advertise someone’s scrubbing skills, their heft with a vacuum, or their ability to sniff out cookies from four kilometers away. Every poor student turns into a professional cleaner, and the market is ripe. Continue reading

It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye

Aliza GellerThere is a good chance that I won’t be returning to Pardes after Passover. So, during community lunch yesterday, I said a few words, an option given to anyone who wants to reflect on their experience at Pardes. Here is what I said:

Roughly two hours ago I walked into the Beit Midrash to return a book I had borrowed on Jewish Meditation. When I first went to look for the book It was hidden in the farthest corner of the Beit Midrash and after about 15 minutes of looking I found it by chance. Today as I walked away from that shelf I saw this,

Pardes reader

The Pardes Reader, a book of essays published in 1997, in celebration of 25 years of learning at Pardes. Clearly, Continue reading