Here is my dvar Torah from the PCJE Graduation ceremony!
Martha Graham was one of the sages, entrepreneurs and Rebbes of modern dance. Says Graham:
“I believe that we learn by practice. It is the performance of a dedicated, precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. Ultimately, one becomes in some area of life, an athlete of God.”
Graham’s words resonate with me, because her words are rich with the wisdom of a dancer’s life…as a dancer is a prime example of someone who becomes what they practice day in and day out….
While I have spent over 40 hours a week in this Beit Midrash over the past 2 years, the place where I spent my free time was in the dance studio. Every class my ballet teacher is very clear about what she is looking for at the barre. If she doesn’t see clarity of movement from her students, she reminds the class repeatedly: “Stretch your feet! Use the floor! Stand tall!” You might be wondering: Why does she need to repeat herself? She constantly reminds her students because she is acutely aware that the dance class is where we practice technique, and every action of the body programs the muscle memory, so practicing correctly is very important for the dancer. A dancer is trying to accomplish a lot in every given movement – Continue reading →
The following is my PCJE Commencement dvar Torah
from last week:
2002-2003: Pardes Year Program
July 2008: Pardes Summer Session
And now, 2011-2013: Pardes Educators Program
I guess the only thing left to do is to talk to Robby about coming back, maybe in 2040, for the Executive Learning Seminar. But, in all seriousness, as one can clearly tell by looking at my resume, Pardes holds a place near and dear to my heart and it is difficult for me to think about saying goodbye, at least here in Jerusalem, for the foreseeable future.
In the spirit of looking back on the knowledge I’ve gained here, and looking ahead to the task we’ve now set out for ourselves as Jewish educators, I wanted to share an insight I first came to while Continue reading →
Stu and I spent our last afternoon in Jerusalem running errands. One of those errands was a final visit to the Kotel to put a note in the wall. Stu collected prayers from family members and hand-copied them from emails, even including typos so each person’s prayer went in exactly as written. I wrote my own prayer on the bus on the way to the old city.
I had been to the kotel 4 other times this year but this was the first time I went all the way up to the wall, pulled up a chair and took the time to pray there and really be present with all my complicated feelings about the place. And it was the first time I felt its pull. I was suddenly really aware of how privileged I have been to have access to this holy spot all year. I thought about my grandparents and great-grandparents and others who wish(ed) they could spend time here. And I felt some sadness over my months-long ambivalence over spending time here. I backed away slowly and Continue reading →
It is so hard to believe Annie and my year in Israel is already over! We are sitting in our hostel room in Tel Aviv, taking in the sounds of the city, as we contemplate returning to Toronto, changed in so many ways.
This year has been a year with so many different facets. Challenging, exciting, tiring, renewing… It has really been a year of rebirth for us, clearing out a lot of hard stuff to make room for growth as we uproot our lives here in Israel and put down roots back in Canada. Annie and I finished our time in Jerusalem with a visit to the Kotel… As we were about to leave, I looked back and realized that this would be the last time for a long time that I would be so close, and how grateful I was for the opportunity. What I thought in that moment was Continue reading →
Relative to life, Hannah and I are new friends. Even though we knew each other before, we really met at the beginning of this year. I was lucky enough to room with her at the first Shabbaton of the year where I finally got the inside scoop on the engagement. (Eitan really couldn’t provide enough details for my needs.) And then I was invited to the Landes’ for Sukkot and well, let’s just say, I have been a Landes’ family groupie ever since.
If you haven’t been to the Landes’ yet for a meal, you’re missing out, but if you have, you know that the best part is coming over the night before to help prepare for the meal! You get to hangout with their family, chit-chat, laugh and feel the love that naturally bursts from their home. So I happened to be in this situation in their kitchen cutting up vegetables talking with Hannah and her mom, Sheryl. And I suddenly found myself in a very safe place, so safe that Continue reading →
I shared this dvar in honor of the Robbin Landes Family @
a 7 Brachot meal for Hannah Robbin Landes & Eitan Gavson:
Dear Sheryl, Rav Landes, Isaac, Hannah and Eitan,
I am so touched to have the opportunity to address the five of you directly in celebration of Hannah’s & Eitan’s marriage. Thank you.
You all mean a great deal to me – both as individuals, and as a model of a beautiful family. And in both cases, you demonstrate a searching for meaning that is expressed in the thoughtfulness of the choices that you make. Your Judaism – the Judaism that compels me – is a delicate balance of commitment to our Halakhic heritage, and the embracing of every individual’s self driven journey to find his or her best and most true self.
I’d like to consider one component of Parshat Shlach with you now, examining it through the lenses of choice and commitment.
At the very end of this week’s Parasha, on the fringe, so to speak, we find the mitzvah of tzitzit (Numbers 15:38-40):
38 ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them throughout their generations fringes in the corners of their garments, and that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread of blue.
39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray; Continue reading →
Dvar Torah by Daniel Shibley (Year '11, Fellows '12)
in honor of Hannah Landes and Eitan Gavson:
Photo credit: Andrea Wiese (PEP ’14)
Last evening I had the extraordinary pleasure of celebrating the marriage of two friends who are dear members of our community. The chatan and kallah sparkled with radiance as their parents beamed with pride. As the chatan and then the kallah were escorted to the marriage canopy, which symbolizes the home that they have begun to build together, I could not help but think of the beauty and purity of the candelabra that is kindled in our parasha this week in Numbers 8:4
And this was the work of the candlestick, beaten work of gold; unto the base thereof, and unto the flowers thereof, it was beaten work; according unto the pattern which the LORD had shown Moses, so he made the candlestick
Like the gold mentioned in the verse, the chatan and the kallah were models of perfection, each one completing the other, while we looked on, sharing in and hopefully adding to their unbridled happiness. Continue reading →
This time of year in Israel, you can’t really go a week without a holiday. This week we celebrated Yom Yerushalayim – the day that celebrates the unification of Jerusalem after the 1967 war. One year ago on this day I announced to my students and school community that I would be leaving Chicago to pursue my dream of aliyah. This is what I told them:
Yom Yerushalayim 2012/ 5772
Following the 1948 War of Independence, Jerusalem was divided. The Western half of the New City became part of the newly formed state of Israel, while the eastern half, along with the Old City, was annexed by Jordan. During this time period, many ancient synagogues, libraries and centers of religious study in the Old City of Jerusalem were ransacked or were totally and deliberately destroyed. For the next 20 years, Jews were denied access to Old City and no Jews prayed at the Kotel.
In early June, 1967, East Jerusalem was captured by the Israel Defense Forces during the Six Day War. Jews all over the world celebrated the event as the liberation of the city, Jerusalem was once again unified. Today we commemorate this day, dubbed: Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day , to celebrate this momentous victory. Continue reading →
Since moving to Israel nearly nine months ago, I cannot count the number of times I have had the following conversation with people I meet once it has been established that I am learning at Nishmat….
NewPerson: And your husband? What is he doing this year?
Me: He is learning at Pardes.
NewPerson: Why aren’t you also at Pardes?
The answer is simultaneously incredibly simple and incredibly complex: Nishmat was the right fit for me for this year. I wrote about it when I first posted that I was coming here, so I won’t get into all those details again now. However, I have felt all year that I could have been just as happy at Pardes, and I would have grown just as much – though perhaps in slightly different ways and speeds.
On the surface level, the two institutions appear so very different from one another. Nishmat is an Orthodox women’s midrasha and Pardes is a pluralistic co-ed yeshiva. But realistically they are both serious places of learning with a diverse faculty and student body, where students learn Gemara, Tanach, and Jewish thought. Both are places where “young adults” take a year (or more) out of their lives in order to learn more Jewish text and explore Continue reading →