These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

A Sense of Home

Posted on November 1, 2009 by David Bogomolny

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My SlippersSome weeks ago, I bought myself a pair of house slippers because my roommate & I had agreed not to wear shoes inside our apartment. My decision was mostly based upon my preference for wearing shoes while davening (praying) at home (traditional Jewish law requires footwear during prayer), but I also thought it would be cozy to walk around in slippers at home because our floor is tiled and cool.

I didn’t immediately pause to consider this, but I quickly became attached to my slippers. They’re comfortable, but more importantly, they are my own: I decided to purchase them, I shopped for them, and they have become part of my daily life – I wear them whenever I am home.


My Shtender

My Shtender

At about the same time (I think) I purchased a table shtender for myself to make studying texts more comfortable. A shtender allows students to read their books at an incline, rather than having to bend over their tables, as you may be able to tell from the photograph.

People usually get their shtenders personalized with scriptual passages and their names. I knew that I wanted to convey a particular message on my shtender, but I didn’t know of any scriptual passages or rabbinic quotations that would make my point for me: that everybody understands the Torah in hir own way.

During night seder (weekly, late evening, personalized study session), I happened upon a phrase in the Mishna (main source of the Oral Torah, compiled in 6 volumes), which (when taken out of context) makes my point exactly: the disciples of Rabbi Hillel claim that one can read the Shema (central creed of Judaism, recited 2x daily) in any position that one prefers:

“כל אדם קורא כדרכו”

Out of context, it’s not clear what is being “read” in this quote because it’s not specified. When one has this quote inscribed upon a shtender, it seems to suggest my point: that everybody understands the Torah in hir own way. I was thrilled to find this phrase in the Mishna :)The Olive Wood Factory (store in J’lem) was closed when I first visited there, but I got my shtender personalized with my quote & my last name, both of which are fairly uncommon. I immediately became attached to it. I’d put thought into it, shopped for it, personalized it, etc. And it certainly makes studying texts more comfortable 🙂

Having my own shtender in the beit midrash (study hall) is comforting. The other day, I reached my hand upwards for it (I keep it on top of a tall book shelf), and it occurred to me that I feel a greater sense of “home” in the beit midrash because something personal of mine awaits me there. My shtender has become a part of my daily life at Pardes – just as my slippers have become a part of my daily life at home. It’s interesting how much inanimate objects can affect one’s mood!