These and Those

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

My Dvar Torah from PEP Graduation Ceremony

Posted on June 12, 2012 by Joanne Loiben

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By Joanne Loiben, PEP ’12

Writer’s block. How can I sum up these past 3 years into a neat little 3 minute Dvar Torah? The memories, the moments, the worlds that once existed on this 3rd floor hidden paradise. The teachers, the knowledge, the learning, the constant flow of engaging conversations. Who I was 3 years ago is not exactly who I am today, and I have Pardes to thank for that. I came not knowing what to expect, packing up my bags after college graduation and landing at Ben Gurion, without even so much as an address in Jerusalem, or a phone number to dial to let someone know I have arrived.  I am leaving a confident and inspired member of the Jewish people, with an enormous Pardes community eager to greet me in the States. I am ready to face the world of Jewish education head on, one student at a time.

Differentiation. This word is repeated over and over again in the Pardes Educators Program as we learn how to fuel learning. Differentiation. We theorize, we apply, we practice, and it finally sinks in. Ah, Differentiation. In Mishlei perek Caf Bet, pasuk Vav, in English, Proverbs chapter 22,verse 6, the text reads:

 חֲנֹךְ לַנַּעַר, עַלפִּי דַרְכּוֹ—    גַּם כִּייַזְקִין, לֹאיָסוּר מִמֶּנָּה

I read this text according to PaRDeS. Pshat, Remez, Drash, and Sod.

The Pshat is the straightforward meaning of the words:

Educate a boy according to his way, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Remez is the hint:

When you allow people to be who they are, the best results emerge.

Drash is my explanation:

I believe this text is saying that there is no derech with a capital D. There is no one right path to Jewish education and building Jewish identity, and knowing this is the key to both.

Teach every young student in their own way, to follow their path confidently, to love Judaism in the only way they know how, so when they are older and look back at their education, the words, the lessons, the values, and the fiery passion will continue to be lit inside of them.

Finally, Sod, the secret:

Maybe this isn’t the secret that the text is trying to hide. In fact, maybe it shouldn’t be a secret at all. This text is extremely significant to me because it represents this program. I was allowed to flourish as a student and G-d willing, soon as an educator because of this these exact words. Every teacher I have learned with here models and represents precisely what I love most about Jewish education. I have been taught in a way that speaks to me and shaped my education and identity and because of that I can boldly say that it will stick with me forever and I am so grateful for this opportunity. Opportunity should really be plural; I was blessed to have countless opportunities because of Pardes, the Pardes Educators Program, the AVICHAI foundation, the staff that works so hard to do everything for us, Hebrew College, my fellow colleagues and friends, and of course, my teachers.