These and Those

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

My PEP Graduation Dvar Torah

Posted on June 12, 2012 by Esther DuBow

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By Esther DuBow, PEP ’12

Daniel Weinreb, you are truly a scholar and a gentleman and having you as a colleague these past two years has been wonderful. I want that “sugya” you wrote for closing lunch. In return, I’ll give you a copy of our spiel, (PAUSE) assuming there are some left that weren’t burned in protest.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you and give hakarat hatov:

  • To Hebrew College, an institution with a mission of pluralism that has opened my eyes to a vision I greatly respect,
  • and to the Avi Chai foundation, for seeing the potential of the Pardes Educators Program and funding the one-of-a-kind studies I’ve received here.

For a little bit of Esther history – I came to Pardes at the suggestion of my Bube and Zeide who are here tonight. I doubt that they saw this day, at the time of that fateful phonecall, but thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to spend time in this amazing instutition. I also want to thank my parents for supporting me in my decision to go into Jewish education. (PAUSE) Medical school isn’t for everyone, I guess…For some of us there’s this – a lifetime of Torah study that I am confident will be uniquely mine;  that’s what Pardes and PEP have done for me. Thank you to Judy, Michael, Gail, Aviva, Daniel, Susan and Susan for all the individualized attention that has helped me form my teacher self.

Pardes has given me a new life and it has done so in a multitude of ways, from the classes, to the student community, to the connections with teachers. I’ve learned from the incredible faculty here for three years and cannot hope to impress on you all how much I’ve gained, but let me make these two specific statements.

  • Judy Klitsner, thank you for helping me forge the connection between my religious studies and my anthropological ones. In your classroom I was able to study biblical characters and themes in a way I had been yearning to.
  • Zvi Hirschfeld, to put it simply, thank you for giving me Gemara and for recruiting me into education from day one.

In speaking of community I cannot overstate how important my connections with my peers has been, from my colleagues in the cohort, some of whom I’ve been with since Freshman year, to my roommates, to my chevrutot. I’ve done amazing learning while I’ve been here, and it hasn’t been alone. Thank you.

If you’ve ever gotten an email from me, you’ve seen this quote, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” This phliosophy has been with me since high school and my youngest brother actually just used it when lighting the candle of scholarship at his high school’s National Honor Society ceremony. When looking over this week’s parsha, (torah portion) B-ha’alotcha, I read the following in chapter 8, verse 2: דַּבֵּר אֶל-אַהֲרֹן וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו speak to Aharon and say to him בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ אֶת-הַנֵּרֹת when you mount the lamps אֶל-מוּל פְּנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה יָאִירוּ שִׁבְעַת הַנֵּרוֹת let the seven lamps give light at the front of the menorah/lampstand.

I thought again of this quote and how apt it is. Once in land of Israel, the Levites were sent out amongst the tribes, to be educators. This fire of the menorah was not faced inwards, but outwards and I see great symbolism here. I am not the first to equate light and fire with Torah and education, and I won’t be the last…but this is it – our mission, to ensure light faces out, that it leaves this beit midrash that has been our home, and that fires of curiousity are lit – and helped to grow and flourish.

In my earlier litany of “thank yous” I left out someone very special. In the two years that I’ve been a PEP student, I have had the privilege and honor of studying with Pardes’s Rosh Yeshiva – Rabbi Daniel Landes. In this time I have come to love and admire him and I cherish the hours spent in Room 1, his office, this very room, and his home learning Torah. Without a doubt, I have him to thank for the future I am heading towards. At this time, I’d like to ask Rav Landes to come up and address us, Cohort 11, the PEP class of 2012.