These and Those

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

2012 PEP Graduation Dvar Torah

Posted on June 13, 2012 by Rabbi Julie Gordon

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By Rabbi Julie Gordon, PEP ’12

Soon we will leave the security of Pardes’ Beit Midrash where if we had a question or wanted to study a text, there was always a teacher or a student interested in helping, guiding and learning with us. We all know there is so much more to learn. When I feel overwhelmed by the massive tomes yet unexplored, I am inspired by these words from the Torah:

יא) כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם לֹא נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא:

Moshe spoke to the children of Israel: “Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond your reach.

יב) לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲלֶה לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה:

 It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?”

יג) וְלֹא מֵעֵבֶר לַיָּם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲבָר לָנוּ אֶל עֵבֶר הַיָּם וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה:

Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who among you can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it!’

יד) כִּי קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר מְאֹד בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ:

No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.”

דברים פרק  ל

When I arrived at Pardes, I passionately believed that the Torah was accessible and available to each and every Jew. Through my experiences at Pardes, Torah has become even closer and even more accessible to me. Through the role models of my many talented teachers, I have learned skills to help make Torah study and Jewish living accessible to others who are seeking entry points into active Jewish life.

I feel deep gratitude to my Pardes teachers and staff for everything you have done to help me grow as a Jew and as an educator.  Over these past two years, through your wisdom and guidance, I strengthened and deepened my text and pedagogic skills. You are my role models for combining passion for Torah learning and living. I will strive to ask insightful questions and seek to deeply understand a passage from Torah. Your questions will be in my head as I enter a classroom and help students find traditional and personal meaning in studying our texts.

To my classmates: Todah rabah for warmly welcoming me despite our age difference. We created a very supportive cohort and you helped me find my sense of humor. I learned a great deal from each one of you and I am proud to call you colleagues.

I greatly appreciate our terrific PEP faculty and the Avi Chai Foundation’s investment in my ongoing professional and spiritual development. I recognize that I’m not the typical PEP student.  You were willing to help me continue to grow as a Jew,  a rabbi, and as a teacher. I will incorporate your guidance as I strive to make Torah accessible to my students and their families. Truly, “Jewish learning and living is very close to us, in our mouth and in our heart, to observe it.”