These and Those

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

My davar from PEP graduation

Posted on June 15, 2012 by Daniel Weinreb

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By Daniel Weinreb, PEP ’12

“It’s so appropriate that we are in this week’s parsha…”

Really?  I’m skeptical.  In fact, when I hear that phrase in a d’var Torah I fluff up the shoulder next to me and hit the snooze button.  Why?  Because I anticipate I am about to get a contrived connection between this week’s parashah and some contemporary or personal event.

So to allay your fears, today I’m justifying my d’var employs proto-midrash, also called intertextuality.  Intertextuality is an approach I learned from Baruch Feldstern, my teacher. I could call it an inversive, or reversive sequel, a la gaon Judy Klitsner.  The concept is that Tanakh drashes on itself.  An event that occurs in Chumash pops up again in Nakh in a novel way that provides a new interepretation of a situation. 

The Torah is writing Midrash on itself.  Exclamation point.

To give full credit, this particular drash I first heard in my Sefer Yehoshua shiur with my teacher Michael Hattin, in which he helped us notice how Sefer Yehoshua was a retelling of the Exodus account.

Since the upcoming theme is having your expectations fulfilled, let me manage your expectations for the next three reasons:

The Koteret of this talk is “Why is life so easy?”

You will experience what we teachers call a “Hook,” something to catch your attention and focus it on the text.  Following the hook is text study.  Finally, I will include a personal reflection.

The Hook:

When Am Yisrael left Egypt,  according to a parshan whose name I forgot, they sang Cheryl Crowe refrain “No one said it would be  easy. But no one told me it would be this hard.”

(אף אחד לא אמר שזה יהיה קל, מוד א ‘פרק שני, פזמון א)

What did she mean by easy?  What did she mean by hard?

That was the hook.

So now for the text study. 

Let’s sample Sefer Bamidbar and Sefer Yehoshua, in non-chronological order.

In Bamidbar, Am Yisrael disobey Moshe and in Sefer Yehoshua, Am Yisrael follows Yehoshua’s orders

In Bamidbar,  the spies act like grasshoppers and in Sefer Yehoshua the spies act like spies.

In Bamidbar we have the egal hazahav.  In Sefer Yehoshua, the Am Yisrael built a shrine dedicated to G-d. 

And In Bamidbar, we read about a terrified sprint across Yam Suf. In Sefer Yehoshua Am Israel has a grand procession across ha Yarden.  Living in Israel,they managed to redeem many mistakes Am Yisrael had en route. 

Specifically about this procession Sefer Yehoshua says:

בַּיַּבָּשָׁה עָבַר יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה.

Israel crossed the Jordan on dry land.

I figuratively translate that passuk as “They crossed into Israel easily.” 

What made Eretz Yisrael easier than the desert?  Settling the land required work. I mean that life in Israel was more easily understood by the Israelites, and in that sense, it was easier.   When life is logical, working hard is easier. 

In the desert, everything came from G-d.  Manna from heaven –  this is easy, but difficult to understand.  You see, it is not a stable situation.  Strange things happen.  For example: Moshe had his passport revoked for hitting a rock.  A rock.  Hitting a  rock?

In contrast, Eretz Yisrael is stable.  A 1+1 = 2 kind of land. 

You plant, you harvest.   You don’t plant, don’t harvest.  

Follow G-d’s way, stay in the land.  Don’t follow, don’t stay.  Israel is a place where rain comes in season, the earth has an annual harvest and the trees bear fruit. 

The rules are posted. 

Good things happen to good people. 

Life makes sense.  Keyn yehi ratzon…

That was the text study.

Here is the personal interpretation.

Being a student en route to becoming a teacher, that, for me, was like being in desert. Ten years ago, I did not know how I would get here, to Pardes. Or when I would get to Pardes. Or even where Pardes was. 

Here it is, and  here I am. Having crossed a existential Yarden. I’m confident enough that if I work hard at teaching,  good things will happen.  At least most of the time.  Baruch Hashem.

Let there be rain in its season.  I am prepared for dry years too. 

Either way, for me that is Gan Eden.