These and Those

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

Dvar Torah from the Shabbaton

Posted on September 19, 2012 by Derek Kwait

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Shabbat shalom. My dvar hangs on the verses from the Parsha, “Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath, but with those that stand here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day,” which means us, and “All of you are standing today in the presence of the Lord your God—your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel, together with your children and your wives, and the aliens living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water.” This means that no matter who you are or what you do, there is a Torah that you have to teach.

We’ve already spoken a lot about how fortunate and blessed we are to live and to study Torah in Israel, but I want to talk also about how blessed we are to live in the countries we come from. In America or Canada or England, or wherever we come from, we can go to any school or hold any job, and we can do so as Jews. This is something unheard of in history. Last year,in Turning Points in Modern Jewish History, Dean Bernstein talked a lot about what he calls the “bargain of Emancipation”that, 250 years ago, Jews could be citizens or they could be Jews, but they couldn’t be both. This is an incoherent notion today, we can study or do anything—writing, bio-stats, art, business, psychology, and more, we can do it as Jews. And not only that, the non-Jews we live with aren’t trying to kill us or convert us, but are legitimately our friends

Forget 250, even 70 years ago, who could have imagined that there would someday be Jews like us; we are the Jews no other generation of Jews could have possibly imagined. This new reality deserves a Torah no other generation of Jews could have possibly imagined, one where we go into the world and we make it holy, doing our jobs Jewishly, with all the love, honesty, kindness, and holiness that demands.

But by coming to Pardes, you are affirming that this is possible, that Judaism is up to this challenge, that you can take what you learned before coming to Pardes, integrate Torah into it, and make the world a holier place.

So my blessing to you (and me too, why not?) is that this coming year, we can live as the Jews no other generation of Jews could have possibly imagined to work together towards creating a Torah worthy of this unprecedented moment in history to ultimately make the world an unimaginably holier place