These and Those

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

A Dvar Torah I wrote for my Synagogue:

Posted on December 28, 2012 by Laura Marder

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523047_3320892264663_1912122470_nShabbat Shalom Pardes. I wanted to share a portion of my Dvar torah that I am giving to my Shul tonight…

Shabbat Shalom,


Last week as my facebook followers know I was standing on a mountain over the dead sea welcoming the Sabbath at a meditation retreat. If I close my eyes I can still feel that crisp dry air and see the warmth of the Negev. This Shabbat I am here with open eyes looking out into the warmth of my CBTBI Synagogue family. I flew in on the 25th because last week I received a call from the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Donation center saying that I was a match to donate peripheral stem cells to a 56 year old women with leukemia. As my dad beautiful pointed out, My last trip to the states was for a death and now with one is for a life. My brother is also a match for her or another patient. It is amazing to me to share in the mitzvah of saving a life with my brother. No matter who ends up doing the donation the fact that we are both dedicated and ready to do as they need is a huge life changing mitzvah. We both signed up to be in the Gift of Life registry while on Birthright together. I think I speak for both of us when I say that while having our cheek swabbed and signing our name we didn’t exactly think down the line to actually being matched to save someone’s life. Gift of life helps to match Jews who are in need of bone marrow or stem cells and don’t have a family member that matches them to donate. We are in the national registry as well but Gift of life facilitates the matching of the Jewish community because of the higher chances of matching a fellow Jew because of our shared origins. We are keeping the patient in our prayers and hoping that one of us will be able to help her and her family as we would hope someone would be there to helps our if needed. I would love to discuss the process and how you can also sign up for the registry with you if you would like more information.


While I am plugging life changing organizations I want to take a moment to tell you about where it is I am studying in Israel. I am receiving my masters in Jewish education at Pardes Institute of Jewish learning. I live in an apartment in Jereusalem and study in a yeshiva style everyday at pardes. My time there so far has taught me so much about myself and my abilities. I study Talmud and Torah with some of the most learned rabbi’s in Jerusalem. They each have a unique teaching style and all encourage personal interpretation to our ancient texts. I also would love to talk to you about my time there and about the varying programs that they offer for all ages and levels.

Just a month ago I was on a trip to Hebron. A high security military controlled area of. Hebron is seen as one of the holiest cities for Jews and Arabs.. therefore we share it in total peace… just kidding.. The situation in Hebron is in my eyes is devastating because such a holy sight is being misused by two sides of extreme people. I was lucky enough to enter the homes of both Palestinian and Jewish sides and hear their story. The funny thing was though that both sides said they wanted the same thing.. their biggest issue is though that though they live back to back as neighbors the only speak as enemies.


While on my trip to try to understand the conflict in Hebron I went to Machpela. The cave in which our Ancestors Abraham Sarah, Issac Rebekah and Leah and Jacob are buried. This is the land Abraham bought from the Hittites to burry his beloved Sarah in. This week we read in parsha Vayechi how Jacobs last request after blessing his children is to not be buried in Egypt but instead to be carried to Machpela and buried with Leah. Joseph at this time is pretty high powered in Egypt so he collects the means for such a journey and him and his brothers along with a caravan of Egyptians journey to Hebron to bury their father. It is not until after this long journey that Josephs brothers beg him to forgive them and have mercy on them for throwing him into a ditch and selling him into slavery. Joseph wisely and warmly embraces his brothers and fully forgives them. He even says that their actions though hurtful were all a part of G-ds plan. For if he hadn’t gone into Egypt they would not have survived the famine without his inside help. It took Jacob’s death to bring all of the brothers together.


Death does this to us today as well. No matter how busy we are we drop everything to make it to a funeral or be there to say a last goodbye to a loved one. The long journey that Joseph and his brothers took at the request of their father made them step away from their grudges and be there for each other. Though death pulls us apart from loved ones it also gives us new meaning to life. This parsha is called Vayechi which is speaking of “and he (Jacob) lived”, focusing on LIFE. So as we all experience difficult experiences in our lives I think this parsha teaches us to get something out of it and add it to our lives.


It is appropriate that we now end the book of Bereshit after such a heavy, emotional parsha with


chazak chazak venitchazek: Be strong, be strong, and be strengthened.


My blessing to us all is that we all be strengthened and brought together in this Journey of life by the difficult times, like Joseph and his brothers.