These and Those

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

Torah Balance

Posted on April 29, 2013 by Stu Jacobs

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Yesterday was a special day at Pardes. Not because Meir was roaming the halls with a mass of students, singing at the top of his lungs, although that was part of it. Not because there was dancing in the beit midrash, although that was part of it as well. The occurrences above, while special, have been seen from time to time at Pardes before.

375086_10151567979563826_2073371638_nBut, this time, the spirited nigunnim sung in the halls and the circle dancing in the middle of the beit midrash were in celebration and commemoration of a Hachnasat Sefer Torah, the welcoming in of a Torah that was given to the Pardes community. This sefer torah was brought into our community with a number of meaningful rituals: It was brought, under the shade of a tallit, to every classroom where Torah was being learned that morning; it was escorted through the halls in which endless conversations referencing the impact of Torah study can be heard; and it was passed, from person to person, around the beit midrash, out to the other designated prayer space, Room 5, where the Egalitarian minyan convenes, and back into the Aron Kodesh at the apex of the beit midrash.

Each of us there was able to look at, touch, and hold this sefer torah and to reflect on how we genuinely feel part ownership over it, due to our time at Pardes, a time of intense study, reflection, intention, and prayer, all in some way connected back to the words of that very torah.

Outside of this shared experience, I had the opportunity to go through my morning, from 7:30am through the end of this special ritual, with our Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Landes. And, while this may have been just a day in the life of a Rav who is at the heart of a Jewish community, it was no ordinary day for me.

I participated in a shiva minyan at the home of a Pardes board member who lost her father last week. We have the shared past of both being members of the Cleveland Jewish community, and when Rav Landes mentioned last week that he was attending, I decided to join the minyan and to send regards from our family.

Rav Landes had been asked to help the family mark this last day of shiva by learning and teaching some words of Torah with the family and friends, and to escort the family on the halachically-mandated first walk outside of the home that officially marks the end of the initial mourning period. The piece of Torah the Rav Landes brought to the group inspired the family members to speak candidly about the positive qualities of their loved one that they will carry forward with them, those which they will remember him by.

Directly from there, Rav Landes met the kollel later in the morning to continue our gemara learning in the fourth chapter of Masechet Brachot. As is typical, included in our discussion were insightful (and oftentimes laughter-inspiring) tidbits from Rav Landes’ personal past, that inevitably shed light on the intricacies of the gemara. At a certain point, a question arose that we had trouble figuring out. Rav Landes reflected that this very point had bothered him for hours over Shabbat as he prepared for our time together. As I look forward toward being a teacher of Torah myself, I was struck by the dedication implied by this offhand statement.

392487_10151567982603826_123845542_nAnd, of course, I observed as Rav Landes helped guide and create the ritual, new to Pardes, of welcoming in a sefer torah. These rituals were decided upon after much thought and deliberation, taking into account what would be the most appropriate, and the most meaningful, way for the community to mark this special moment.

I guess this can be just the day in the life of a Rosh Yeshiva. But I couldn’t help but marvel at the knowledge, strength, and sensitivity required to balance all of these needs of our special community, a community which spans generations, languages, and oceans. I can now say I have a better sense of what it means to truly live, every moment of every day, a life of Torah.