These and Those

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

Reflections on “Poems on a Journey’s End” and “B’reishit”

Posted on May 8, 2013 by Laurie Franklin

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This year, while learning in the Pardes Year Program, I also attended the Shalom Hartman Institute Rabbinic Student Seminar. I learned weekly on Wednesday evenings with 20 + rabbinic students from N. and S. America and Europe under the guidance of Melila Hellner-Eshed and Yossi Klein HaLevi. My sister Pardesnik and ALEPH rabbinic program student, Annie Matan Gilbert, also attended the Hartman program. Our last session was this evening, May 8.

For me, it has been a magical time: excursions into Zohar, contemporary Israeli poetry, music, politics, and society. Our final project was to select one line each from a sacred text and poem we studied and make a commentary on them. Here’s mine:

Teach my lips a blessing and a song of praise
As you renew time with mornings and nights
Lest my day be like yesterday and the day before
Lest my day be empty habit for me.
–Leah Goldberg (translation L. Franklin)

Beyond that point, nothing is known
So it called Reishit – beginning,
First command of all.
–Zohar (translation Danny Matt)

I am choosing not to know.
I am choosing to act.
But there is no other way,
Because I like rapids and white water.
I like to pause in the stern and watch the water ahead,
Then feel my way through with the blade.

This morning, I woke up and said a few words I always say.
The day unrolled from a page:
Rabbis talking about bodily emissions and prayer,
The messiness of our physical lives and holiness,
How to reconcile them.
Of course, they don’t agree.
I’m relieved to learn that some hold:
The fire of Torah cannot be profaned by ordinary matter.

I make a cup of tea.
Comforting, steamy cup.
Predictable in the midst of not-knowing.
Now, back to dreams,
Places of symbol and shifting logic,
Mutable images, and strange color.

Every day, I accept the command to begin.