These and Those

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

What A Pardes Student Thinks About on Mother’s Day

Posted on May 12, 2013 by Jessica Katz

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What A Pardes Student Thinks About on Mother’s Day

(if they hold by it)

I think about you most when I’m walking around Jerusalem. It is so beautiful- tiny curved streets with antique stone houses. Everything is a little bit smaller and closer together (perfectly sized for me) or maybe it all just seems little and quaint because every building has to be uncovered by your eyes from all of the amazing plants. Tall thin trees, tropical flowers in huge bushes full, palm trees, vines in full like trees themselves all covered with flowers I’ve never seen before.


Walking down the street you’re suddenly overcome by some new fragrance. It’s half amazement at the smell and half curiosity that makes me stop in my tracks and investigate the new color/ shape/ feel of some completely unique flower. I always think how you would love all of the flowers, and I like to imagine in those moments that if you were here you would have to stop and look at them. They surprise you out of whatever plans you’ve made.


Really the flower-smelling moments have been my most special spiritual times in my life here in Jerusalem. They have the power to instill awe. They make me stop whatever I think I’m managing in my life to enjoy and remember I’m just a little creature too. They are quiet, peaceful, and giving. They are little miracles that remind me how generous Gd is as I go along my way. You are the one I think of when I think these thoughts. Maybe it’s because you are my Mom or maybe it’s a special gift you have: I know you understand these things. You are so wise and you get how important it is to see the big in these little things. You have always nurtured things – kids, homes, plants, total strangers. When I was little I couldn’t understand why you wanted to spend hours in the sun and the dirt trying to make something grow. Now that I am fully grown I see that planting something is the biggest gift we can give to the world, and I want to plant in every aspect of my life: for my family, for Israel, for peace, for children everywhere.


If it weren’t for you – your love of gardening and the way you always shared the big picture with me I our talks – I might have spent my life walking past the flowers. You nurtured me enough to take this pause in my path for an entire year even though it was scary and hard. It’sbecause of you I was able to come here and why I saw it was important. And when I think about the flower-smelling moments, I see this spiritual experiment was a success. I still smell flowers on Shabbat regardless of whether Jewish law permits it. That’s maybe my first clear example of what I’ve learned this year. I hope it is an indication of what kind of relationship I will have with Gd and Judaism along the rest of my path. I think Gd is in the flowers. Gd nurtures and wants us to grow, just like the loving flowers that generously give off their sweet smell, and just like you: The Gardener.


I love you. I am grateful all the time that you are my Mom. You have given me so much; I am in awe of how you and Dad have supported this adventure right from the beginning two years ago when I said I wanted to return to Israel. Somehow you saw I needed this to grow into what I am supposed to be. I think it’s all that big picture stuff you understand: to see the forest through the trees it’s best to stop looking, close your eyes, and smell the flowers.