These and Those

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


Posted on May 30, 2013 by Laurie Franklin

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Here are the words I shared in the Beit Midrash today -

381515_10151567978818826_1137145416_nToday, at this time of leave-taking, I want to talk about connections, unexpected connections.

First, a little background: This week I had two divrei Torah to compose, one for DLK’s Dvar Torah workshop and one for today. The first one was for Parashat Hashavua, Shlach, and the second, for today, was for sharing something about our learning in Michael Hattin’s Bekiut Neviim Rishonim class.

For Shlach, I knew what I wanted to address, I wanted to talk about Exhibit A, those really big grapes that the spies hauled back from the land. And for today’s talk, I began to reread Sefer Yehoshua, in which there are many mentions of the miraculous role of the aron kodesh; sometimes the Israelites follow it, sometimes they lead it, and sometimes they pass before it, as for example, when they cross the Yarden on their way to the defeat of Jericho. This seemed like rich material for a dvar.

As I prepared the Shlach dvar, I read Rashi’s commentary about carrying the big grapes, on the words “vamot b’shnayim”, on a pole by two. There are several ways this can be translated, and Rashi, who brings in the Bavli Sotah here, characterizes this as 2 sets of two poles, for a total of four, crossed at right angles to each other like a hash-mark, with 8 men carrying the monster grape cluster. Here’s where the connection, the unexpected connection arises:

The rabbis of Sotah arrive at the number of men required by referring to the crossing of the Yarden in Sefer Yehoshua! What’s the connection? In Sefer Yehoshua, the waters part when the kohanim carry the ark into the river, and the whole nation of Israel crosses on dry land. To commemorate this event of Divine intervention, G!d commands Yehoshua to order his men to pick up 12 large stones from the dry river bed and to set them up as a monument. (Read pasuk here, Yehoshua 4:4)

Rashi continues, summarizing Sotah:

“If you wish to know how much one of them carried, go forth and learn from the stones they set up at Gilgal: Each man carried on his shoulder one stone [from the Jordan] and set it up at Gilgal. The Sages weighed them [and determined that] each stone weighed forty seah, and it is a fact that the load a person can carry on his shoulders is only a third of the weight of the load he can carry when others help him lift it.” [Sotah 34b]

So, amazingly, our Oral Torah makes a connection between these two stories, the enormous grapes and the Yarden crossing, something I could not have anticipated when I began thinking about each one, separately.

And it seems that there is a message in this little moment of unexpected connection:

There are far more connections in Torah that we will uncover as we continue to learn.

AND also, in these days of leave-taking, that there are far more connections between our time at Pardes and our next steps than any of us may imagine or expect.

My blessing for each of us is that our connections with Torah multiply,
that the connections we have with each other remain a blessing,
and especially, that we welcome and look forward to the unexpected connections!