These and Those

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

A Love So Sharp

Posted on May 31, 2013 by Laura H.

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Here are the words I shared at Community Lunch:

68507_10151567978293826_1816020235_nI spent a lot of time going back and forth in my head about whether or not to give a dvar Torah today. I have learned so much over the last two years, how would I choose something to talk about? What would I say to do justice to how deeply influential Pardes has been for me?

After two years of full-time study I still feel like I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the Jewish canon. As I look around at all the books in the Beit Midrash and learn from such a high calibre of faculty, I am constantly humbled by what I don’t know.

And I have to tell you, it’s truly empowering.

I haven’t always felt this way, though. In fact, 2 years before I ended up coming to Pardes, I applied, got in, and decided not to come. I was far too intimidated by what I didn’t know to even begin learning. It took me some time, but I eventually made it here and I don’t even know if I have the words to express how grateful I am for that fact.

All of that being said, I want to share two lessons with you today from what I learned at my first Night Seder:

While studying Rashi on the שמע, I noticed that he also included lessons for general Torah study in this particular section.

On the verse וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם–עַל-לְבָבֶךָ, and these words which I command you today should be on your heart, Rashi comments that the word היום is about making sure that the Torah is not seen as an antiquated decree, but something that can be made new and relevant so that people want to read it.

He continues his comments on the next verse וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ, that you should teach it to your children, that ושנתם comes from the language of sharpening. That the words of Torah should be sharp in our mouths such that when a person asks us a question about Torah, we can respond immediately.

Rashi gives me a lot to live up to in this last comment, but as I prepare to leave Pardes, I feel at the very least, that my love of Torah, another strong theme in the first paragraph of the שמע, is so sharp that I can speak that.

Although I have always been a strongly identified Jew, I can now articulate why being Jewish is important to me. I have changed in ways that I couldn’t have even imagined and fallen in love over the last two years with things that I didn’t even know existed. I have confronted my own ignorance and stepped into a place where I have been challenged every day. I feel tremendously indebted to Pardes for all of this.

Rereading Rashi’s comments almost two years later reminds me that I have worked hard to make the Torah relevant and to pursue my own Torah. I hope that these comments can also serve as inspiration for you as you prepare to step out of the walls of this beautiful Beit Midrash.