Posted on June 10, 2013 by Stu Jacobs
The following is my PCJE Commencement dvar Torah from last week:
I guess the only thing left to do is to talk to Robby about coming back, maybe in 2040, for the Executive Learning Seminar. But, in all seriousness, as one can clearly tell by looking at my resume, Pardes holds a place near and dear to my heart and it is difficult for me to think about saying goodbye, at least here in Jerusalem, for the foreseeable future.
In the spirit of looking back on the knowledge I’ve gained here, and looking ahead to the task we’ve now set out for ourselves as Jewish educators, I wanted to share an insight I first came to while immersed in the study of Sefer Breishit with one of my many mentors and teachers here at Pardes, Judy Klitsner.
Let’s transport ourselves to the aftermath of the flood during the times of Noach. We may recall the famous scene of Noach sending out the יונה, the dove, to see whether the waters had quieted enough for Noach to steer the ark to shore. I want to focus our attention for a moment on the relationship between Noach and the dove in this account, imagining Noach in the role of a teacher, and the dove in the role of a student.
After Noach sends the dove out on its first scouting trip, the dove returns empty-handed, having found no place to rest its feet during its entire flight. Noach has given his student her first assignment, and she returns completely exhausted, potentially frustrated, and completely discouraged. The text then relates:
Noach sent out his hand and took her, bringing her back toward him into the ark.
Empathetic to the dove’s first attempt and subsequent failure, Noach gently brings the student back into the classroom to learn some more, and to muster up the courage for another attempt.
After a period of time elapses, Noach sends the dove out once again. This time the dove returns, לְעֵת עֶרֶב, after toiling for an entire day, with an olive branch in its mouth. Success! The student has gone off on her own, taking the skills and knowledge gained in the ark, and has become a self-sufficient learner.
But the learning and growing doesn’t end there. Noach waits yet another period of time before sending the dove out for its third, and final, voyage. This seems strange, as the mission seems to have been accomplished, the dove has brought back evidence that dry land does indeed exist. The student has shown that she can apply the learning she has gained.
Yet Noach, modeling for us future teachers, what the ultimate goal of education is, sends the dove out yet again, and, this time, we find that:
And the dove did not return to him again.
The dove has no need to return, and can live and thrive out in the world.
The student is now fully confident, competent, and independent.
Now, I’d like to think that my future students will want to return from time to time to keep me updated on how they are doing, of course. But, in terms of the learning environment that I want to create, both nurturing and challenging at the same time, with the eventual goal to inspire and assist students to become motivated and self-sufficient learners, I feel that this is a model we can all take to heart.
And this is the type of process that I feel that I’ve gone through personally, and seen modeled here at Pardes. A warm, nurturing environment where I feel completely welcome and at home. A rigorous and challenging environment where I feel constantly pushed and motivated to learn and grow. For me, both of these aspects are reflected in the wonderful connections and relationships I’ve developed with numerous teachers, staff, and fellow peers here at Pardes, who I count as teachers, friends, mentors, and, in a few months, colleagues.
And now, even though I do hope and plan to return to Pardes in the future, I can confidently say that Pardes, and the Educators Program in particular, has prepared me to head out into the distance with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to help guide and shape the Torah-inspired Jewish community of the future.
I’d like to finish by thanking my family, Aviva and Elinoa, for supporting me during these two years, keeping me motivated in my learning as well as maintaining perspective for me along the way. It was no small thing to uproot our family 2 years ago, nor to be apart from each other for extended periods of time, and I can’t show or express my appreciation enough for enabling me to spend these two years here at Pardes.
It is tradition at PEP for the graduates to present the Pardes Beit Midrash with a gift from the cohort. This year, we have expanded that tradition to include all graduating PCJE students. We are excited to donate the 6 volumes currently available of the New Koren Talmud. This gift is a resource that is helpful to students of all levels. It retains the traditional pages of the Talmud, with Rashi, Tosafot, and other notes and citations, and also provides an English translation of Steinzaltz, along with additional commentary and visual aids to make the Talmud more accessible.