These and Those

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

To Dwell Together

Posted on September 28, 2013 by Hannah Joy

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From my blog:

947384_10151396857501536_68437029_nLast Tuesday before break, we had a Yom Iyun (special day of learning) for Sukkot. One of the ideas that has stuck with me throughout this holiday is that of learning to dwell together. In a session taught by Daniel Roth entitled “‘Spread your Sukkah of Peace Upon Us?!’ The Peace and Violence of the Holiday of Sukkot”, we discussed ways in which the sukkah and four species  have been used to bring people together, but also ways in which they have become a source of conflict.

On this holiday, we are instructed to take the four species into the sukkah and shake them together. The four species are commonly taken to be a metaphor for the widely different types that make up the Jewish people. This act can be seen as symbolizing gathering Jews of all kinds and learning to be together (at least for seven days). To me, this gives Sukkot a message of pluralism: Despite our differences, on the holiday of Sukkot we are all instructed to come as we are and dwell under one roof, much like a big family reunion. Wonderful! Right? How amazing it is that we can have everyone together! But wait… so many types of people under one roof?! How do we deal with that? Whose customs do we follow? Who do we listen to? How do we make everyone happy and/or comfortable? Is it even possible? You can imagine how, on the one hand, this could bring peace, but on the other hand it can also lead to conflict…

It’s incredibly special when we can all be together. But, after a certain amount of time, everyone’s differences start to become apparent. When we have such different people who all are used to their own ways of living and being, how do we go about dwelling together?

This is something that makes Pardes incredibly unique. Though we all come from very different backgrounds, and we each have our own unique stories and paths that brought us here, we have all committed to sit and learn together under one roof (not just at Sukkot time, but all year round). We may not always agree, and sometimes compromises have to be made, but ultimately we can all learn from each other, and become stronger, more knowledgeable, and more understanding people as a result.

As school starts up again tomorrow, I think this a really powerful message that Sukkot teaches us as we end the holiday season, and move forward into the new year together.

Happy Back-to-Reality!