These and Those

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

[PCJE Graduation] Bursting in Song

Posted on June 5, 2014 by Laura Marder

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My PCJE graduation speech:

laurmarHow do you take a moment to realize that you “made it” and include others with you in your joy?

When I first arrived here at Pardes to embark on this journey I was terrified.

Completely unsure if I would make it to the other side.

Then something switched inside of me; it was during shacharit when the Shaliach Tzibor taught ‘Ozi vZimrat ya’… I caught onto the words, and felt my voice become a part of the community.

A community that pushed me to question, feel, struggle and never give up. And now, here I am today. So much more to learn and so many more tools to do so.

I feel like I may burst trying to squeeze the experience of my two and a half years at Pardes into words.

Tefillah has given me the expression for those moments in my life that felt beyond words.

It has helped me express gratitude, praise, awe, fear, death, happiness, desire and more…

That is why I turn now to a prayer that has been a staple for me, some may say a theme song, during my time at Pardes.

This is a prayer within Psukei Dzimra, which is the first service I learned how to lead and later taught to others.

It is a prayer that wakes me up each morning ready and grateful.

In Shirat HaYam it says:

אָז יָשִׁיר משֶׁה וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת

So Moshe and Bnai Yisrael sang this song.

יָשִׁיר is in future tense. He will sing.

Rashi says this is:

Because he saw the miracle, and then it rose up in his heart that he would sing this song. Song was Moshe’s natural reaction that followed his witnessing the unimaginable. At a time when words just weren’t enough.

Moshe had to get to this point, pause and look.

Look at what he had accomplished and see the support that got him there…

His bursting into song allowed his expression of emotion to involve everyone in this new community.

משֶׁה וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

Moshe could have laid out a beautiful speech about thanks to Gd and happiness of accomplishment. He could have listed off motivations and prizes of the future.

But instead, he sang. Because he sang, the people did not just listen, they sang too. Each of their voices feeling powerful and connected.

They too let out their tension and expressed their joy and together as a community felt the way that song can cleanse, express and connect the soul.

While at Pardes song has pulled me into the community:

  • Shabbat table zmirot,
  • tefillah
  • songs of Israel
  • cheers for a Kallah
  • chants in the negev and in Hanaton

My voice. My quiet voice. Has found its ability to sing.
My song is now deeper and more confident.

My song, like Moshe. Didn’t come right away.

It took me taking a moment to recognize my accomplishments.
Recognize. my inner confidence.

Recognize that life, despite its difficulties has worked out.

Sometimes all it took was an epic Hevruta High five with heather to snap me into the reality of how much I have learned and accomplished here.

עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת יָהּ וַיְהִי לִי לִישׁוּעָה

My strength and song is Gd, that was my salvation.

Moshe realizes that he was brought to this moment by Gd. This song is recognizing what Gd had to do in order to get him and the Jewish people to the other side of the yam suf.

I stand here today, graduating, stepping into a wonderful job, with confidence and motivation to continue my learning and make a beautiful community… Where does my strength and song come from?

I recognize now, and each day, it comes from the help of Gd, my family, my friends, my hevrutas, my Pardes family, Susan, Judy, Gail, all my teachers and Avi Chai.

I pray that I am able to pay this strength forward and sing a song with my students bringing us together in the unity and beauty that can only be achieved when each voice is valued and motivated like here at Pardes.

So now, I would like to begin the song and invite each of your voices to be a part of this moment.

עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת יָהּ וַיְהִי לִי לִישׁוּעָה