These and Those

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


Posted on October 3, 2014 by Meira Cohen

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From my speech during the launch of Pardes’ Volunteer Program: Shorashim

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 2.04.16 PMYou’ve made it. For the past few weeks, you’ve struggled with supermarket lines, navigating jerusalem, and just plain figuring out how to cross the street. Now that you are all veteran Israelis, I want to invite you to begin relating to this country on a deeper level.

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that Israel isn’t a perfect place.

Just by a show of hands, who here has had the thought “I really want to love Israel, but I see so many flaws in….(fill in the blank)? The good news is that once a week when you volunteer, you are actively working to better this country. You HAVE the ability to significantly change SOMETHING, it could be bringing a smile to one elderly person or it could be working on a grand scale to improve the rights of the underprivileged here, but you actually can, if you put your mind to it, bring about concrete change this year.

And when you do that, you are laying the foundations for a solid relationship of love. Not a naive love that blinds you to the flaws of the other, but a real love that allows you to sense those flaws and care enough to want to make a difference. We usually think that loving someone leads to wanting to give to them, but I want to offer an alternative way of viewing the relationships we will form as we embark on our individual volunteer projects.

Rav Dessler, in his book Strive for Truth, Vol. 1 pp. 126, points out that the root of the word ahava is hav, to give. When you give to someone, you relate to that person as if they are a part of yourself. In this paradigm, it is giving that leads to loving and not loving that leads to giving. In this way, we will begin to put down “shorashim” roots that will connect us with a strong bond to the people here.

When I first started working, my mom gave me really great career advice: to bring your boss solutions, not problems. ‘You were hired because your boss deemed you capable of problem solving’, she said, ‘so always have solutions ready when you present your problem.’

You’re all sitting here, alive and well; you’ve been pre approved by the Boss Upstairs and he thinks you are capable of solving some of the myriad of problems we face as a country and as a people. So get out there, and start finding some solutions!