These and Those

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

The Story of Pardes on the Moon

Posted on October 11, 2015 by Elana Weiner

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There once was a school called Pardes. In fact, Pardes was a Yeshiva and it was located on the Moon. The students at Pardes were very learned, for they studied long hours in their Beit Midrash. Their Beit Midrash had all the books they could ever need to learn about Judaism. And they learned Torah and Talmud, Halakha and Minchagim, Philosophy and Theology, history and art, so on and so on.

Being on the moon, this Beit Midrash was very peculiar, although any Pardes student would argue that their Beit Midrash was completely normal and could function no other way. Allow me to describe how it worked.

The Moon, as most earthlings know, has a lesser gravitational pull than the earth. As such, books and students at Pardes never touched the ground, but at best, hovered right above the surface. Books, as people, were not weighed in scientific mass but in spiritual mass. Novice learners floated a few feet from the ground whereas those more learned hovered just above the surface. No man or woman ever touched the ground but it is said that Moshe Rebeinu’s feet grazed the tops of the grass.

Books in the Beit Midrash were likewise arranged, in the sole bookshelf, 1000 meters high. Books of the greatest spiritual weightiness were found on the bottom shelves, whereas books of lesser spiritual weightiness were found higher up. And so, the Torah and Talmud occupied the bottom shelves, then Rambam and the Shulkhan Arukh, and so on and so on.

Next to the shelf was a tray of small metal weights, each resembling a different collection of books on the shelf. Whenever a student desired a book, especially one at the top, he or she would choose a metal piece shaped like a Torah scroll or a large Talmud, a figurine, ironically, of the Rambam, or of Heschel or of Buber. The metal piece, containing in condensed form, the same spiritual weight of the book is represented, would lift the student to the proper section. The student would choose the book he or she needed and float back down to his or her original level.

In this fashion, students at Pardes learned everything, or, as they would soon come to realize, not everything. There was one thing the students of Pardes on the Moon did not know. Worse, they did not know that they did not know it, until, one day, the most avid student, Shmeir Meiger, decided to take a trip to Earth.

The whole community was very excited. Everyone knew that there was life on earth but no one knew quite what it was like. The people of Pardes on the Moon were eager for Shmeir’s eventual return, for his stories, to see what he saw and to hear what he taught the yeshiva students of Earth. Shmeir boarded his rocket and set out for Earth.

As the rocket touched down, Shmeir collected his bags and left to find a yeshiva. The Earthling yeshiva had all the same books as the one on the Moon, but the architecture was very different. Instead of one very tall shelf, the Beit Midrash at the yeshiva on Earth had many shelves, none more than five meters high and all next to one another, covering the entire wall.

Shmeir noticed that, like on the Moon, students here studied studied Torah and Talmud, Rambam, the Shulkhan Arukh, so on and so on. Curiously, though, none of the students floated at different levels above the ground but all walked on the ground. Shmeir Meiger spent the whole month observing the students at the yeshiva on Earth. Everything about Earth fascinated him, but there was one behavior he could not understand, though he witnessed it many times.

Why does everyone here kiss their siddur?

For someone coming from the Moon, this seemed a very peculiar custom. Shmeir thought and he thought. And as he boarded his rocket to the Moon, he understood. The people of Earth walk on the ground because their gravity is stronger. Similarly, if they let go of a book, it falls to the ground, an occurrence unheard of on the moon. Shmeir realized that the students at the yeshiva on Earth kissed their fallen siddurim to, in a way, apologize for letting something with the holy name of G-d in it, touch the ground. As he came to this conclusion, Shmeir Meiger, the most avid student at Pardes on the Moon, looked forward to his next adventure, where he might discover something else that the students of Pardes, in all their great wisdom, did not yet know.

The End