These and Those

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

Pardes is Like the City Walls

Posted on November 7, 2016 by Shoshana Raun

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Do you ever have a day when the supermarket line is too long, bicyclists have taken over the sidewalks and you are fed up with seeing cats everywhere?

I do, probably too often.

But some days, I’ll be doing something routine – walking to a movie or riding on a bus – and suddenly the city walls will come into view. And I’ll remember that I am living in the world’s most important city, surrounded by history, legend and faith, everything that has made Jerusalem the center of song, of hope, of dreams for thousands of years. Sparked by that sight of the city walls, a glow grows deep inside my heart and mind for a few moments. I cherish those moments.

And this is what that has to do with Pardes:

Sometimes I’m reading or cruising the internet or watching a movie. And there is reference to Tanakh or Gemera or minhag. And, amazingly, I get the reference. The same glow I get seeing the city walls sparks within me and I think, “I know this because of Pardes.” I not only can follow the Jewish conversation, I sometimes participate in it. I may be on the back benches of this conversation that has been flowing for thousands of years, but Pardes absolutely picked me up at the front door, brought me down the hall and gave me a place in the room.

Let me close with a wonderful quote about this ancient and ongoing conversation, written by Dr. Ludwig Blau of Budapest and Rabbi Dr. Kauffman Kohler of Cincinnati in their entry on Angelology in the 1906 edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia: Although they are referring to mystical works, I think it’s fair to say this applies to the scope of Jewish law and literature:

Upon the foundations of Scripture a gigantic structure was reared at the time of the completion of the TalmudPost-Talmudic mysticism extravagantly enlarged this structure, until it reached from earth to heaven; and the fanciful ideas of the Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, of the Talmudic and Midrashic works, and of the mystic and cabalistic literature rush along like a wild stream that overflows its banks.

Pardes has equipped many people to explore and add to both the structure and the stream. I’m proud to be among them.

Words spoken by Shoshana Raun (Year ’10-’11, Fellow ’11-’12, Elul ’16) at the November 2016 Alum Event at Pardes in Jerusalem. A special senior faculty panel on “Pardes Teachers Then, Pardes Teaching Now”.