These and Those

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

Taking a Year Off On

Posted on July 30, 2019 by Tamy Jacobs

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Imagine sitting in the shade on a Saturday morning. There’s a bit of a breeze. We just finished davvening (praying) and had a snack. It’s our final Pardes Shabbaton. We are in Tavor Alon at a retreat center. Everyone is relaxed and happy. We’ve broken into small groups to reflect back on the past year.
Many of us (myself included) say something to the effect of… taking a year off my life I learned… I changed… I grew.
When the third person used the phrase I took a year off, a friend sitting near me said under his breath-
we didn’t take a year off we took a year on.

At first glimpse it seems like we have put our lives on hold. We left our families and friends, our careers, the path we were on to come here- to study at Pardes in Israel.
Putting our lives on hold seems like we are just on vacation. Taking some time off, at the end of the day, going back and picking up our day-to-day lives. Heraclitus said, “No woman ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and she’s not the same woman.”*
Even if we thought we could walk back into our old lives, we can’t. We’ve changed.

The idea of taking a year on has really made me think. What if we had re-framed our year to think this is our year of living on?
Not sleepwalking through our lives. Really being present. Being open to new opportunities. New people. New experiences. As the yogis say looking at the world with eyes of wonder. Abraham Joshua Heschel said our goal should be to live life in radical amazement.

As I look back on this past year, I see that I really have taken a year on. I’ve changed in ways I can’t even express. I’m still learning a whole new language as well as culture, let alone landscape. Israeli Jews are just as diverse as diaspora Jews.
I’ve learned more about my beliefs and values.
Just how strong I am. I’m braver than I ever realized.
I’ve said yes to so many things, which I would have never said yes to before.

I studied Tanakh and Talmud. I even learned Gemara. I love Gemara, best mind puzzle in the world.

I made new friendships and relationships. I went to so many places by myself, taking a deep breath and saying hello, what’s your name.

I took classes on Conflict Resolution, Sexuality, Hassidut, text based Spirituality, The Piasetzna Rebbe, Rambam and so much more.

I’ve gone to concerts and shiurs (talks) all in Hebrew not always understanding what they are saying, just taking in all in. Letting it roll over me.

I’ve prayed at the Kotel at midnight, at 4am with the sun coming up, by myself and with both Women of the Wall groups.
I’ve explored new venues of prayer. From mechitza to Jewish Renewal and everything in between.
I’ve hiked in the north and south; Golan, Galilee and swam in the Mediterranean Sea. I’ve officially been here for all 4 seasons.

I am super aware that I have a life that most people don’t really get to do or have. Many dream of it, but few actually take the leap. I totally get it. If things in my own life had not changed, I probably would not be here either. In a strange way, I can’t help but be grateful for all the changes that brought me here. Gratitude still permeates my life.

So how do I end my year on? My year as a first year full time yeshiva student? If you know me well you already know…

I jump back in the water.

I know I am not ready to be finished at Pardes yet. The first weeks were so hard, overwhelming to say the least. My head was on overload. Trying to take in all of the class information, new language, new people, new everything. I have been offered the privilege and opportunity to spend another year studying. I can literally hit the ground running. As one of my teachers said, Tamy, I’ve watched you shed the layers of your old self during your short time here. I can feel the change in myself.
I know next year will allow me to take higher-level Hebrew classes. I get to study halakhah, Rav Kook and delve deeper into so many of the texts that I have always loved. I am excited and honored to be part of the 2019-2020 Second Year Scholars Fellowship Program.

Shavuot dovetailed right into the end of Shabbat. I’ve been blessed with a year of learning Torah. I am excited to keep sharing my Torah with all of you and learning the Torah you bring into this world.
I bless us all with living life on. Waking up each day, asking what can I learn today? Not sleepwalking through our lives.

I challenge you to take a few minutes each day and think, what is the Torah/stories I am meant to share with the world? What are my gifts? Have I shared them today?
Holding you all so tight,
Sending much love and blessings,
With Ahava,

*of course I had to change his quote to feminine.