These and Those

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

The Winter Pardes Learning Seminar 'An odyssey that opened my mind and soul'

Posted on January 9, 2020 by Rhoda Weisman

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This was written by Rhoda Weisman, alumna of the Winter 2019 Pardes Learning Seminar.

I love the Oxford English dictionary’s definition of transformation: “a complete change in someone or something.” I am that someone who’s been transformed and the wonderful catalyst was this year’s Pardes Winter Learning Seminar. For those of you reading this post you know the power, depth and wisdom of learning Jewish texts with masterful teachers and outstanding havruta (study partners) and colleagues. For me it was an odyssey that opened my mind and soul so unexpectedly, and ignited a passion for learning that left me breathless.

Technology is changing all of our lives, and leaves many of us hungering for deeper human and spiritual connection. I’m excited to share several reflections and takeaways from the recent “Shaping Meaningful Relationships in a Lonely World” Seminar. I hope they will serve as an impetus to keep us learning and growing.

  1. Rabbi Aryeh Ben David interprets Rav Kook (Orot HaKodesh 111: 46), “Every person needs to find himself within himself, and afterwards he finds himself in the world that surrounds himself, in his society, his public, and his people. Our souls are living, breathing entities that yearn for completion throughout our lifetimes. They are speaking to us all of the time. I am coming to see that like emotional intelligence, the more I listen to its messages, the more I choice I have on how to interpret them and live purposefully and authentically. I came to Pardes to help me think about what I want my next life stage to look like, feel like and be like. What I gleaned is that soul’s voice which I have always believed is connected to a form of Gd, is alive and helping guide me. It is my job to stop and listen openly and with compassion to its wisdom.
  2. Rachel Korazim interprets Yehuda Amichai (“An Arab Shepard is Searching for his Goat on Mount Zion,”) Afterwards we found the (the goats) among the bushes and our voices came back inside of us, laughing and crying. Searching for a goat or a son has always been the beginning of a new religion in these mountains.” As a Diaspora Jew learning this, I saw, felt and even smelled the closeness between the peoples whose beginnings started in this land. And then, in “The Diameter of the Bomb” also by Yehuda Amicha, I understood how bombs literally explode not only that which is in surroundings, but also the trust and faith in relationships between Israelis and their neighbors. I had previously been committed to building relationships between Jews and Muslims in Los Angeles. But these famous pieces of Israeli literature opened an entirely new level of respect in me for the complexities of what it means to be Israeli and live in this land.
  3. From Meesh Hammer-Kossoy and Howard Markose’s text studies, I truly understood that we are a tradition of questioning. That by design, we are most often not given answers in order to make our own moral choices in this world. And that by doing so, we exercise our free will and judgement every day, and also have to live with the consequences. It is here that I gained an even deeper appreciation for how Jewish tradition has been shaped Ito respect and dignify our human ability to make choices.

A million thanks to my fellow learners, Rabbi Meir Schweiger, Leon Morris, and Jackie Frankel for creating an environment that reflected this respect and dignity for one another and as all those who came before us.

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