These and Those

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

Winter Learning Intensive 2020 Reflection

Posted on February 6, 2020 by Evan Gewirtz

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The Many Faces of Me: Exploring Identity in a Post Modern World. Students from around the globe gathered at Pardes in January this year to ask big questions about identity, and to see what Jewish texts and stories from our tradition have to offer on this topic. Here is a reflection offered by Evan Gewirtz after a powerful experience during the week’s Intensive.

On the first day of the Winter Learning Intensive, I got to take a field trip with one of my classes at Pardes to a Siyum Hashas. In preparation for the event, our class committed to learning some pages of Talmud. I went with classmates, teachers and my wife to Siyum Hashas, celebrating the end (and beginning) of a seven-and-a-half-year cycle of daily Talmud study. Someone who does a page of Talmud every day will learn the entire Talmud over this period of time. Though these celebrations happen every 7.5 years, the celebration we went to was unprecedented. We went to the first ever women’s Siyum Hashas. I am grateful to live in a time where this event is taking place and even more so to have been able to attend this event. Even more so, being at the event allowed me to be in the presence of many of the people who helped make women’s Talmud story an unquestioned part of modern Jewish learning.

The evening started off with a video of mostly ‘Gdolot Hador’, leading female Jewish scholars and a story of Bruriah, a female scholar in Talmudic times. Most of those featured in the video were eventually called on stage to talk. At one point they showed a video of students from around the world who learned Talmud leading up to the event. Two of my classmates in our very own Pardes Beit Midrash made it up there! Being there with my wife, mothers who proudly brought their young daughters, other women who are passionate about Jewish study, and seeing the pride in their eyes made me appreciate the tenacity of the moment. I know in the future I will proudly say that I have been part of the first women’s siyum celebration. The evening ended with Israeli sensation Kululam.

It really was a special night that I have been thinking about and talking about all week and will be for a long time to come. A huge thank you to our teacher, Nechama, for helping us not only get tickets, but to understand how important this event is.