These and Those

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

Closing Circle Remarks from Lara Rodin

Posted on May 31, 2020 by Lara Rodin

This was delivered at the 2020/5780 closing circle, by Lara Rodin (PCJE ’18-’20).

אָדָם צָרִיךְ לְהַחֲזִיק טוֹבָה לְמָקוֹם שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ הֲנָאָה מִמֶּנּוּ

A person must be grateful to a place in which they derived benefit (Breishit Rabbah 79:6)

I have derived much benefit from my time at Pardes. I am so grateful to my peers and my teachers, for showing me how to be a learner and a teacher myself.  

It is in that spirit that I would like to share my top 3 takeaways from my time at Pardes. I am a Pardesnik, so I’ll do that with a little Torah. 

אֵין הַתּוֹרָה נִקְנֵית אֶלָּא בַּחֲבוּרָה

Torah can only be acquired through friendship (Brachot 63b)

This community has propelled my learning. Each of you has enriched my days at Pardes with much insight, wisdom, kindness, love, and friendship. Whether I sat across the table pouring over a daf of Gemara with you in the beit midrash, stood next to you during Hallel, sung zmirot with you on Shabbat, or waved at you in the hallway, I am so grateful for the kehillah we built together this year. 

 אֵין לְךָ כָּל עֵשֶׂב וְעֵשֶׂב, שֶׁאֵין לוֹ מַזָּל בָּרָקִיעַ שֶׁמַּכֶּה אוֹתוֹ, וְאוֹמֵר לוֹ גְּדַל 

There isn’t a single blade of grass that doesn’t have an angel that pushes it and tells it to grow (Midrash Rabah Breishit 10:6) 

For my teachers: Thank you all for being my mazal- my cheerleaders, my mentors, and my rabanim. You have pushed me to grow my skills and my person beyond measure. I will take your voices and your examples with me everywhere I go; into every page of text I open up, and every student I teach.  

בֶּן בַּג בַּג אוֹמֵר, הֲפֹךְ בָּהּ וַהֲפֹךְ בָּהּ, דְּכֹלָּא בָהּ. וּבָהּ תֶּחֱזֵי, וְסִיב וּבְלֵה בָהּ, וּמִנַּהּ לֹא תָזוּעַ, שֶׁאֵין לְךָ מִדָּה טוֹבָה הֵימֶנָּה 

“Ben Bag Bag said: Turn it over, and turn it over, for all is in it. And look into it; And become gray and old in it; And do not move away from it, for you have no better portion than it.” (Pirkei Avot 5:21)  

This week I finished studying my first full perek of Gemara. Each chapter in the Gemara closes with an invitation to return again to the study of Torah, and reminds us that our learning is never finished. 

The structure of our Gemara’s insistence that we keep returning to the practice of learning reminded me of Dean Bernstein’s charge to us at the beginning of the year. We have become lifelong learners, teachers, leaders, and sharers of our newfound Jewish literacy. It is my wish that we find ourselves anew and dig a little deeper each time we sit down to learn or bring our learning into our communities.  

At the end of our Talmud siyum this week, Leah told us that we should only say the famous closing words of every chapter- “hadran alach”- if we really mean that we are going to return. And so I say: hadran alach, Pardes.