These and Those

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

Rabbinic Israel Seminar Tiyul 2021: Pardes Shabbaton Reflection Parashat Lech Lecha

Posted on October 17, 2021 by Hannah Greenberg

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This blog post was written by Hannah Greenberg is a second-year student at Pardes and part of the Pardes Day School Educators Program, Cohort 21.

Last weekend, taking advantage of the last of our gorgeous summer weather, we went on our first Pardes Shabbaton to the Galil. Taking the Sanhedrin trail we walked the path our sages took hundreds of years ago fleeing persecution from the Romans.

Climbing up the thorn-ridden path, we climbed not because of persecution but for the pursuit of knowledge and connection to our past, enjoying Jamie Salter’s and our Talmud’s teachers’ explanations that brought our texts to life.

The Sanhedrin trail took us to Tziporri, the once capital of the Galilee, the seat of the Sanhedrin and the place where the Mishnah was completed.

As we finished the day in Tziporri and returned to the hostel, I could not help thinking of how thankful I was to go on this tiyul, trip, with Pardes. While I am in my second year at Pardes, this was my first Shabbaton away due to Covid and it was amazing being able to spend it with new friends building a learning space outside of the Beit Midrash.

This journey up north fits well into this week’s parasha of Lech Lecha. Abram (pre-Abraham) goes on a journey. He is commanded to go forth from his land, from his father’s house, and from all that he knows because G-d commands him.

What would have happened if he didn’t go? If he had stayed?

Our life is made up of choices. The path we choose, the decisions we make change our course.

The Broadway show If/Then explores this idea. The main character, Elizabeth, as played by Idina Menzel, makes choices and the show portrays two narratives based on different choices.

In the opening number, Idina Mezel sings the song “What if” which outlines this dilemma of making decisions ( ).

“Once every day, your life starts again
No one can say just how or just when
Somehow the world turns inside out and then

And then, then, what if, what if, what if you wonder, what if?

See each choice you make is a kind of a loss
Each turn that you take and each coin that you toss
You lose all the choices you don’t get to make
You wonder about all the turns you don’t take”

While our lives, however, do not play out in such musical numbers, these words and worries of how a choice impacts one’s life rings true.

Abram makes the choice to leave. If Abram had chosen not to go, the history of the world would have been changed.

I can’t help but wonder, What if we had not come to Pardes? What if we had not chosen to embrace our Judaism?

Rashi, a French commentator from the 1100s, writes that Abram chose to go because he knew of the blessings that awaited him; that leaving and the journey that followed was for his benefit.

The journey we are on here at Pardes is also filled with blessings. As we ended the trip with a musical havdalah, I reflected on the choices we made that brought us to this moment. The experiences we have and the choices we make this year will define who we eventually become. And I could not be more thankful for having a second year here to continue my Torah learning with such a great community.

The Pardes Year Program 2021-22 Rabbinic Israel Seminar and Shabbaton was generously sponsored by Rebecca and Michael Gordon, alum of Pardes Learning Seminars and member of the Pardes Board of Directors, North America.