These and Those

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

Reflections on the Rabbinic Seminar: Enjoying Torah Best in the Marketplace

Posted on October 17, 2021 by Audrey Honig

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This was written by Pardes year student Audrey Honig (Summer ’20, Year ’21-’22). Audrey graduated from Kalamazoo College in 2021, where she studied Religion and English. Audrey is passionate about Jewish summer camp, playing the flute, and reading.

On one of my favorite stops during the tiyul, we squished together to overlook an ancient market in Tzipori. I tried to imagine Tzipori as it once was, a hub for rabbinic innovation. Throughout the tiyul, we visited several sites that helped bring the history of the Rabbinic Period to life – including synagogues, homes, and amphitheaters. Each of these places helped bring clarity to a period that has often felt hazy in my imagination. Feeling the sun on my shoulders, I related to the questions of this ancient market in a new way.

At the market, we discussed a disagreement between Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi and Rabbi Hiyya about bringing Torah learning to the marketplace. Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi had warned against teaching in the open market, advising others to conceal the holiness of its teachings. Rabbi Hiyya, however, could not help but bring Torah outside, citing, “Wisdom cries aloud in the streets!” (Proverbs 1). Turning to our chavrutot, we weighed the different implications of keeping our learning strictly inside the Beit Midrash or letting it flow more freely in different settings. I tend to think that Torah can be discovered and taught anywhere, but I also saw the merit of implementing certain boundaries on our learning.

In my first weeks of learning at Pardes, I have felt the excitement and holiness of learning Torah in the sacred space of the Beit Midrash. Being physically in the building learning Torah, we form a relationship with the text that feels focused and disciplined. During the Rabbinic Seminar, the nature of our learning was quite different. Sitting in the sunshine together, we practiced the fun of bringing our Torah to the “marketplace.” As we hiked and formed new friendships, our source sheets were always tucked in our backpacks, easily accessible at a moment’s notice. I felt truly lucky to get to know new people and pause in our casual conversations to learn a piece of history or a new source. There is space for both the intentionality of the Beit Midrash and the rhythm of learning Torah in the city. This year, may Pardes continue to be a sacred site of learning and focus. So, too, may we bring our Torah outside, learning something new in the market.

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.