These and Those

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

Student Reflection: Peter Stein—Pardes Learning Seminar Winter 2023

Posted on January 25, 2023 by Rabbi Peter Stein


Rabbi Peter W. Stein
Winter 2023 PLS Participant

I serve as the senior rabbi of Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester, NY. At the end of December, I came to Israel to begin a two month sabbatical. I was blessed to spend the first week of my time here as a participant in the intensive Pardes Learning Seminar.

The seminar brought together a diverse and thoughtful group of students, eager to study and think and reflect together. Nearly 20 members of the Pardes faculty served as our teachers, offering profound and beautiful insights into both ancient texts and modern realities.

The Pardes leadership is committed to diversity and it was special to sit with a range of students. There was a wide range of Hebrew ability and wide range of experience with the study of Torah, Talmud, and other texts. Everyone was embraced and included fully and equally. There was a special depth to our conversations over the course of the week.

A good part of the week was spent on the ancient tradition of shmittah. This is the practice, rooted in the Torah and developed in the Talmud and again in modern Israel, of letting the land lie fallow during every seventh year. Here we were…a group of Americans, none of us farmers…and layer upon layer of spiritual insight was uncovered. We were able to think about self care, our responsibility to the earth, the opportunities presented by modern Zionism, and much more. The entire week was a celebration of the enduring and ever evolving beauty of Jewish wisdom.

A cornerstone of the Pardes experience is studying in dialogue with a partner, what is known as chevruta study. So, in addition to hearing presentations from learned scholars across the Jewish spectrum, we were able to learn from one another. It was a reminder that Judaism thrives not just on learning “what they said” but on the ability to add our own perspectives to strengthening the chain of tradition and answering the urgent questions of our time.

Right in the heart of Jerusalem, an ancient but oh so modern city, sits the jewel that is Pardes. It offers the opportunity to learn and grow, to strengthen Jewish identity, the Jewish people, and the state of Israel. Join us in future opportunities!