Here, at Pardes I like all of my teachers. Otherwise I wouldn’t have taken their classes, right?
But a person, whose class and relationship with I treasure the most is, definitely, Yaffa Epstein. Yaffa is a reason I am coming to Pardes for the second year and plan on coming again, B’H. I am not a person that thinks that a president of a country has to be a woman because we need to finally have a woman in the office. I think that any position has to be given to a person based on merit, nothing else. If a woman is qualified for a job, she should get it, if not – not. Yaffa is, in my view, an embodiment of a qualified person both on the job and off.
I believe I first met Yaffa at a Limmud. I saw a young attractive woman being clearly in love with the Jewish law, the Talmud. Only later I learned that she had all these degrees in subjects both religious and not. What you see first is the love. That love for Talmud is then moves to individual Jews and communities. I suspect it is just the general love for the world, and excitement for it. Couple this love with unbelievable intellectual ability to “befriend” the text so difficult and so profound as Talmud and you’ve got Yaffa, the humble teacher who ends every class with some version of ” You guys are great! The best!”
I am not sure of how great I really am in learning (presumably not too great), but with Yaffa’s help I am able to experience miracles. Small miracles like realizing that a set of words you were once scared to even look at make sense. Not only you do understand the words, but a whole sentence!
That moment of magic when you realize that you are actually learning something! The moment when you are able not only to read a few lines in Talmud, but also bridge the quote within it to a psalm that you learned a while ago with your Partners-in-Torah teacher! This may sound like no big accomplishment to anyone who had the luxury of learning in a Jewish day school or yeshivah is a huge step for someone like me, who first saw Hebrew letters as a grown up, and started to learn Torah at almost 40. I am thankful to The Almighty and to all my teachers I encountered over the years, and I am thankful to Yaffa. For the love of Talmud. For the love of people. Here’s to many more lessons.