The beauty of this land
The magic in its air
When will I call you mine?
It is intolerable to think that I have to leave so soon. I want to see and do so much more. I miss my mother and daughters immensely, but I’d rather have them here with me than me there.
The other day we had a chance to go to the Gush. This is a collection of small communities within 10-25 minute drive from Jerusalem. When you are driving in a bullet proof bus, you can’t help but notice the discrepancies between the things real and things fed to us all by the media all over the world, including sadly, here in Israel. When I hear things like “occupied land”, all I want to say is ” people, learn the history”. You can start as late as 18 century, but better to go to the source – the Bible and move through the ages with good historical sources. If today Jews can’t drive along the “patriarch’s road“, then something is not right. When you see the signs telling you that it is unlawful and dangerous for the Jews to enter a certain area, it doesn’t look like the area is occupied by the Jews. When you stand at the top of Neve Daniel observation point, you realize how tiny this precious sliver of land really is.
I have taken my two first real Talmud classes (not counting a few here and there) at Pardes this summer. Last summer I was too scared to even try. I can talk forever about these. One thing jumps at me, though – I think now I understand why my teacher, Yaffa Epstein is so enthusiastic about Talmud. It is not a casuistic, boring legal set of arguments. It is, actually, an exciting, moving, historical discussion bridging sources from different places in the text (Torah). This is exactly how you see the world of the rabbis coming alive in front of you. You see and feel their knowledge, their struggle for Jewish continuity, their love for the people! Considering that in class I learned about Aba Hilkyiah and after class going to the little Airbnb apartment I rent, I crossed the Aba Hilkyiah street in modern-day Jerusalem , this is nothing short of a miracle.
When you are at Pardes, you not only learn, but you get to hear the true stories of the teachers that came to Pardes at different stages in their lives and you get to, hopefully, understand more of yourself. Just some interesting quotes here that I can totally relate to:
“Prayer as the awakening of consciousness ” Rabbi Mike. On coming to teach at Pardes: “Out of desire to communicate without assumptions ” and ” Learning to hear a voice that is larger than mine.”
Gideon “I teach at Pardes because it’s a lot of fun”. A person should have lots of rabbis, lots of friends, lots of opinions, etc.. From Avot. “Being a Jew means buying into a kind of a package, and it means responsibility “.
David “when I read the Jewish catalog” I realized that Judaism can be fun – late 70s. In those days that was THE bar mitzvah present in south Africa. “The making of the modern Jew ” by Milton Steinberg showed me that Judaism could also be serious, exciting and intellectually challenging. That’s why I teach at Pardes.” “To this day what I find very powerful in orthodoxy is its gendered nature. However, I’ve become very involved in places that try to empower women. I am struggling with it, but it doesn’t mean that I would move out of orthodoxy.”
Questions old as the world itself and new dictated by the changes around us. We are not scared to talk about them. We are ready for open discussion.
And, finally, a trip to the Davidson center! If you’ve only heard of the Western Wall, the questions about “Jewishness” of the whole place, the concerns of some questioning the authenticity of the Temple Mount in relation to the Jewish history, don’t listen to me. Just go yourself. Once you see the sealed Hulda gates crowning the ancient steps, where שיר המעלות was once sang by the Levites, when you notice the multitude of מקבות, ritual baths on the road leading to the Temple Mount, when you notice the ancient inscription on the broken stone saying something like: “this is the house of horn that blows to distinguish holy and mandate”, meaning Shabbat and regular days, you will have no more questions. Also for those struggling to find a meaningful way to pray in a quiet and holy place, do go there. The Southern Wall is, actually closer to the Temple site, and affords you this amazing opportunity.
I am sad to leave. However, I do believe in returning here. For a while, and for eternity.