Abir Yisrael Mitra reports from Jerusalem
After a long period of living with uncertainty caused by the coronavirus crisis, I finally arrived in Israel mid-August to begin my studies at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. This is an egalitarian yeshiva in Jerusalem where students from all over the Jewish world come together every year to delve deep into an intensive study of classical Jewish texts that combines academic and traditional approaches.
After spending over a decade studying Biblical/Jewish Studies and Hebrew at various universities on both sides of the Atlantic, my soul was yearning for a change of setting – a setting that was readily available within the Jewish tradition of limudei kodesh or Jewish learning.
Studying classical Jewish texts in the setting of the beit midrash surrounded by the hum of debate and discussion is a way to join a 3000-year-old conversation. It is like entering into a dialogue, to borrow Heschel’s words, with the Jews of the past as a Jew of the present. For me, nothing could match the meaningfulness and joy of doing so in Eretz Yisrael, the eternal home of the Jewish people. Experiencing the cycles of the Jewish calendar in the land where those cycles were created, and conducting my daily life in Hebrew are two of the many things that I eagerly look forward to here. The Pardes program will also include first-hand exploration of the connections between the story of the Land of Israel and the Jewish people through regular trips and tours.
Even though I’m geographically far away from IJC - my Jewish family - I hope to be present at most events in spirit and sometimes via Zoom (at least one upside of living in a virtual reality!). As we all strive to do our part to make this world a better place, especially in these difficult and uncertain times, I feel inspired and encouraged by what our Sages taught (Berakhot 64a): “Torah scholars increase peace in the world” (Talmidei hakhamim marbim shalom ba-olam).
A year of intensive Torah study in the Land of Israel could be my own little way of contributing to the peace that we all hope and long for.