The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are meant to be some of the most reflective of our year. Like many of you, I spend these 10 days often thinking about the moments where my life was completely transformed. Every year, especially during this sacred time, my mind thinks back to the year I spent at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.
Pardes is a non-denominational, egalitarian, Yeshiva where students from all walks of life, levels of Jewish knowledge, and Hebrew proficiency go to study. You have day school graduates, baalei-teshuvah folks, seekers who extended their gap year, Ramah-nicks, soon-to-be rabbis, new olim, lefty social justice activists, retirees who finally have time to study, and more! All studying, praying, and building community under the same roof.
How can such a diverse and colourful group possibly exist as a single community? The answer is simple… the Beit Midrash! A Beit Midrash is the House of Study, a playground for the Jewish mind. It is the place where we are free to explore texts and scripture, legends and law at our own pace. You could be forgiven if at first glance you mistook it for a library. It is, after all, a room filled with books on every wall. But the buzz of conversation, debate, and comradery disabuse any notion that it is a place for silence.
In the Beit Midrash, it’s not about having ‘the right answer’ or ‘being at the head of the class.’ The Beit Midrash is about each person’s personal process of studying, internalizing, and living the Torah of our lives. Studying in the Beit Midrash changed my life, something I am especially aware of each high holiday season.
This November, I’m honoured to be launching a two-year Beit Midrash style class here at Holy Blossom Temple. We’ll be using the celebrated “Foundations for a Thoughtful Judaism” curriculum from the Shalom Hartman Institute to explore the beauty and depth of our Jewish sources. We’ll explore passages from Torah, the Mishnah, Babylonian Talmud, Midrash, Halachah, and gain insight from modern Jewish philosophers and rabbis as well. Major subjects include Faith, Peoplehood, and Ethics, along with some detours through some of my personal favourite subjects and the holidays we encounter every year.
Learners of every stage and proficiency are welcome. Additionally, if you are wanting to be called to the Torah and become a Bnai Mitzvah as an adult, this community will be part of your journey!
G’mar Chatimah Tovah! May you be sealed for goodness this year and as my teacher Rabbi Dr. Levi Cooper, the Magid of Melbourne (whose podcast you can listen to here) would always say to us… to the Beit Midrash!