Tuesday, November 14, 2006

outreach - pardes or pundak?

There is a difference of opinion in the Midrash as to what the “eishel” Avraham set up was – a pundak (inn), or a pardes (orchard). If taken literally, the Midrash seems to be offering unnecessary details that don’t add much to our appreciation of the text. The Maharal, however, suggests that these two views symbolically represent two very different approaches to kiruv. The term pardes is used by Chazal to represent higher wisdom, e.g. the story of four Tana’im who were “nichnisu l’pardes” to experience some high level of giluy Shechina. The term ‘pundak’ is a simple inn that the average person can sit down in and have a meal and drink. One approach to outreach is to present the world of Torah in all its complexity, with all its demands of intellectual rigor and thought, despite the fact that this may appeal only to an intellectually sophisticated audience. A different approach is to present a Shabbos meal, a tisch, a niggun – the menu of the pundak that even the average Joe can appreciate – and attract the masses to the Torah way of life. The pundak approach seems to have far more populist appeal – it seems to me that more stories of ba’alei tshuvah focus on being attracted to the sense of family and community of Judaism and the beauty of a religious lifestyle than on intellectual arguments for religion or the depths of Talmud Torah. On the other hand, I find myself drawn to the pardes more than to a hot cholent (maybe that’s why the R’ Tzadok chaburah has such a low attendance – no refreshments) or any aesthetic beauty of mitzvos. Eilu v’eilu…

6 comments:

  1. Of course, the pardes view is one that would be favored by elitist -- casting one's net deep rather than wide.

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  2. But you are also not a potential ba'al teshuva so I don't think you are a good example.

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  3. Well, on some level, we can all be ba'alei teshuva if we aspire higher. :-)

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  4. Chaim Dov9:32 PM

    How about running the chabura on-line, like on skype, that way you might get a bigger attandence?

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  5. But you were, so to speak, born and raised in the pundak, and have been around long enough to know what the specialities of the house chef are.

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  6. >Well, on some level, we can all be ba'alei teshuva if we aspire higher. :-)

    I was just waiting for someone to say that :-)

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