Topic: Tzedek/Justice

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Making Hummus with Shmita Values

By Michael Bomze On a weekly basis, I make hummus – very much at the mercy of area farmers, as I use fresh produce in each batch – and I donate all of the profits to Philadelphia urban farms. Admittedly, I do not think I ever had learned of the concept of Shmita before this year’s Hazon Philadelphia Jewish Food Festival – and I wasn’t initially sure how, in any capacity, I could apply the tradition of the Shmita to my 21st Century-paced life in a very large city. I think I’ve made some sense of it since November’s festival, though, and I offer my thoughts below. Though Shmita, a biblical mandate instructing farmers to let land lay fallow every seventh year, is a seemingly straightforward commandment, its implications are several. For instance, it isn’t Shmita that is the reason I’ve been preserving local produce in hummus, but thoughts and discussions regarding Shmita have helped me affirm what I am doing (and, if nothing else, the notion of Shmita has seemed a valid excuse to calm down my everyday life and to pay particularly close attention to my relationships with family, neighbors, and with nature). Regarding my hummus practices and the Shmita, perhaps the most obvious relationship is how each batch serves as […]

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Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips

Love and Money in the Cycle of Release

By Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips The words of the Shema call for love of God “with all your me’od.” Me’od ordinarily means very-much, and is generally translated in the Shema as strength, might, or power. But ancient rabbis understood this power quite specifically: “Love God with all your money.” Money circulates—often inequitably, but it’s always moving among us. Talmudic rabbis, observing their own generations of changing fortune, declared poverty to be “a wheel that revolves in the world.” Given all the uncertainties of the financial wheel in spin, they called for regular attention to distributive justice: “Just as each small metal scale joins into a great armor-plate, so with tzedakah each and every coin joins into a great heshbon.” The Jewish ethical principle of heshbon (accountability) provides an immediate connection between ecology and economy, spirituality and social change. Every time we open our wallets or check our bank balances, we face choices of heshbon—and heshbon hanefesh ( “soul accounting”) includes personal finance. How are we literally spending each day of our lives? Rooted in the agricultural imperatives of the shmita cycle is a practice of heshbon accessible to all of us. The release of debts in the sabbatical year originally followed six years of regular tithing. No longer a form of […]

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Because Sometimes it Rains on Your Sukkah

Geshem Be’ito (Acceptance of Rain in Its Time) The following essay will be published in the forthcoming book of teachings “Good Noticing” published by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. The rhythms of the Jewish calendar may not coincide with your particular climate. At times, our traditional rituals may range from the impractical to the impossible. For example, in the Northern Hemisphere, calling upon light in the darkness of Chanukah in Kislev/December always resonates, but singing about blossoming trees in Shevat/January may not make sense. How can we stay true to our tradition when the weather doesn’t cooperate? And as mindfulness practitioners, how might we elevate the news of undesirable weather? Those of us who live in the Northeastern United States are usually blessed with bountiful precipitation year-round. Furthermore, our religion is no longer based on the careful balance between following God’s laws and receiving in return enough rain for our crops to survive. The Reform movement even removed the second paragraph of the Shema from prayer books to make the bold statement: we are modern Jews—we do not believe that we can influence God to change the weather by keeping the commandments of our tradition. Recent evidence suggests that even […]

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roseanne yaakov

Roseanne Barr and What Can Happen When We Teach about Shmita

Dear Friends, The story of Hazon is often a story about stories. Next week, on Tuesday, April 1, at the Green Building in Brooklyn, we’ll be telling the stories of four incredible inductees at our 3rd annual If Not Now Benefit, honoring the powerful stories of Rabbi David Ingber, Barbara Ribakove Gordon, the Margulies Family, and Margot Seigle. It’s going to be a wonderfully fun and meaningful evening, and, if you are in the New York area, I hope you’ll join us. But, for now, I want to share an unbelievable story that happened during our recent Purim Retreat at Isabella Freedman with Roseanne Barr. In the last decade of the 20th century, Roseanne Barr brought the issues and concerns of working class America to life through her groundbreaking sitcom “Roseanne.” At our Purim retreat, it was Roseanne Barr once again bringing concepts to life, this time in such a powerful and profound way that it literally changed the lives of some of those in the room with her. One of Hazon’s current points of focus regards creating a renaissance around the Jewish concept of shmita, the sabbatical year described in the Torah and other Jewish texts, which is scheduled […]

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Roseanne Barr Invokes Jewish Values to Change Lives

Roseanne Barr invoked Jewish values to change lives at an innovative, enlightened, and provocative Purim retreat at Isabella Freedman this past weekend. In the last decade of the 20th century, Roseanne Barr brought the issues and concerns of working class America to life through her groundbreaking sitcom “Roseanne.” This past weekend, it was Roseanne Barr once again bringing concepts to life, this time in such a powerful and profound way that it literally changed the lives of some of those in the room with her. Roseanne served as the leader for a gathering at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut, for the Jewish holiday of Purim, one of many holidays celebrating a great story of redemption. The Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center is a campus of the organization Hazon, a Jewish non-profit with the mission of creating a healthier and more sustainable world. One of Hazon’s current points of focus regards creating a renaissance around the Jewish concept of shmita, the sabbatical year described in the Torah and other Jewish texts, which is scheduled to begin on Rosh Hashanah of 2014. A rarely recognized tradition, particularly outside of Israel, the idea of shmita includes not only […]

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