Author Archive | Hannah Henza

Parasha Netzavim: Choosing to Dig In

By: Margot Sands – Ekar Farm – Boulder, Co Parasha Netzavim This week’s Torah portion, Netzavim, offers us the warning of risks and rewards that could result from engaging in Judaism. See for yourself in a snapshot of this week’s Torah portion: Moses delivers a message from G-d about the consequences that may be endured as a result of committing to the Jewish faith. What will happen if we do all that has been commanded of us as Jews? We are given the world. Protection. A full, happy life. Fruits of the earth, of the trees, of the next generation. G-d even offers to plot revenge against our enemies. However, the dark consequence bestowed upon us comes from an angry, spiteful G-d. If we don’t choose the faithful life, then we are choosing death and will perish by the wrath of G-d. As I read this Torah portion’s translation, I was stunned by the dichotomy of choices. We can choose the path of a devout Jew, or we can choose to suffer dire consequences. The reward: a gloriously full life following the word of G-d; The risk: taking a misstep in devotion and enduring G-d’s wrath. This contrast of choices […]

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Shabbat at Burning Man

By: Leo Cockrell – Camp Tawonga – San Francisco, CA I arrived on playa for my first Burning Man at midnight on Sunday after eight hours of driving. I got out of my car and I was immediately aware that I had absolutely no bearings. Nothing about this landscape, these people, these structures, or flashing LED lights was familiar, and in a sense, I was no longer familiar to myself. After calibrating my body to the harsh environment and exploring for a few days, I decided to check out the Jewish Theme camp – Milk and Honey. On Thursday morning, Milk and Honey held Torah study and we explored the feelings of unfamiliarity in this particular landscape. We discussed how in Hebrew the word for “Desert” and “Wilderness” is synonymous and wondered if this was because the desert was the only wilderness known at the time of writing the Torah, or if the Desert holds a wildness unique unto itself. We discussed the story of Moses and his discovery of the burning bush in the desert – both how it took his initiation of awareness and curiosity in the bush for G-d to then reach out to him, and how […]

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Parasha Pinchas / D’Varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

By: Jaclyn Kellner – Coastal Roots Farm – Encinitas, CA Parasha Pinchas “Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel from twenty years old and upwards, following their fathers’ houses…” From here, this week’s parsha, Parshat Pinchas, continues to list out the data from this census for the next 46 verses. There is a concept in Torah study that there is not a single superfluous word. This is also far from the only census recounted in full in the Torah. I am sure I’m not alone when I say that I often skim over this sort of census data, eager to get to a story, a list of laws, or a description of what life was like in biblical times. Data collection and analysis is probably among the least sexy work that nonprofits do. So much time and care is put into designing surveys that many folks then don’t fill out, countless hours are spent entering data from sign in and waiver forms. I often stop during a farm-to-fork type trip to weigh and track the produce before we prepare a tasty snack. After all of this work, it’s the information from those one-sentence testimonies, the […]

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Walking Behind Kindess: Parashat Naso | D’Varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Jaclyn Kellner – Coastal Roots Farm; Encinitas, CA “I’d like to go to the fields and glean among the ears of grain behind someone who may show me kindness.” This statement, from Ruth to Naomi in the Book of Ruth, holds so many aspects of what a Jewish Community Farm can provide. This week’s parsha, Naso, spells out the different functions distinct groups and structures had while traveling in the desert. Naso begins by taking census of and detailing the specific duties assigned to each family line of Levites and ends by listing each tribe’s offering for the inauguration of the alter in the Mishkan. This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of co-organizing a Shavuot Festival at Coastal Roots Farm. Over 300 people attended, of all ages, both Jewish and non-Jewish. It was incredible to see an event have such strong Jewish content and influence while remaining a welcoming and accessible festival to all. The festival focused on exploring the story of Ruth and on Shavuot’s agricultural roots celebrating the start of the summer harvest. Participants danced to live klezmer music; learned how to make cheese and tend to their tomato plants; and painted, created, and wore exquisite flower crowns in celebration of the […]

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Parsha Behar – D’Varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Parsha Behar By: Emily Blustein – Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta – Atlanta, GA   Rest for the land, rest for the people, all will be provided. This week we are reading Behar which tells us about shmitah and jubilee. Shmitah is during every seventh year, you shall not work the land, and Jubilee which is the 49th year where shmitah is practiced along with setting all slaves free and all land goes back to its original owners. G-d reassures the people that they have nothing to worry about during shmitah as the 6th year of growing will produce more than enough until the 8th years yield is ready. That’s putting a lot of faith in powers other than your own hard work. What did the farmers do during the 7th year? Did they enjoy or lament it? As I have been dabbling in farming, the thought of not being able to grow food for myself and others for a whole year is a bit unsettling. Truly, if everyone practiced this, what would be there to eat? Or were we all on different shmitah schedules? Maybe my neighbor is only in their 5th year when I’m in my 7th and […]

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Learning Limits – D’Varim Hamakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Learning Limits – Parasha Emor By: Leora Cockrell; Camp Tawonga – San Francisco, CA   This week’s Parsha, Emor, discusses priests, purity, prioritization and perfection. The specifics of which are either largely outdated (I haven’t recently checked to make sure my livestock’s legs match before sacrificing them, have you?) or offensive (judging people’s worthiness based on their bodies). But as a fellow F ellow taught me, sometimes you can read the Torah like an arrow…where is the message trying to take us given the context of the world it was written in? As the Jews wandered the desert, wrestling with their new identities as free people, they could have felt caught between the “world was their oyster” sensation and “too many choices are overwhelming” paralysis. Learning to live a different rhythm of life traveling in the desert, getting along with your fellow travelers (some of whom had just been your enslavers), and finding what was more meaningful to them than the comforts of what was known was a big task. And understandably, a few rules, regulations, and rituals could have done a lot to smooth over tensions and build a collective sense of purpose. I have made a journey to the […]

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Parsaha Acharei Mot – D’Varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Parasha Acharei Mot By: Becca Heisler; Wilderness Torah – Berkeley, CA Parshat Acharei Mot, in the book of Vayikrah (Leviticus), brings a follow-up to the deaths of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, who were consumed by fire before G-d for offering an unholy sacrifice. As a result of this misdeed, Aaron is tasked with atonement: first, he is commanded to make special sacrifices. Then, he bequeaths all of the transgressions of the Israelites upon a goat (the “scapegoat ”) and sends it into the desert. These rituals are the origins of our modern Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. My reactions to Acharei Mot were scattered: fascination, apathy, confusion, sadness, curiosity, anger. Underlying all of those reactions was a question: what brings us back every year to study the commandments, laws, and rituals of Vayikrah that no longer govern our daily lives? We read this parshah during the fourth week of counting The Omer .  Each week of the Omer corresponds to one of the lower seven sephirot (attributes or emanations of G-d), and this week is the week of netzach (Endurance). Each day is an exploration of the relationship between netzach and another sephirah – First is chesed (love), next […]

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Parasha Tazria-Metzora – D’Varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Parasha Tazria-Metzora By: Margot Sands; Ekar Farm – Denver, CO This week’s Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora, continues to outline specific laws of purification for newborns, mothers, and sufferers of leprosy such as circumcision, immersing in the mikvah, and solitary confinement. Leprosy? Why is this disease addressed alongside the beautiful cycle of life? These different states of being appear together as forms of distractions that prevent us from fully engaging in spirituality. Newborns might be physically distracted from their new existence in the world; new mothers are distracted by on-going pains and stresses of labor and taking care of infants; leprosy is also a physical distraction as an irritating skin ailment. The laws instructed in this text aren’t necessarily targeting these groups of people as dirty, unclean, unwanted, but rather as folks who have barriers to accessing the divine. While we read this parsha throughout the week, we are also tasked with “Counting the Omer,” an active 49-period of time between Passover and Shavuot. An omer is a measurement of barley that was offered to the Temple in Jerusalem in biblical times everyday until Shavuot as a reenactment of the Jewish people wandering in the desert after being liberated from Egypt. In present times, […]

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Parasha Sh’mini – D’Varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Parasha Sh’mini By Ren Feldman; Eden Village Camp – Putnam Valley, NY   Last week many of us made a trek to our family’s, friend’s or parent’s home. Exiled from our ‘normal’ lives, we may have felt like slaves to the lurking particles of chametz, doing their best to afflict our Pesadic kashrut, to the pyramids of dirty dishes that plagued the sink, to our seders, where we sat for hours, the outside world shrouded in darkness. As much as we may love our families and friends, we may have felt exceptionally free as we left the houses we grew up in, the livelihood in which we find comfort, and wandered to our potentially uncertain, independent lives. Over here on Dennytown Rd, our very own Eden Village Farm-Educator Apprentices are definitely wandering into uncertainty. Four farmers who have never been to Eden Village, potentially never ‘slaved away’ under the sweltering sun before- acres of shadeless beds surrounding- have just arrived to spend 40 squirrel years (6 months) doing just that! After some faith and sweat, their manna will grow up from the earth, as it did many years ago when I was a farm apprentice. And that, dear reader, brings […]

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Parasha Tzav – D’Varim Hamakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Parashat Tzav By: Rose Chernoff; Abundance Farm – Northampton, MA   In this week’s parsha, Tzav, we learn about the rules for how a priest/priestess is to keep the sacrificial fire burning. The instructions are to keep the fire burning all day and all night, and to remove all of the ash in the morning. The fire is to be used for offerings- meat and meal- that is cooked in specific ways…. Sounds old school, I know. ….Enter JOFEE!!!! One of the opportunities that arises on a Jewish Farm is the opportunity to make the words of the torah come to life, or at least seem somewhat more relatable. We can read about fire, and we can also build a fire! We can experience what a fire looks like and feels like, how to start it and tend it and remove the ashes. We can cook with a fire and give gratitude. Experiential lessons give images to the text, and invite participants to enter into a new relationship with this ancient story. In this vein, we at Abundance Farm crafted a “Make Your Own Matzah” and “Grow Your Own Maror” event last weekend. We created two activities (a Matzah station […]

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