Author Archive | Hazon

Tu BiShvat (Instagram Post (Square))

Celebrate Tu BiShvat with us! One night only events popping up in a town near you.

JYCM New York Tu BiShvat Climate Justice Seder Sunday, February 5 | 2:00pm – 4:00pm ET Calling all New York area teens! Join us for a Climate Justice Seder, full of climate teachings, Jewish connections, and plenty of fruit. Location: Central Synagogue, 652 Lexington Ave. New York, NY 10022, USA Hazon Detroit Tu BiShvat Seder: Tending to the Land, Friendship, and Jewish Tree-dition Sunday, February 5 | 5:00pm ET Join Hazon Detroit, The Well, Repair the World: Detroit, and Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue to honor Tu BiShvat, the Jewish New Year of the trees! Root yourself in Jewish tradition as you nosh and sip your way through the newly updated 2023 Tu BiShvat Haggadah focused on climate, stewardship, and community connection. Community leaders and a special guest from The Greening of Detroit will lead us through the seder while adding wisdom from their respective organizations. Location: Platform 18, 116 E 7th St. Royal Oak, MI 48067 A Jewish Response to Climate Change: A Briefing Conversation with Hazon Tuesday, February 7 | 6:30 – 8:00pm ET Join Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island as Hazon CEO Jakir Manela and Chief Development Officer Rachel Siegal highlight some of their recent work and […]

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Hakhel Newsletter: December 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities, Happy Chanukah! We hope you are enjoying this Festival of Lights with your loved ones, in community, and that you are finding ways to grow and spread the light. What are some of the traditions your community has to mark this special time? Hakhel has been busy spreading our own light of Jewish values such as tikkun olam (repairing the world) and peoplehood, including at two recent international gatherings, at Z3 in Palo Alto, California and at Hakhel Creative Gatherings in Johannesburg, South Africa. More information about each is below. We congratulate the organizers and participants in bringing these exciting projects to life for the benefit of their communities and the wider world. In this week’s parsha, Miketz, Joseph interprets dreams, which saves Egypt from a famine. What dreams do you have about the future, both positive visions and fears, and what do you think they mean? Chanukah is the time of miracles – you never know when your dreams will come true!  Sincerely, Deborah Fishman Hakhel Network Manager This month, Hakhel Network Manager Deborah Fishman sat down with Dani Rotstein from Jewish Majorca. Tell us in a few words about your community and what is special […]

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Hakhel Newsletter: November 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities, In this week’s parsha, we read the famous story of two brothers, Jacob and the elder Esau, sons of Isaac. Jacob convinces Esau to sell him his birthright in exchange for a pot of lentil stew, and under advisement from his mother, Rebecca, he tricks his father into believing that he is Esau by dressing in furs in order to resemble his hairy brother, thus gaining his father’s blessing for his firstborn. Strife in families – never mind in communities! – rings quite realistically, from historically until the present day. We all have many types of people in our communities, from hunters and scholars, to mothers and fathers, and a whole range of emotions, from jealousy and rivalry to hate, loyalty and love, are present at any given moment. How do you accommodate the needs of such a parade of humanity in your own community? How do you solve conflicts that arise in the community, from minor grievances to those frightful moments where, as Esau did after this incident, members want to kill (figuratively and literally) each other? The fact that these familiar and complicated community issues are discussed in the Torah may offer us a sense […]

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Hazon Detroit: November 2022

The Hebrew month of Cheshvan marks the beginning of the cycle of praying for rain, highlighting the ancient Jewish wisdom that we are dependent on the natural world around us. In Detroit, the remaining few leaves are joining a colorful array across the ground, providing nutrients back to the soil. During this rich time of transition, each leaf crunch beneath our feet and each sip of apple cider can be a humbling and empowering reminder of our need to leave our world better than we found it.  As we write, Jewish Youth Climate Movement (JYCM) teen leaders are joining leaders from around the world gathering now in Egypt at COP27, the UN conference on climate change. Read about Detroit native Naomi Parr and the delegation in the Jewish News! Our tradition teaches “You are not required to finish your work, yet neither are you permitted to desist from it” (Pirkei Avot). While we cannot complete the task alone, Hazon is at the forefront of a national effort to inspire and motivate the Jewish community on climate.  It was powerful to gather the Metro Detroit Seal of Sustainability community at the Fall Gathering! At our gathering, dedicated members of each organization had […]

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Hakhel Newsletter: October 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities, I hope you had a wonderful chagim season filled with beautiful community, spiritual moments, and important new beginnings on a personal and collective level. Speaking of new beginnings, Simchat Torah marks the start of reading the Torah anew, and we continue this week with the story of the righteous Noah (Noach) and the ark he built to prepare for a global flood. As community leaders we can likely relate to Noach, who spends a copious amount of time (120 years, according to Rabbinic tradition!) preparing for this big event, when he was to make two of every kind of animal in existence feel at home. This in fact proved to be a taxing task, as during the entire year spent in the ark during the flood, Midrash relates that Noach and his sons were sorely overworked, spending all their time feeding the animals according to each one’s personal specifications. It seems Noach’s conscientious efforts paid off, as after the flood, God made a covenant with Noach and his descendants, symbolized by a rainbow. A midrash relates that during those long 120 years of preparation, God designed Noach’s ark-building as a strange project that would attract attention – […]

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V’Zot Habracha & Hakhel: How The Torah Ends The Shmita Year by Rabbi Yonah Berman

“Joining together with our People, and remembering a place and time before we had our own land, we are being called to maintain the sanctity of humanity and creation.” The final parsha in the Torah, V’Zot Habracha, is unique in that it is not read on a regular Shabbat. Rather, this third-shortest parsha, containing only 41 verses, is read on Simchat Torah as part of our celebrations concluding – and immediately restarting – the annual Torah reading cycle. It recounts blessings by Moses to the various tribes of Israel, his death overlooking the Land of Israel (which he was destined not to enter), and the Children of Israel’s mourning for our greatest leader.  (This Shabbat’s reading instead focuses on portions related to the Festival of Sukkot). It is actually right now and specifically this year that we are commanded to fulfill a unique and particularly beautiful mitzvah: Hakhel. Parshat Vayelech, which we read two weeks ago, instructs us to gather in Jerusalem during Sukkot following the conclusion of Shmita (Deut. 31:12): Gather the nation: men, women and children and the stranger in your midst, so that they shall hear and so that they shall learn; and be in awe of […]

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Hazon Detroit: October 2022 Newsletter

Shana Tova! How sweet and hopeful to have arrived into this new year with you. We hope that you are nourished and inspired from these last weeks of reflection, joy, togetherness, and intention-setting. We look forward to showing up for one another and for the earth in this new year.  This year, we’re building on the impactful foundation of our longstanding Hazon Seal of Sustainability program, and working with over 50 Jewish organizational partners to provide enriching Jewish Earth-based experiences and environmental education, stewardship, and action in 5783. In the weeks and months to come, we hope you’ll join us – as individuals and organizational partners – in showing up for one another and the Earth by participating in an upcoming event (see below). Start the New Year off with opportunities to connect with community and steward our earth: Tree Planting with The Greening of Detroit One approach we’re taking to offset some of the environmental impact of our recent Food Festival, is partnering with The Greening of Detroit to plant trees! We hope you can join us. This is a great opportunity to connect with our new Hazon Detroit team and contribute to increased tree equity in our region.  […]

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Ha’azinu: The Idolatry Of The Denier, by Rabbi Haggai Resnikoff

“We are growing closer to our last chance to turn our attention back to the earth and its needs, for our beliefs to become re-rooted in reality.” What is sacred to a climate denier? What do they worship? They privilege pseudo-science over science, fantasy over reality, all in the name of preventing  significant change in the world. Non-change, non-progress, unending perpetuation of the status quo. That is the religion of the climate denier. The climate pessimist says something similar. They acknowledge the climate crisis but they refuse to believe in a solution. This phenomenon has echoes in Parashat Ha’azinu. After describing the extraordinary ingratitude of the Jews in turning to idolatry, the Torah says, “They sacrificed to demons, no-gods,”(Deut. 32:17) and the Midrash says, “If they had worshiped the sun, or the moon, or stars, etc., things that are necessary to the world, and the world benefits from them, God’s angry jealousy would have been less. But they worshiped things that do no good for them but rather do them harm!”(Sifrei Devarim 318:17). The idolatry described here is not misplaced faith that something beneficial has powers of its own. It is doubling down on the belief that something that in […]

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Vayelech: Is This The End Of Shmita? by Rabbi Petakya Lichtenstein

“What is being born when something is ending and what is ending when something is being born?” This week is the last week of the 7 year sabbatical cycle called Shmita. The portion of Torah read this week, as the year takes its leave, is called by the name “Vayelech,” which translates as “and he went.” Who is he? Moses. Where did he go? He went to tell the tale of his passing (in an epic overshare) saying “I am one hundred and twenty years old, I can no longer go forth and come in.” He is to leave this world on the day he came into it 120 years ago. It is on this day, the 7th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, that Moses writes the Torah scroll and instructs that it should be read at the end of every shmita year. It is this merging of coming and going which is at the core of the deeper Torah of shmita. As the Sefer Yetzirah, the Book of Creation, states about the mysteries of creation that “their end is in their beginning and their beginning is in their end.”  A closer look at the text will reveal […]

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Nitzavim: Keep It Real – Don’t Overthink It! by Rabbi Benjamin Shalva

“The shmita year is nearly ended, but not quite. There is still time. Time to pause. Time to pray.”  “And in the night My father came to me And held me to his chest He said there’s not much more that you can do Go on and get some rest.” – “Think Too Much (b)”, Paul Simon Moses is soon to die. He gathers his tribe to him and says: All that I’ve taught you, it’s not too hard, it’s not beyond your reach. (Deut. 30:11) But, of course, we know that’s not true. The Torah is too hard for us. It has always been too hard for us. We never get it right, this life. The very existence of the High Holy Days, of an entire season devoted to repentance, testifies to our forever missing the mark. It must be that Moses means something else. That, or he’s playing the part of the underdog coach, offering a pep talk to his hapless team. But that doesn’t seem right; Moses is a tough love prophet. Moses does not do so much “pep.” Then what does he mean: All that I’ve taught you, it’s not too hard, it’s not beyond your […]

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Ki Tavo: Property, Shmita And Learning To Fly, by Aharon Ariel Lavi

“You can only give what is yours.” Parshat Ki Tavo opens with the commandment of bikkurim. It continues with related agricultural commandments and a commandment to inscribe the Torah on large stones. The sages add that this was made in 70 different languages, to be accessible to all nations. The parsha concludes with a long speech detailing the blessings the nation will receive if it follows the Torah, and the calamities which will befall it if it does not. Bikkurim means bringing the first fruits to the Temple and reciting a special prayer. It is valid only under certain circumstances: (1) physical presence in the Land of Israel; (2) well-established political status in the land; and (3) building the Temple. There is an additional precondition, which is complete human ownership of the fruits a person brings, according to the verse: “the first fruits of your land.” Even one who has planted a tree in their own land but has layered it into another person’s land cannot bring the firstfruits (layering is taking a branch and bending it to the point of planting it in the ground while still attached to the original tree so it grows new roots). Nevertheless, the […]

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Hakhel Newsletter: September 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities, We have now entered the month of Elul – a time of introspection, where we review our deeds and our spiritual state this year and prepare for the upcoming “Days of Awe” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. What has your community achieved this year? What is its spiritual state currently? Where do you hope to take your community in the next year? Elul is the time for teshuva (“returning” to G-d; repentance), for self-improvement, for thinking about one’s relationship with oneself, one’s family, community, and G-d. There are many Jewish conceptions of teshuva, how the concept of “returning” is relevant to us and plays itself out cosmically in our world. The mystic Rabbi Isaac Luria connected teshuva with tikkun olam, healing the world, since through teshuva and spiritual healing, Jews can improve and perfect G-d’s work. Teshuva is a process that only begins during the High Holidays. The real work will carry us through the coming year (at least!). We hope you and your communities are currently busy planning a meaningful High Holiday experience. If you are looking for resources, please check out Hakhel’s Resource Library, and if you would like to consult and think together, […]

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Ki Tetze: Mitzvot To Combat Bad Habits And Destructive Behaviors, by Rabbi Yedidya Sinclair

“Shmita too can loosen the sway of addictive patterns of consumption.” Parshat Ki Tetze begins with two mitzvot that the rabbis characterize as countering addiction. The first, of these, the laws of the female captive, challenges and attempts to moderate the abuse and dehumanization of women that is endemic to war. The second, the law of the “stubborn and rebellious son” deals with a child who is set on a bad course in life. The talmud (Sanhedrin, 69-71) defines the conditions to qualify as a stubborn and rebellious son. He must habitually steal a certain quantity of red meat and good wine from his parents (or steal the money to purchase these ) and then consume them outside his parent’s home. The penalty – death –  is extreme, and the majority of rabbis say that in fact there never was a stubborn and rebellious son who was put to death. Why then is it in the Torah? So that we might “study it and receive reward.” So let’s study it!   The talmudic discussion drills down into the kind of meat (red meat, but not dried out, and not chicken) and wine (old wine that has matured, not the stuff that […]

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Shoftim: On the Spiritual Tension of Shmita, By Dr. Tamar R. Marvin

“For is the tree of the field like a human?” Shmita is riven with tension. On the one hand, it is introduced to us in Parashat Behar as a Shabbat of the land: ve-shavta ha-aretz Shabbat la-Shem—“the land shall abstain in a Shabbat of God” (Lev. 25:2). This brings to mind a deliberate, restorative pause. What we presently know about agriculture accords beautifully with this ancient wisdom, confirming that regular periods of fallowness enhance the production of nutritious food.  And yet there is a traditional counterpoint to this rarified mood in the form of the principle of bal tashchit, the imperative to steward resources respectfully, not allowing them to go to waste. What about the wasted potential of all the food that could be grown to feed people but will not be? This charge became all the more poignant in modernity, when Jewish farmers faced again the very real problem of sustaining themselves and their community while observing shmita. Rabbis were tasked with finding a solution, which they did, albeit messily: it entails legal fictions and wasteful importation.  This week’s parasha, Shoftim, includes an intriguing statement that acknowledges this dualistic tension of shmita. We’re now in the midst of Moses’ […]

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Re’eh, Rosh Hodesh Elul: The Expansiveness of Freedom by Rabbi Dr. Bradley Shavit Artson

“In releasing the land, our finances, and our fellows to freedom, we free ourselves as well, and this freedom ripples out in expansiveness and life.” The new month of Elul famously opens us to a time of renewed intimacy. As we gear up for the Yamim Noraim, the holiest days of the year, we enter into the holy of holies of the Jewish heart. The weekly Torah reading, Re’eh, follows a similar trajectory, detailing all the ways we can affirm our intimacy with holiness. We are offered a choice, between blessing and curse. This choice ripples through descriptions of the sanctuary and its service, ways to choose what is right and good in our eating, our serving true prophets, and prioritizing God in our tithing, our calendar, and our labor relations. Of course, this series of blogs deals with Shmita, the recurrent cycle of seven years during which we allow the land to rest. Just as the Jewish people rest on the seventh day, so too the land of Israel is offered a chance to rest, recalibrate, and recenter. The expansion of the Shmita concept in Deuteronomy is one of taking a brilliant environmental piece of legislation, affirming that relational […]

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