Topic: JOFEE Fellowship

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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This Passover, Take Action for the Climate – D’Varim Hamakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Rachel Aronson – JOFEE / Sustainability and Community Engagement Fellow, Hazon  Jews across the world this week commemorated leaving Egypt to become free people for the holiday of Passover. Friends and family sit around the table together for the seder, celebrating freedom with comfy pillows to recline on and lots of kosher wine. Unfortunately, Passover can also represent something else: the holiday of waste. Those who keep kosher for Pesach (Passover) deep-clean our kitchens before the holiday, rooting out bread, tortillas, muffins, crackers, and every other kind of chametz (leavened or yeasted products) that’s sitting around the house. And to ensure that everything is kosher, we switch out our regular sets of dishes with a special set of only-for-Passover dishes. But who wants to keep an extra set of dishes around the house? It takes up storage space. It’s inconvenient. Understandably, many of us – out of convenience, or out of necessity – use disposable plates, cutlery, cups, and more. Ironically, many of us end up celebrating this holiday of freedom and liberation with trash bags full of styrofoam. Thankfully, Passover is also a holiday that reminds us of our ability to make change — as individuals and as a society. Nowhere is […]

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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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Parashat Pikudei – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Parashat Pikudei By: Tzachi Flatt; Oshman JCC, Palo Alto, CA Parashat Pikudei tells the story of the construction of the Mishkan, built by the Israelite community under supervision of the Levites. While wandering in the desert, it became a source of comfort and communication for the people of Israel to create a central meeting place where they could connect to G-d. This was constructed to be their divine headquarters. Externally, they were surrounded by the wide expanse of the desert. Internally, they did not know where they were going. G-d saw them in this state, and commanded them to create this space for their own well-being. Parashat Pikudei goes into exhaustive detail about all the pieces of the Mishkan, such a significant undertaking can only be accomplished with the entire community working together cohesively. In thinking about the underlying message of this parasha, at least two key points rose to the surface. Everyone’s contribution to the common goal is not only expected, but is essential to its success. “Do not separate yourself from the community” – Pirkei Avot. We each carry a unique skill set that adds its own value and meaning to the greater good. When we work together […]

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Parsha Ki Tisa – The Mitzvah of Tzedaka – D’Varim Ha’Makom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

The Mitzvah of Tzedakah By: Nicole Cruz; Peninsula JCC – San Francisco, CA This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa, tells the story of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from G-d (not once but twice) at Mount Sinai. The first set of Ten Commandments is broken when Moses destroys them in frustration when he witnesses the Egyptians worshiping a god they created because they were impatient waiting for his return from Mount Sinai. Eventually, Moses returns to Mount Sinai and G-d scribes the same words on a new set of stones. After speaking with G-d, when Moses descends Mount Sinai the second time his face is radiating. While this Torah portion contains many significant moments, the part that most resonated with me wast he conversation between G-d and Moses before he leaves Mount Sinai the first time: “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. This shall be a perpetual covenant, a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever…” In this well-known quote, we come to understand that we rest on Shabbat because G-d commands it. Reading this Torah portion reminded me of the other Mitzvot that […]

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TuB'Shvat Altar 2017

Parsha Terumah and Passover in the Desert – D’varim Ha’Makom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Parsha Terumah and Passover in the Desert: The Holy Gift of Service By: Daniella Aboody – Wilderness Torah, Berkeley California   This week’s Torah portion is Terumah, which translates to “offering”, “gift”, or “contribution”. In this parsha, God instructs Moses to build the Mishkan (tabernacle), or the holy sanctuary, and the entire parsha of Terumah is a very detailed and specific set of instructions for how Moses and the Israelites are to make and furnish G-d’s dwelling place. It is written: “Dedicate to G-d a contribution. Collect my offering from every person whose heart inspires him/her to generosity: gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple and crimson wool; linen and goat hair; arm skins dyed red, tachash skins, and acacia wood; oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the incense; precious gems…You shall place in the ark the testimony which I will give to you…I will meet you there and speak from between the angels. There, I will tell you what to command the Children of Israel.” I find this parsha very intriguing – why are these instructions so particular? Is this all really necessary? For these nomadic people of the desert, such highly elaborate and specific requirements for the Mishkan are […]

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Danielle Smith with child at Eden Village

Parsha Mishpatim – D’varim HaMakom: the JOFEE Fellows Blog

Parsha Mishpatim By: Danielle Smith – Eden Village Camp, Putnam Valley NY In last week’s parsha, we received the ten commandments. Before we receive the golden calf, we have nearly a whole parsha of laws showing us how to apply the commandments in our daily lives. This week we receive 53 laws that talk about gender, social justice, courts, serving G-d, criminal law, ethics, and more. After Moses tells the Israelites all of these laws, they respond by saying, “we will do and listen.” These laws acknowledge the values that the ten commandments address and they give us action items for how to apply the principles of the commandments. I hope that we do not blindly follow laws just because they are written, but that we follow laws that are morally right and align with the mission of our collective society. I want to focus on two values in particular that are addressed through the laws in Mishpatim- income inequality and acts of kindness. Mishpatim talks about female servitude and the laws around a poor father selling his daughter to a wealthier family for service and then for marriage. This portion discusses themes of Shmita, saying that after six years, […]

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Parsha Yitro – D’varim HaMakom The JOFEE Fellows Blog

By – Tzachi Flatt, Oshman Family JCC – Palo Alto, CA In This week’s Torah portion, Yitro, Moses tells his stepfather Jethro the story of the Israelites escape from Egypt. Jethro is very pleased with the story and recites a prayer of gratitude, even though he was not with them in Egypt. Jethro notices Moses dealing with a great deal of the challenges in the group, and advises him to create a council that will help balance the work between the community. After the council is in place and the society is self-governing, Moses is able to go off to his own land. As a JOFEE fellow I can relate to this Torah portion as there are a great many challenges and roadblocks on the path to humans maintaining a healthier, more sustainable planet. Taking on a task of this proportion would be extremely challenging for one person, or even a small group of people to tackle on their own. It is as if we as JOFEE fellows are the council, and our task is to create positive change while educating the community and inspiring them to take similar steps. I am reminded of the Pirkei Avot quote “Do not […]

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Parsha Beshalach – D’varim HaMakom The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Blessings, on Blessings, on Blessings: Faith and Wonderment in Beshalach and Tu B’shvat Shani Mink – Pearlstone Center, Reisterstown MD In the parsha of Beshalach we have finally emerged from the darkness of egypt and we are now headed into a different sort of darkness, the darkness of the unknown.  Trapped between Pharoah’s army and the Red Sea, the Nation of Israel turns to their leader Moshe and say “Why did you take us out here to die? It would be better to serve the Egyptians than to die out here in the wilderness.”  After generations, our ancestors had grown too comfortable with the abuse and degradation of slavery and from this comfort emerged a paralyzing and complacent stagnation.  Though their lives in Egypt were dark and full of terrors, it was a familiar plight, a plight in which they knew what to expect.  The injustices that pepper our society are just as familiar and the darkness of the unknown just as terrifying.  In light of recent political transitions, the plight of dis-empowered groups previously suffering in silence have been brought to the fore.  Caught between Pharoah’s army and the Red Sea, we must chose to move forward; it’s now […]

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