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Topic: Reflections

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Rosh HaShanah for Animals by Rabbi Aaron Philmus

Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5779 By Rabbi Aaron Philmus Temple Torat Yisrael, Rhode Island Sheep, goats, cows, camels and donkeys… Domesticated animals get almost as much air-time in the Torah as people do, yet we so rarely reflect on our relationship with them. We may have a soft spot for dogs and cats, but what about the animals that feed us and clothe us every day? What about the animals that give us parchment for Torah, wool for Tallit, and skin for tefillin? The Mishna tells us that along with Rosh Hashanah for the people and the trees, there is also a New Year for the tithing of animals on the 1st of Elul called Rosh HaShanah La-Behemah. Elul is also a time of cheshbon hanefesh (accounting of the soul), so when we hear the blast of the ram’s horn, let us attune ourselves to the cries of the animals who cannot advocate for their own welfare. As I type these words, my goats are crying out for me to take them on a walk in the woods. I can hear my chickens alarming, “buk buk buk buh-GAHK!” When I look out the window, there is a mob of crows dive-bombing […]

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Inner and Outer Climate Change by Rabbi Robin Damsky

Earth Etudes 2019 Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5779 By Rabbi Robin Damsky inthegardens.org Durham, NC It’s been a year of change. Not just a move, but a move to a new climate zone and a very new culture. I moved from outside Chicago to Durham, NC – the South. The trees here are glorious – pines everywhere, wisteria in April blooming in the wild, crepe myrtle in vivid fuchsia and pale pastels just now. It’s hot. Average days are in the 90s and one can almost swim in the humidity. A long growing season brought daffodils in February, while I just set my second planting of pole beans. I’ve been graced by many a critter – my welcome basket was in the form of a 10-inch turtle on my front steps. I see many toads, frogs, and praying mantises. The hawk that sits in my front tree visits regularly; as do so many species of birds that I hear and see living within the forest in my backyard. In a Dorothy moment, I would say to Toto: “We are definitely not in Kansas (Chicago) anymore.” Being in this location with so much nature around me is a balm down deep. Yet […]

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Getting in Sync with the Treasure of Elul by Rabbi Ora Weiss

Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5779 By Rabbi Ora Weiss Restorative Judaism Boston, MA One of the great gifts of Judaism is its exquisite ability to teach us to tune in and use the energy of each month. The energy of Elul offers us unique support. But, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when we speak of energy – so, a short explanation: Everything – and I mean everything – is energy. Just in different forms, and different frequencies. When I say frequency, it is that everything is vibrating at different rates. The different forms of energy include matter – such as the earth (remember E=mc2? – matter is just densed-down energy), light, humans and thoughts. Time itself is not homogeneous, but rather flows with different qualities of energy, different frequencies, at different times. Judaism recognizes that each month has different energies and qualities. The Bnei Yissaschar notes that chodesh – month – can be understood as chidush – renewal, (or, even entirely new!) That is, something new comes into being with each month, different flows of energy from God given to us to affect change and growth. Elul has a very special energy: it gifts us with a […]

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Eikev and the Seven Species | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Sarah Rockford, JOFEE Fellow Cohort 4, Maine Jewish Food Network at Colby College Center for Small Town Jewish Life – Waterville, ME Parshat Eikev Fourteen years ago I read from parshat Eikev as a bat mitzvah. As I stood on the bimah and chanted my way through the aliyot, I reflected briefly that the eleventh-hour cramming I’d done over the past hours seemed to be paying off, but reading the final aliyah my concentration waivered, and I lost my place in the scroll. I continued to chant the Hebrew words I’d memorized while theatrically moving the lost yad along the rows of letters on the parchment. When I ran out of words in my head I stopped chanting and shot a desperate look at the rabbi—hoping he would reorient me so I could finish the portion. Our eyes met, he smiled, and congratulated me. I’d finished the aliyah from memory without realizing, and no one was the wiser for my mistake. Relieved and full of adrenaline I started to cry as the congregation began to sing Siman Tov U’Mazal Tov. I believe everyone thought I was having a profound spiritual moment, but these were tears of relief. I was just happy the […]

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Summer and wilderness and complaining

Thursday, July 11, 2019 | 8th Tammuz, 5779 Dear All, In this week’s parsha, the children of Israel are in the wilderness of Tzin. A small smile arises as I read it because it’s not just a line in the Torah; it’s also a road sign we pass on the Israel Ride each year. (When I read it I think of the Ride and the place, and when I cycle past it and through it I think of the Torah. This is as it should be.) And in the Torah the children of Israel are complaining: “Why have you taken us out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place, not a place for seeds or fig trees or grapevines or pomegranate trees – and there’s no water to drink!”  (On the Israel Ride very occasionally this becomes an accidental riff on the Torah – “I’m on vacation, and this is amazing – but how long to the next rest stop?!”) But this week I found myself thinking about this complaining in the wilderness as a larger metaphor for the world we live in today. We have indeed left slavery. We’re not defenseless against pogroms, as we were in the middle ages; […]

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Summer Feature – Teva Educators: “Where are they now?”

As we begin approaching Teva’s 25th Anniversary, we will be spending the summer months featuring former Teva Educators who were once Teva students. They are from different Teva seasons and have different stories, experiences and memories. Enjoy the walk down memory lane with us! Neshama Sonnenschein came to Teva as a student with Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan in the 4th grade. She returned as a Teva educator for the Fall 2017 and 2018 seasons and is currently the Teva Education Coordinator. Neshama, left, as the worm during Resource Revolution What do you remember about Teva as a student? Which moments/memories/stories stand out? I have a few memories that stand out to me from being a Teva Kid. The first is that I took a packet of butter one morning and realized that I didn’t like it, so I went to an educator and asked what to do with it. They patiently, and without judgement answered that the butter can be scraped off from the packaging and put into the psolet bucket and the packing could go in the trash. I remember thinking that my question and action had value, even if I was adding to our psolet for that meal. The […]

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Harvesting and Baking our Heritage | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Hannah Fine – Hazon Detroit Parshat Shelach In parshat Shelach, Moses sent twelve spies to scout out the land of Canaan and report back to the Israelites. All of the spies returned with the same objective report. It was a land of milk and honey brimming with fruit and sustenance. There were grapes, and figs, and pomegranates which they even brought back to show Moses and the Israelites. The spies also reported that the inhabitants of the land were mighty and intimidating. While all twelve spies saw the same land and shared the same observations, they were split between two opposing conclusions. Ten of the spies were convinced that the formidability of the inhabitants meant certain demise for the Israelites. Doom was a foregone conclusion so it was not even worth trying. The other two spies, Caleb and Joshua, had a different interpretation. They were confident that, despite the strength of the peoples and societies in Canaan, the Israelites could overcome it. Caleb and Joshua contended that the greatness of the Promised Land was worth the challenge.  At Hazon Detroit, we are working to overcome a formidable structure that exists in our land: the lopsided nature Michigan’s grain industry. […]

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New Jewish spaces, community, and the power of colocation

by Nigel Savage Thursday, June 27, 2019 | 24th Sivan, 5779 If you’re involved in leading a Jewish institution do please read this… Dear All, Hazon is moving offices today. This marks at least the temporary end of Makom Hadash, our shared office space, in its current form. As of Monday morning you can find us at 25 Broadway – working within the offices of our new landlords, JFNA, and alongside JCPA and possibly in due course one or two other organizations. We are looking forward to connecting with our new colleagues. But there’s no question that this is bittersweet. We’re leaving the offices of the Forward, and our now old “new space” that we have so happily shared with Lab/Shul, with Avodah, and, over the years, with a range of smaller groups, including Art Kibbutz, Eshel, Limmud NY, as well as NY-based staffers of groups such as Keshet, Moishe House, Moving Traditions, and Svara. So today is an appropriate moment to reflect on four different overlapping initiatives that Hazon has helped to create or that we sponsor, even as we ourselves transition both physically and strategically. In doing this I want to make some quite specific suggestions to people involved in leading Jewish institutions. […]

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A Real Question

by Nigel Savage Thursday, June 13, 2019 | 10th Sivan 5779 Dear All, Do we strive to change the world through fear or through a positive vision? This is not a fake question, or the set-up for an obvious answer. I’m more confused by this question, at the moment, than at any time in my life. I used to feel that the answer was “through a positive vision.” The word hazon is Hebrew for vision, and our name symbolized this view. Yes, we needed to tackle complex and depressing issues; but we would do this by inspiring people, and by sharing a positive vision for change. And now I’m not so sure. Most people most of the day simply get on with our lives. This is the nature of being human. It’s rare that there is an acute incident – a heart attack, a traffic accident, a major fire, an act of terrorism in our own community – that really cuts through normal daily life. Other than that we toggle between obligations and celebrations, work and play, family and friends and work and study. But the climate challenge that faces the world right now is absolutely real, and it is worsening. A report from […]

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Ms. Isabella Freedman’s Yahrzeit

By Arthur Kurzweil 92 years ago, on the 23rd day of Iyyar, 5687, corresponding to May 25, 1927, Ms. Isabella Freedman was relieved of her earthly duties. Let us take the anniversary of her death as an opportunity to remember her life – which she devoted to performing acts of loving kindness. Ms. Isabella Freedman was a generous philanthropist. She was particularly devoted to the cause of young Jewish women, as reflected in her leadership roles in the Jewish Working Girls Vacation Society, the Widows’ Mothers Fund Association, as well as The Inwood House, a residence and counseling center for unwed teenage mothers. Our Jewish Retreat Center, named in her honor, was incorporated in 1893 as the Jewish Working Girls Vacation Society, of which Ms. Isabella Freedman was a founder. The Society provided free or highly subsidized country vacations for young Jewish women who worked all year in the city. It was established “to assist worthy Jewish working girls of small means to spend their summer vacation in the country, in the process aiding their physical development.” Ms. Freedman was also a devoted member of the Temple Emanu-El in New York City. She was a member of its religious school […]

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Hakhel Blog: Craig Oshkello

by Craig Oshkello The local farm supply store, a seventh generation family business, left a message for me on Shabbat. Probably not aware that it was the fourteenth day of the counting of the Omer, they let me know the barley has arrived. I am one of a growing number of Jews that are leading a lifestyle based on environmental stewardship and social justice. As a Jew in the diaspora this path had yielded deeper meaning in my spiritual growth and a stronger connection to/ longing for the land of Israel. It is now Motzei Shabbos (Saturday night) and there is a buzz on the farm. Although the north faces of the 4000 foot mountains on the horizon are still under 65” of snow, the first flowers are blooming here at 800 feet above sea level at our home in the valley. Colts foot, Trout Lily, Marsh Marigold, Trillium, Lady’s Slipper and Blood Root are all of the first to bloom. They are “ephemeral” species whose bloom and foliage will disappear in a month. First to flower among the trees, the White Poplar, has a distinctly hairy looking flower locally referred to as “Popple Fuzz”, is now joined in a […]

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Hazon Detroit: The Wheat Harvest

Dear Friends, According to our biblical calendar, we are in the midst of the grain harvest, a season of gladness and growth which lasted seven weeks of seven days. It began with harvesting barley during Passover and ended with harvesting wheat at Shavuot. Forty-nine days the wheat would grow and grow, until it was ready to be cut and harvested just in time for Shavuot, when two loaves of bread would be offered at the Temple. According to our Torah, this honoring and culmination of the growing season is the reason we celebrate Shavuot, and only later did the slightly more mythical aspects of receiving Torah at Mt. Sinai come to coincide with the holiday’s significance. At one time, the flour was the revelation. Nowadays, for each of those forty-nine days, Jews around the world engage in a practice called “Sefirat haOmer/Counting the Omer,” where we verbally bless and count each day that passes. While we may not be carefully watching our wheat crops grow, tending to their needs and supporting their health, we do have an opportunity to do just that for own spirits and souls. We once were slaves and now we’re free. But in order to truly […]

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