Topic: Shavuot

Choosing our History | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Henry Schmidt – Shalom Institute Parshat Devarim The Torah may be our past, but Devarim, the shared name both for this week’s Torah portion and for the fifth book of the Torah, is our history. What is the difference between past and history? Our past is simply a chronology of events, one after another, that bring us to the present. It is what one may observe if they traveled back in time and watched things unfold. History, on the other hand, adds important layers; history is the past we choose to tell and how we tell it. The establishment of history is an inherently political process. Whoever has the most access to public discourse or public thought typically gets to shape the narrative of the people. In the case of Devarim, this power rests solely with Moses. Though he shall not see the promised land and must cede this honor to his successor, Joshua, he still possesses the most powerful role of this period for the Jewish people: he gets to tell them their own story. After all, Devarim translates to “the words,” and these are “the words” of the Jewish people. We already know that the Jews eventually receive […]

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Why Do We Wander? | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Eliezer Weinbach – Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Hazon  Parshat Maasei Earlier this year, Isabella Freedman hosted a Moishe House retreat called “Wandering Jews.” Led by New York Times contributor Eli Reiter, twelve people in their twenties and thirties got together to discuss their experiences and wisdom regarding travel as a Jewish person. They discussed things like kashruth and shabbat observance while abroad. The question is: Why bother? When the Torah lists all the stages of the journey through the desert, as per the text from Numbers above, it really does discuss each part. All forty-two stages, in fact! The question is: Why bother? God commands that when the Jews do finally enter the land, they are to travel three times a year to Jerusalem. Wasn’t the journey to the land long enough?! Why bother?! Travel is hard. Sitting at home is easy. Hiking is hard. Watching Netflix is easy. Adventures change you. Inaction keeps you the same. Wandering is change. On a very basic level, you are moving from one place to another. But it’s so much more than that. I could quote Emerson on “roads less traveled” or Kerouac on basically anything, or any of the myriad formulations regarding […]

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Mayim Chayim and Honoring our Mother | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Alex Voynow – Jewish Farm School  Parshat Chukat In Chukat, our mother dies. “Miriam died there [at Kadesh] and was buried there. The people were without water and they joined against Moses and Aaron.” ~Numbers 20.1-2 Miriam’s death gets one line, and then the narrative is quickly redirected back to the patriarchs. I was amazed at the amount of lines the Torah takes in Chukat to explicate the condemnation of Moses, the laws or ritual purification, and the military proceedings of the Israelites, while one verse is all we hear about the death of Miriam the Prophetess. Miriam provided the water. And just as in the central focus of the movement at Standing Rock, “Water is Life.” Mayim chayim. If you say mayim repeatedly, you also begin to say ima — mother. In the Torah, we lost our mother Miriam, our life source. She is barely mentioned again. So, the central question for me and for us that comes up is: whose story is this? Who wrote this book? There is an obvious reality that women were centrally important to the life and culture of the Israelites, yet they are seldom mentioned, celebrated, or mourned. I see this as the Torah’s infidelity […]

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Korach: Disruptive Visionary or Disgruntled Rabble-Rouser? | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Eliezer Weinbach – Hazon, Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center Parshat Korach וַיֵּרְדוּ הֵם וְכָל-אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם, חַיִּים–שְׁאֹלָה And they and all their belongings went down, alive, into Sheol Numbers 16:33 I was traveling once, and my tour guide, a wizened Arab, asked me if I wanted to see the pit that swallowed Korach’s followers. Intrigued, I followed my guide through the desert. After some time, through a haze of heat and mirage, we saw smoke billowing from a fissure in the ground. My guide doused a towel with some of his water, and tied it to the tip of his staff. He cautiously approached the fissure, and held his staff over the smoking vent. To my surprise, the wet cloth began to burn. As he was walking back to me, I could hear voices carried on the warm desert wind. Faint voices, singing, or perhaps chanting. Softly enough that I wasn’t sure if I was hearing anything at all. “What are those voices?” I asked my guide. “Those are the children of Korach,” he replied. “They are slowly lowered into the hellish heat of the Earth and then raised back out, rotated like a roast on a spit. When they finish […]

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Calling the Congregation – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Jacob Weiss – Hazon at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center Parashat Beha’alotcha “Make thee two trumpets of silver; of beaten work shalt thou make them; and they shall be unto thee for the calling of the congregation… And when they shall blow with them, all the congregation shall gather themselves unto thee at the door of the tent of meeting.” Bamidbar perek yud, pasuk bet (Numbers 10:2) I recently recalled to a friend— just after our festival of Shavuot — that I had now been in attendance at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center for all three of the Shalosh Regalim, which are the three main pilgrimage festivals. Shavuot, Passover, and Sukkot all took on very different energies at Isabella Freedman. There remained a constant, though: the spirit, joy, and sheer heart that was poured into those festivals by everyone who attended, and by everyone who worked so tirelessly to make those retreat and community gatherings manifest. An incredible sense of community occurs during Jewish holiday retreats at Isabella Freedman, where I am currently a JOFEE Fellow. After spending the seven weeks of the Omer preparing ourselves, the Jewish people traditionally celebrate the festival of Shavuot to commemorate the receiving of […]

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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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A Heart to Know, Eyes to See, and Ears to Hear – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Danielle Smith, Eden Village Camp – Putnam Valley, NY Parshat Ki Tavo Editor’s Note: Welcome to D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog! Most weeks throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from the JOFEE Fellows: reflections on their experiences, successful programs they’ve planned and implemented, gleanings from the field, and connections to the weekly Torah portion and what they’ve learned from their experiences with place in their host communities for the year. Be sure to check back weekly!  P.S. Interested in being or hosting a JOFEE Fellow? Applications for cohort two are now open for both prospective fellows and prospective host institutions!  In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, Moses speaks reflectively and instructively to the Israelites as they approach the Promised Land, finally nearing the end of their forty year journey through the wilderness. Here at Eden Village Camp, we may not have spent forty years wandering the wilderness of Putnam Valley (though sometimes the packed days and weeks at camp can feel almost as long #jewishcamptime), but the transition into the fall season is the perfect time for deep reflection and exhalations. It was a fast leap from summer into the slower pace of the fall, and after two months of […]

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Omer Week Five: Olam Shana Nefesh

Wisdom from Rabbi Shir Yaakov Videography by Deana Morenoff and Michael Arginsky Rabbi Shir Yaakov is a teacher, singer, composer, designer, producer, and “aba” (Dad). He is the leader of an emerging spiritual community in the Hudson Valley, Kol Hai. In addition, he is a lead teacher in DLTI, and he serves both Romemu and ALEPH as Creative Director and is well known as a stage artist and liturgist performing with The Epichorus and Darshan. Working in both Jewish and multi-faith contexts, Shir Yaakov weaves a tapestry of Kabbalistic wisdom, contemporary songwriting and deep personal spirituality to offer a spiritual cultural Judaism that is contemporary, alive, and innovative. He has recorded and released four albums of original music. shiryaakov.com The 7-week period between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot is called the Omer. For each of these 7 weeks, we will be making available one offering per week from 7 leaders of our upcoming Shavuot Retreat. Join us Memorial Day weekend for the Shavuot retreat to go deeper and get higher with these wonderful teachers. (Use early discount code EARLY10 through April 24th for 10% off.) In the meantime, enjoy our Omer experience!

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Omer Week Four: Here’s to Life

Wisdom from Rebbetzin Eve Ilsen Videography by ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal Rebbetzin Eve Ilsen is our featured teacher for this year’s Shavuot retreat. For the past decade she and her late husband Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi זצ׳ל built this retreat into the amazing experience that it is today. Eve comes to us this year still in the first year of mourning for her beloved, and yet bringing an incredibly insighful and inspiring perspective on Life. This week’s video blog offers us a taste of her talents, her presence, and her power. Join us for the retreat and learn with her in person. Rebbetzin Eve Ilsen is a psychotherapist, teacher, storyteller and singer. She has studied closely with mythologist Joseph Campbell, Eutonia bodywork founder Gerda Alexander, and trained for years in Jerusalem in waking dream and the therapeutic use of imagery with Mme. Colette Aboulker-Muscat. Since returning to the United states in 1986, Ms. Ilsen has also worked in tandem with her husband of blessed memory, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi זצ׳ל, co-creating the Wisdom School, co-leading workshops and partnering at holy day retreats. In 2008, she was ordained as a Rabbinic Pastor. These days, Eve is invoking transformative states by performing in concert, […]

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Omer Week Three: Embodied Tiferet

Wisdom from Rachel Dewan, Certified Anusara Teacher, E-RYT500 Videography by Deana Morenoff and Michael Arginsky   Rachel Dewan, Certified Anusara Teacher, E-RYT500 , is a graduate of the Yoga and Jewish Spirituality Teacher Training.  and in addition to a full schedule of yoga classes, has been teaching Yoga Teacher Trainings, Prenatal Yoga Teacher Trainings, Yoga Therapeutics, and a wide variety of workshops since 2004. She has studied many different yoga styles and regularly immerses herself in a range of both Jewish and yogic texts and practices.  It is Rachel’s ultimate goal as a teacher to cultivate a sense of community in her classes, bring a sense of fullness and joy to her students by inspiring them to expand to their highest possible potential both on and off the mat, and helping them to strengthen their connection to their own unique and divine nature.   Her classes infuse dynamic asana and skillful pranayama (breathwork) and meditation,  interwoven with deep teachings of the heart and spirit, designed to awaken the deepest longing of the soul to connect with it’s Source. Read Rachel’s thoughts on yoga and life. The 7-week period between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot is called the Omer. For each of these 7 weeks, we will […]

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