This thriving urban farm takes up 4,000 square feet of Mizmor LeDavid’s outdoor facility and enlivens the neighborhood, providing vegetables and herbage to anyone interested. Nourished by the local community’s compost and the care and labor of its dedicated volunteer family, the garden flourishes. Everyday people from the neighborhood come to harvest the beans, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, basil and much more to enjoy over the next couple of days, as stipulated by the shmitta halachot.

The garden not only provides delicious, healthy produce for the community, but is a springboard for teaching sustainable agriculture. The garden hosts community programs for synagogue members, student groups, and plan to integrate at-risk youth, the elderly, and adults with disabilities.

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Be a part of this holistic, holy effort. Support the Land of Israel by donating a small plant or fruit tree to this shmitta garden. Help cultivate a healthier Jerusalem and a healthier Israel.

You can track the efforts of the community garden with the Garden Digest and our Facebook page.

Donate to the garden HERE.

(Numbers: 25:10-30:1) / (Haftara: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3)

1. [25:12] “Therefore I am giving him my covenant of peace.” The Talmud Yerushalmi tells us after Pinchas killed Zimri and Kozbi and stopped the plague, the chachamim wanted to excommunicate him. However, when they saw that Pinchas was rewarded by God with the priesthood and the covenant of peace they changed their minds. How can it be that the wise men of the time were so out of touch with God’s way of seeing this incident?

2. [26:52] When the land of Israel was divided among the tribes, the Torah tells us that the bigger tribes should get bigger portions and the smaller tribes should get smaller portions. Then the portions were divided according to a lottery. How was the land divided according to the size of the tribes if there was a lottery? The Talmud and the commentaries tell us that it was miraculous—the larger plots of land went to the bigger tribes in the lottery. What was the point of the lottery if it was all “fixed” anyway.

3. [27:1] Tzelafchad died and left behind 4 daughters and no sons. The daughters requested that the inheritance go to them, and Moshe asked God and God agreed that the inheritance should go to them. Why wasn’t this law obvious? Why did Moshe have to ask God?

4. [27:1] Apparently, if the daughters of Tzlafchad had not requested the inheritance, they would not have received it. What might the Torah be trying to teach us here?

5. [27:7] “The daughters of Tzelafchad are correct…” The people of Israel were guilty of 2 major sins in the wilderness—the sin of the golden calf, and the sin of the spies. The midrash (midrash rabba) tells us that in each case, the women of Israel were the ones who were faithful to God and our mission, while the men were the ones who sinned. What is it about the quality of women that would make them more faithful to God and our mission than the men?

Commentary

[27:16,17] “…set up a leader over the community…who will take them out and who will bring them in…”

“Take them out and …bring them in” implies being part of the physical world and being part of the spiritual world. The leader that Moshe is asking God to appoint for the people of Israel is one who can connect the physical to the spiritual—a leader who can take the physical and infuse it with spirituality.

–The Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, (1700-1760).

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And to the memory of Sarah Beila Kummer bat Yitzchak and Chana, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Numbers: 22:2-25:9)

(Haftara: Micah 5:6-6:8)

1. [23:9]  “…a people that will dwell alone and will not  be counted among the nations.” This is presented as a blessing. How is this a blessing?

2.  [23:19 ]  “God is not a man, that He should lie; or a person who changes His mind…”   However, even in this parsha, God changes His mind [22:12-20].  Our prophets tell us that God is beyond human qualities—is total positivity. However, God reveals Himself to us with human-like qualities. When we pray, should we think about God beyond human qualities, or should we think about God with human-like qualities?

3. [Haftara: Micha 5:6] “And the remnant of Ya’akov will be in the midst of many nations like dew from God, like showers on the grass…”  This pasuk is understood by some commentators as negative in relation to the situation of the Jews, and by other commentators as positive in relation to the situation of the Jews. How can this pasuk be understood in a negative way and how can it be understood in a positive way?

4. [Haftara: Micah 6:8] “…what does God ask of  you: only to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”.  Are people who love kindness and walk humbly capable of doing justice.  It would seem that one must be aggressive and obstinate to achieve justice in society.  Is it realistic for the prophet to ask that a person have all three of these qualities?

5. [Haftara: Micah 6:8] “…what does God ask of you: only to do justice, to love chesed, and to walk humbly with your God”.  If these are the main things that God asks of us, what is the purpose of the other commandments of the Torah like eating kosher, keeping Shabbat, and so on.

Commentary

[24:17] “…a star will step out of Jacob…”

This pasuk is telling us that every Jew has a spark of the Messiah in his soul.

–The Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, (1700-1760).

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And to the memory of Sarah Beila Kummer bat Yitzchak and Chana, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Numbers: 19:1- 22:2)     

 (Shoftim 11:1-33)    

(Pirkay Avot 4)

1. [19:2] “This is the law of the Torah…”  This section tells us about purification. The pasuk should say that “This is the law of purification…”.  Why does it say “This is the law of the Torah”?

2. [21:18] “and from the wilderness to Mattanah [gift].”  Our mystical tradition understands that each of these stops in the wilderness represents a psychological, spiritual matter.  From this pasuk it is understood that the Torah–closeness to God and spiritual wholeness– can be acquired even by someone who has not worked at it step by step, but rather acquires the Torah as a gift because of some personal quality or action. What personal quality or action could bring a person to God and spiritual wholeness?

3. [Pirkay Avot 4:1]   “Who is wise: he who learns from every person…”  This type of person is a good or an efficient learner. Why is someone who learns from everyone considered wise? What is wisdom?

4.  [Pirkay Avot 4:7] “…anyone who gets personal gain from the Torah, takes his life from the world…”  Is it true that using anyone or anything for personal gain is an undesirable thing to do? When can exploiting someone be justified? Can one ever justify using the Torah for personal gain?

5.  [Pirkay Avot 4:15] “…let the honour of your friend be like the respect that you have for your teacher (rabbi)…”  How can one compare the honour that one gives to one’s friend to the respect that one has for one’s teacher? Doesn’t a person want a more intimate relationship with one’s friend than with one’s teacher?

Commentary

Judaism reveals the purpose of life in this world…to transform the world into a kingdom of the Almighty. Every Jew must serve his Creator by gearing all his actions, words and thoughts toward this goal. Every Jew builds and repairs his personal world, and all of the nation of Israel build and repair the entire world.

–R. Yechiel Bar-Lev, born 1943, Israel.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Numbers: 13:1-15:41)

(Haftara: Yehoshua 2, 1-24)

1. [13:27, 28] “…the people who live in the land are fierce…” Our tradition looks upon the spies as the ultimate traitors. What was so bad about the spies’ message to the Israelites?

 2. [13:27, 28] “…the people who live in the land are fierce…”  Our tradition looks upon the spies as traitors. The spies were not betraying the Israelites. They were afraid. Is fear a sin? Is fear a betrayal? Why are people sometimes afraid of changing a bad situation for a better situation?

3. [13:30] “And Caleb stilled the people”.  Rashi says that Calev said to the people, “Is this the only thing that Moshe has done to us?”. This would get their attention and then he could encourage them to go into the land.  The Sforno says simply that Calev told them to be quiet so that Moshe could be heard.  Each explanation has a different image of the Israelites. What is the difference between the explanations? Which seems more accurate to you?

4. [14:29-35] “In this wilderness, your bodies will fall…” The Israelites complained before the episode of the spies, but this time they were punished with 40 years in the desert.   What exactly was their sin? Isn’t this too severe a punishment for their sin?

5. [Haftara: Yehoshua 2:1] Why did Yehoshua send the spies to Rachav, the prostitute, and what significance is there in the fact that Rachav, who protected the spies and helped the Israelites, was a prostitute?

Commentary

[13:32] “…a land that consumes its inhabitants”.

The Hebrew word for “its inhabitants” in this verse—”yoshvehah”–literally means “its settlers”.

The Holy Land does not tolerate those who settle down, who are complacent and content with their achievements. One should always be aspiring to improve—to get closer to God, to people and to one’s real self.

–R. Yitzchak of Vorka (1779-1848), Poland.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And to the memory of Sarah Beila Kummer bat Yitzchak and Chana, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Numbers: 4:21-7:89) / (Haftara: Shoftim 13:2-25) / (Pirkay Avot: Chapter 1)

1. [5:12] “…if a man’s wife goes astray…”   When a husband suspects his wife of being unfaithful, she drinks something which tests her faithfulness. In our modern society, if a person would suspect the faithfulness of the spouse, the couple would or would not resolve the issue. In the old Torah society, the issue would be resolved, but the wife would have to go through this humiliation. Which is better?

2. [5:23] “…and he shall blot them out into the water of bitterness.”  God’s name is written on that piece of paper which is put into the water that the woman drinks. It is a sin to erase God’s  name, but it is erased nonetheless only in this situation.  From this action we learn the importance of peace in the family. Is peace in the family really more important than peace between friends, within organizations and countries, etc.? 

3. [6:25-26] “May God shine his face on you and be gracious to you.”  In Hebrew,a number of single things are written in the plural–for example, sky, life, water and others. These seem to be things which are not simple objects. “Face”, in Hebrew is also in the plural. However, it seems to be a simple object. Why is face in the plural in Hebrew?

4. [Haftara: Shoftim 13:5] “..he will be a nazir for God…”  Shimshon was born with the restrictions and duties of nazirim. A nazir does not cut his or her hair, drink wine or use grape products, or go to a cemetery even for the funeral of close relatives. The Torah does not usually encourage ascetic behavior. What purpose does a nazir serve in Jewish society?

5. [Pirkay Avot 1:1] “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai…”  Shouldn’t this say that Moshe received the Torah on Sinai, or Moshe received the Torah from God. Why does the mishna say that Moshe received the Torah from Sinai?

Commentary

There are two things that one should never worry about– what can be corrected and what cannot be corrected. What can be corrected should be corrected at once, without any worry. And as for what cannot be corrected, worrying will not help.

–R. Yechiel Michel, Zlotshov, Ukraine, 1786.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And  to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Numbers 1 :1-4:20) / (Pirkay Avot Chapter)

(Shavuot)

1. [Pirkay Avot 6:1] R. Mayer says, “Anyone who is involved in learning Torah l’shma [for it’s own sake] is worthy of many things…” What does it mean to learn Torah l’shma, and what does it mean to learn Torah not “l’shma”?

2. [6:2] “Only one who is involved in learning Torah can be called a free person”. From a Torah point of view, what does it mean to be a free person? What is the difference between the Torah’s idea of freedom and the world’s idea of freedom?

3. [6:2] How would being involved in learning Torah make one into a free person?

4. [6:3] We learned that one should learn from everyone, and we learn here that one should honour even someone from whom he learned 1 thing. If one learned something from an immoral person (for example, patience from a thief) should one honour the immoral person?

5.  [Shavuot] Our tradition tells us to celebrate the giving of the Torah on Shavuot. However, our tradition also tells us to celebrate the end of the yearly cycle of reading the Torah and the beginning of the new cycle on Simchat Torah—4 months later. Wouldn’t one expect these 2 events to be celebrated on the same day? What is the purpose of having 2 separate days for celebrating the Torah?

Commentary

The basis of religious faith is rooted in the recognition of the greatness and perfection of the Infinite. However we conceive of it is insignificant in comparison…to what it really is. If we lose this basic perception, our faith will become poor and without value…If our faith is to shine in a living light, it must be linked to a level of enlightenment that transcends…

–R. Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And to the memory of Sarah Beila Kummer bat Yitzchak and Chana, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Leviticus: 26:3-27:34) / (Haftara: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14)

  \ (Sfirat Ha’omer)

1. [26:3] “If you walk in My chukim (statutes)…”  Chukim are commandments whose reasons are either not comprehensible, or very hard to understand. For example, the laws of kashrut and the commandment of tfillin are chukim.  However, God wants us to be rational people (Dvarim 29:8 and others). How can faith in God and His Torah go together with an inquiring mind and clear intellect?

2. [26:36] “the sound of a leaf will chase them…but no-one will be chasing them”. If they don’t walk in My ways, says God, they will be become paranoid and imagine enemies who are not there. What is a natural way of understanding this pasuk? What types of sins could cause a person to become paranoid?

3. [Haftara Jeremiah 16:19] “…to You the nations will come from the ends of the earth.”  We do not believe that in the future all the people in the world will become Jewish, however, we believe that everyone will recognize the one universal God who revealed the Torah to us. This attitude, however, could lead us and especially our children to arrogance. How can we teach our children that our world-view is true, without making them arrogant? 

4. [Haftara: Jeremiah 17:9] “The heart is deceitful above all things and very weak…”    

Can spiritual or psychological weakness make a person deceitful? How? If a person is psychologically weak by nature, how can he or she become psychologically strong?

5. [Sfirat Haomer] During the time between Pesach and Shavuot, we reduce our joyful events (weddings, concerts) in order to commemorate the death of the students of Rabbi Akiva. Our tradition tells us that they died in a plague because they did not respect each other. Wouldn’t it be educationally better to have customs that increase our respect for each other, rather than limiting our joy? Why did our rabbis choose to limit our joy?

Commentary

God arranged creation so that even while in the physical world, man would be able to open a door to the spiritual and experience the Divine. This would constitute the highest perfection that a mortal human can attain.

–Aryeh Kaplan, 1934-1983, USA.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And  to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Leviticus: 25:1-26:2)

(Haftara: Yermiahu 32:6-27)

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 4) / (Sfirat Ha’omer)

1. [25:2]  “…the land will keep a Shabbat for God.”  In the land of Israel, every seven years, one does not work his land, or demonstrate his ownership of the land. This is called the “shmitta” year and it shows us that the land belongs to God. Why do the commandments of  shmitta apply only in the land of Israel? Doesn’t a Jew outside the land of Israel also need to learn that the land really belongs to God?

2. [25:2]  ..”the land will keep a Shabbat for God.” How do the commandments of  shmitta (giving up ownership of the land for a year) and yovel (slaves and property going back to their original owners) affect the  attitudes, mentality and life of the people?

3. [Yirmiahu 32:18] “…He repays the sin of the fathers into the lap of their children after them…”  The Torah tells us that children will not be punished for the sins of their fathers (Dvarim 24:16). How can we understand that the children do suffer for the sins of their fathers?

4. [Yirmiahu 32:27] “…is there anything too hard for me?”   In pasuk 17 of this chapter. Yirmiahu says to God, “…there is nothing too hard for you”.  In pasuk 27, God says to Yermiyahu in almost the same words, “ …is there anything too hard for me?”. Yirmiyahu knew in theory that God can do anything, but God had to reassure him. This is a major theme in the way of Torah. How can a person take what he or she knows  in theory—in his or her mind—and transfer that understanding to the heart—integrate that knowledge totally into one’s personality?

5. [Pirkay Avot 4:14] “Every gathering which is for the sake of Heaven will have permanent results…” “…For the sake of  Heaven…” means that the people at the gathering are not selfish.  But even a “pure act” gives a person the satisfaction of having done something good or pure. What is an example of a totally selfless act?

Commentary

The firmer a person’s vision of universality, the greater the joy that he will experience, and the more he will merit the grace of divine enlightenment. The reality of God’s providence is seen when the world is seen in its totality.

–R. Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava—Eli Zucker

And this study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Leviticus: 21:1-24:23)

(Haftara:Ezekiel 44:15-31)

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 3, Sfirat Haomer, Siddur.)

1. [21:11] “He (the Kohen Gadol) will not approach any dead body—for his father and mother he shall not become impure”.  However, if the Kohen Gadol finds a dead body that has been abandoned he must become impure and bury the body. What does this law tell us about the Torah’s attitude to death and life and people.

2. [23:4] “These are the festivals of God…”  The holier the day is, the more one is restricted in one’s physical activities.  For example, on a festival, one may cook food, although there are other restrictions. On Shabbat one may heat up certain cooked foods, but may not cook, and on Yom Kippur one may not cook and one may not even eat or drink. Why should physical freedom of action be dependent on the level of holiness of that day? One might think that more holiness should suggest more freedom of action, rather than the opposite!!

3. [23:24-23:44]  Our tradition tells us that by keeping the Torah, we make everyday life holy. If so, then why are there so many festivals which introduce to us a higher holiness than the everyday?

4. [Pirkay Avot 3:11]   “…someone who embarrasses a person in public…has no portion in the next world.” We would have known that embarrassing a person publicly is a sin, but why is it considered among the worst of all sins?

5. [Siddur, Shaarej Teszuwa, page 434]  On a regular Shabbat we say that we should be joyful in God’s salvation, but on the festival

[page 644]

, we say that we should be joyful in God.  What is the difference between these two expressions?

Why is there a difference between what we say on Shabbat and what we say on the festival?

Commentary

When one is involved in Torah—in simple things—one sees how the elevated light comes down in such a wondrous way, and rests beautifully in the world of action. One’s mind expands because of the great splendour and the powerful life-force that flows from the source of the Holy of Holies…

–Rabbi Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And to the memory of Sarah Beila Kummer bat Yitzchak and Chana, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Leviticus: 19:1-20:27)

(Haftara: Amos 9:7-15)

(Sfirat Haomer)

(Pirkay Avot 1)

1.  [19:14] “Don’t curse the deaf, and don’t put an obstacle before the blind…”    These behaviours are obviously metaphors for behaviours that are more common. Which behaviours are these metaphors for?  What character traits is the Torah trying to develop in us by telling us not to do these things?

2. [19:11]  “…don’t lie to each other.”   Our tradition tells us that the place in the Torah where a mitzvah is written is significant. It relates to either what comes before or what comes after.  Why does the commandment to be honest with another person come directly after the commandment to care for the poor and the weak?

3. [19:18] “…and love your fellow person like you love yourself “.   The Torah assumes that one loves himself or herself. If someone has a low self-image, and does not love himself or herself, what should he or she do? How can a person come to love him or herself? How can a person come to appreciate and love another person?

4. [Sfirat Haomer]  Because Rabbi Akiva’s students died of a plague, our tradition tells us to observe customs of mourning  (no weddings; no haircuts, etc.) during the majority of the days when we count the omer between Pesach and Shavuot.  On these days we anticipate our receiving of the Torah on Shavuot, so shouldn’t these be days of joy? Do these customs of mourning take away from  the atmosphere of  anticipation of receiving the Torah, or  add to that atmosphere?

(There is a custom to learn Pirkay Avot on Shabbatot between Pesach and Rosh Hashana. Be aware that there are different traditions in numbering the mishnayot in Pirkay Avot.)

 5. [Pirkay Avot 2:2]  “Everyone who works with the community should work with them without expecting reward…”  Many of the commandments of the Torah have to do with our interactions with other people. Why is a vibrant and healthy community so central to the religious values of the Torah? What does getting close to God have to do with community?

Commentary

[19:18] “…and love your fellow person like you love yourself “.

The love of all creations is first; then the love of man; then the love of the people of Israel; which includes everything because in the future, Israel is going to repair all creations. All these loves are meant to be practised—to do good for them and to cause them to be elevated.  And the greatest of all is the love of God…The greatest happiness is for the heart to be full of the love of God.

–Rabbi Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania, Israel.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer