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.

(Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

(Haftara Isaiah 60:1-22)

1.   [26:2] “And you will take from the first of all the fruits of the ground…” The               

Sfat Emet says that “this is in order to emphasize and to celebrate newness and   

freshness”.  What is so special about newness and freshness?  Shouldn’t we celebrate tradition and experience?

2. [28:45-48] “These curses will come upon you…because you did not serve God joyfully”.  If one serves God, but not joyfully, is that service of God worthless?

3. [29:8] The Sforno (Italy-1475-1550) understands this pasuk to be saying that one should “do them [the commandments] in order that you should be perceptive and understanding in everything that you do”. What does he mean? How can doing the commandments make a person perceptive in all that he does?

4. [Haftara: Yeshayahu 60:9] “…to bring your children from far..” This pasuk is referring to the “ingathering of the exiles”—the Jews gathering in the land of Israel.  Rav Kuk speaks about a personal “ingathering of one’s exiles”.  What are one’s personal exiles? How does a person gather his or her personal exiles?

5. [Calendar] Our tradition tells us that the month of Elul, has the same letters that begin the words, “I am my Beloved’s and  my Beloved is mine”. It is a time of intimacy between God and the Jewish people—both as a people and as individuals.  How is it that the time before the Days of Judgment is such an intimate time?

Commentary

[28:47] “Because you did not serve Hashem, your God,  with joy and a happy heart…”

When a person is introspective, and he, himself, judges all the things that he does, then there is no judgment from above. Through this introspection and self-judgment a person can come to such great joy that he wants to dance as a result of his joy.

–R. Nachman of Breslov (Ukraine, 1772-1810).

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Rivkah Rochel bat Ya’akov haLevi and Chaya Kornberg, and Yechiel Eliezer ben Yitzchok Meir and Rochel Laya Kornberg

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

(Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

(Haftara: Isaiah 54:1-10)

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 2)

1. [22:1]   “ …you must return them to your brother.”  The matter of lost articles and their return to their owners is an important issue in halacha and in Chassidut. A complete and rather long tractate in the Talmud is devoted to this topic.  Why is  this matter so important in our social lives and in our psychological-spiritual lives?

2. [22:4] “…lift them up with him.”  The Torah tells us that we must help a person who needs help.  Rashi and other commentaries further tell us that we must help only if the other person also lifts, but not if he expects us to do it all. How is this an excellent model for helping people? Are there times when one should help even if the other person does not take part?

3. [23:8, 24:14,17] The Torah demands that we be very compassionate with those who have helped us, and with the weaker people in our society. However, the Torah can be very merciless with those who are considered evil. If we were compassionate with the evil, couldn’t many of them become good?  Why is the Torah so uncompromising with evil people?

4. [Pirkei Avot 2:1] “Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, because you don’t know the rewards for the mitzvot.”  We do know that some mitzvoth are more important than others.  For example, Shabbat is very important and the mitzvoth of kindness are the most important.  Therefore their rewards should be greater than those of other mitzvoth. What does the mishna mean when it says that one should not make a distinction between mitzvoth?

5. [Pirkei Avot 2:2] “…all Torah study that is not accompanied with work will ultimately be forgotten and cause sin.”  One would think that the more Torah one learns, the richer one’s life is in every way.Why does being involved in the world

help a person acquire and retain Torah?

Commentary

[21:13] “And she should remove the clothing of her captivity…”

The base thoughts that a person has—thoughts of selfishness and lust—have within them a spark of holiness that yearns to be free and return to its source.  However, this holiness is covered, so to speak with dirty clothing. A person must remove the dirty clothing and the holiness within will shine like the morning light.

–R. Israel Baal Shem Tov (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

(Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)

(Haftara: Isaiah 51:12-52:12)

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 6)

1. [16:18] “…and they will judge the people with justice…”  Rav Kuk tells us that one must be very attached to justice in order to be attached to the “soul of Israel”. Why is justice a more basic value for us than kindness or other values?

2. [17:14] “..and  you will say, “I will put over myself a king like all the  nations…” Some of our rabbis tell us that this is optional and others say that we must set up a king. What might be the reasons for each opinion?

3. [Isaiah 51:16] “I have put my words in your mouth…so that I will plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth…” How can words in the mouth of the prophet plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth?

4. [Pirkay Avot 6:6] “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways…through joy…”      One of the qualities necessary for acquiring Torah is joy. However, the Torah way of life includes activities that don’t seem joyful—like personal discipline and fighting evil. How can one be joyful while doing those activities?

5. [Month of Elul] We are now in the month of Elul—the month of tshuvah before Rosh Hashana.  It has been said that the idea that one can erase one’s sins by regretting them and making tshuvah is not a logical idea. It is a special kindness from Heaven. How is the idea that one can erase one’s sins through tshuvah not logical?

Commentary

The inner spiritual work has to do with organizing one’s thoughts—which is the essence of a life of focus or meditation—and organizing one’s emotions–which is a life of song and poetry. One must work on the relationship of these qualities so that they can work together in the ways in which they are best balanced with each other, and also work separately.

–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

(Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)

(Haftara: Isaiah 54:11-55:5)

(Pirkay Avot Chapter 6)

1. [11:26] “Look, I am putting in front of you to-day…”   To hear and understand something seems like a more significant activity than seeing something. Why does this parsha begin with the word “look”, rather than the more usual “shma”—hear or understand? 

2. [15:7] “When there will be a poor man among your brothers…” The Torah tells us that we should give a poor person enough charity to return to his former financial state. Therefore, someone who was previously rich would get much more charity than someone who was previously poor.  What is the logic in this?

3. [Haftara: Isaiah 54:13] “And all your children will be taught by  God…” In this messianic vision, we are told that everyone will be directly taught by God. What is the difference between being taught by God directly and being taught indirectly by God?

4. [Haftara 55:4] “I have made him a witness for the nations…”  How are the Jewish people a witness for the nations. To what are we witnessing?

5. [Pirkay Avot 6:6, 6:8]  Mishna 6 mentions honour (kavod) in a negative way—the Torah is acquired by distancing oneself from “kavod”. However, mishna 8 says that “kavod” is a good quality for a righteous person. Is honour (kavod) a good thing or a bad thing?

Commentary

Even though learning Torah and  performing the commandments of the Torah purify one’s personal qualities and one’s personality, one cannot rely on those things alone. One must also work purposefully on the improvement of one’s character.

–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

(Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)

(Haftara: Isaiah 49:14-51:3)

(Pirkay Avot Chapter 5)

1. [7:22 ]  “slowly, slowly; you cannot remove them quickly…”  Here, the Torah is telling us to be patient. However, when we left Egypt, the Torah told us to move very quickly and leave quickly [Shmot 12:11].  When is the proper time for patience and when is the proper time for haste?

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2. [8:2]  “Remember the way that God took you… in order to make you suffer, in order to test you…”  After things are good, one should remember the suffering in the desert, which was a test from God.  Obviously, they passed the test. What purpose is served by remembering suffering and tests of this kind?

3. [8:7]  “God is bringing you to a good land with brooks of water… going out in the valleys and the hills.”   In our spiritual literature, the land of Israel represents the ideal state of mind. Why is a land of hills and valleys more ideal than a flat land?

4. [Yeshaya 51:1]   “…you that chase after justice, that seek God…”   Why are seekers of God only those who chase after justice.  What about those who chase after love or after peace or inner peace—are they not seekers of God?

5.    [Pirkay Avot 5:13]  “…what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is yours, is a chassid…”  A chassid is someone who does more than is asked of him.  What is the ideal, balanced approach to one’s property and sharing it with others?

Commentary

            When a person is on a trip and he can’t pray or learn Torah in his normal way, then he should serve God in other ways, and he shouldn’t be bothered by this, because God wants him to serve in all ways—sometimes in this way and sometimes in that way.  That’s why he happened to be going on a certain road, or speaking to certain people, in order to serve God in that particular way.

–R. Yisrael ben Eliezer, 1698-1760, Ukraine.

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

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Rivkah Rochel bat Ya’akov haLevi and Chaya Kornberg, and Yechiel Eliezer ben Yitzchok Meir and Rochel Laya Kornberg

(Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)

(Haftara: Shabbat Chazon: Isaiah 1:1-27)

1. [1:17] “…for the judgment is God’s…”  If God is really the only judge, then what is the job of a human judge and how can he do his job successfully?

2. [1:17] “…don’t be afraid of any man, for the judgment is God’s…”  This pasuk is speaking to a judge. What does it mean?

3. [Haftara: Isaiah 1:17] God tells us through the prophet that He has no pleasure in the festivals and sacrifices if the Jews don’t act morally. God says, “Learn to do good, seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the orphan and plead for the widow.” If these acts of justice and kindness are really the most important, then why did God give us all the other commandments? Why didn’t God just give us the commandments of justice and kindness?

4. [Haftara 1:27]  “Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and those that return to her with righteousness”.  Are justice and righteousness enough for redemption? What about love, happiness, health and so on?

5. [Tisha b’Av]  Next Saturday night (the 13th of August) is Tisha b’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples and all other tragedies in Jewish history. The Talmud says, “Whoever mourns for Jerusalem will be worthy to see the joy of Jerusalem, and whoever does not mourn for Jerusalem will not see the joy of Jerusalem”.   Why should seeing joy be dependent on whether someone mourned?

Commentary

1:17 “…that which is difficult for you, you will bring it to me…”

When you are in doubt about a specific act, and you don’t know whether it is permitted or not, separate yourself from the pleasure of that act. Then, if you want to know the truth—whether that act is God’s will or not—you will see the truth. 

Bring it to the life-force of God which is within you. Any difficulty in these areas is caused by the fact that the outside world blocks our vision of the truth, but if one attaches oneself to one’s inner spirituality, then the truth becomes clear.

–R. Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (18471905),  Góra Kalwaria, Poland—the Sfat Emet

This study page is dedicated to the memory of  Reuven Ben Ephrayim (Frank Morritt) veMalka (Molly Dinitz Morritt) 

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

(Numbers: 30:2-36:13)

(Haftara: Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4, 4:1,2)

(Pirkay Avot 2)

1. [Haftara: Jeremiah , 3:4, 4:1,2] : If a haftara ends with a negative statement, then positive psukim are added. That is the purpose of the last psukim in this haftara. Is this wise?  In this haftara, God has been rebuking the Jews. Wouldn’t it be more proper to finish with a negative statement so that the Jews will regret their actions and return to God?

2. [Pirkay Avot 2:2] “Torah, together with work, saves a person from sin. ”  One would think that the more Torah, the less sin. How does work help to save a person from sin?

3. [Pirkay Avot 2:13] The mishna asks, “Which is the good way that a person should go on?” The mishna ends by saying that a “good heart” is the best way because it includes generosity, and a good friend, a good neighbour, and the quality of foreseeing the future. How does a good heart include all of these other qualities?

4.  [Pirkay Avot 2:15] “Warm yourself by the light of the wise men, but be careful…because their bite is the bite of a fox…and all their words are like burning coals.” Shouldn’t our true teachers be constantly loving. Why do they have this “biting” side to them?

5. [Calendar] We are now in the 3 weeks before Tisha b’Av. In these weeks, we have no marriages, no dancing, playing musical instruments, or cutting hair. Our tradition wants to prepare us to mourn properly on Tisha b’Av. Similarly, before Purim, we prepare to be joyful. However, in Jewish life in general, we often change very quickly from one emotion to another—we go from a funeral to a wedding, and so on. What is special about Tisha b’Av that would require this extra preparation?

Commentary

[33:2] “And Moshe wrote their leaving [Egypt] according to their various journeys…”   Why did Moshe have to write down every place that the people stopped?

Leaving Egypt represents leaving behind one’s slavery to the physical—one’s  pleasures and one’s dependencies.  A person might think that after he or she has freed themselves of their enslavement to the physical, one can forget the past, and live in the freedom of the present. The Torah, therefore, is telling us that one must remember the past in order to correct one’s mistakes—the negative acts that one did. Only then can one really live freely in the present.

–R. Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (18471905),  Góra Kalwaria, 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: 22:2-25:9)

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

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 6) 

1. [24:5] “How good are your tents, Ya’acov…”    Bila’am was originally supposed to curse Israel, but instead, he gave us a beautiful blessing and messianic prediction. Would his blessing have seemed more significant to us if it had started in a positive way, or is it more significant because it started in a negative way? What events in life can illustrate this idea?

2. [24:17] “…a star  will step out of Ya’akov…”  The “star” is understood to be either the Jewish people or the messiah.  Why is a “star” the metaphor which is used.  Wouldn’t “light” be a better image? 

3.  It has been said that Bila’am, at the end, sees the Israelites in such a positive way because he was not part of the Israelites. One has a better perspective from the outside. Can’t one sometimes have a clearer picture by seeing things from the inside?

4. [Michah 6:8] “…what does God ask of you, love kindness…”   When the Temple was destroyed, one of our Rabbis said, “We have another way of  receiving forgiveness from God, which is as good as the sacrifices—acts of kindness”.  Why are acts of kindness so important that God would bring great blessing to the world because of those acts. Shouldn’t God be more interested in our relationship to Him, than He is in our relationship to people?

5. [Pirkay Avot 6:6]   “…the Torah is acquired in 48 ways…with humility…”  There is humility that is a result  of low self-image, and there is a positive kind of humility. What self-image and what relationship to others does a person with positive humility have?

Commentary

Once, when R. Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev was walking in the street, he met a man who held an important position in the community, but was very evil-minded. He said to him, “Sir, I envy you. When you turn to God, each  of your flaws will become a ray of light, and you will shine with a great light. I envy your future radiance.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Rivkah Rochel bat Ya’akov haLevi and Chaya Kornberg, and Yechiel Eliezer ben Yitzchok Meir and Rochel Laya Kornberg

And to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

(Numbers: 19:1- 22:2)     

 (Shoftim 11:1-33)

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. [20:1]And Miriam died there…” In relation to Miriam’s death, the Talmud tells us that “the death of the righteous brings purification from sin.”How can we understand this in a natural, non-mystical way. How does the death of righteous people affect the people he or she left behind and purify them from sin?

3. [20:8] “Take the stick, and gather the congregation…” According to the Rambam, Moshe’s sin at the rock was that he spoke in a disrespectful way to the Israelites.  According to the Ramban, Moshe’s sin was the fact that he hit the rock instead of speaking to it, as he had been commanded.  What is the difference between these two interpretations and which do you prefer?

4. [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?

5. [Shoftim: 11:15] “Israel did not take away the land of Moav…” Yiftach felt that he had to morally justify the fact that Israel took over the land of Moav. In the political climate of that time, he did not have to do that. Why did he try to justify the acts of the Israelites?

Commentary

[21:18] “and from the wilderness to Mattanah [gift].”

At first it was thought that a person can integrate the Torah into himself  by developing in the 48 ways (that are enumerated in Pirkay Avot).  Then it was understood that the Torah can be acquired even by someone who has not worked at it, but rather acquires the Torah as a gift. This happens when someone becomes devoted to serving God constantly in every way that he can serve.

Sfat Emet,  R. Yehudah Leib Alter, (1847-1905, Ger, Poland).

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Rivkah Rochel bat Ya’akov haLevi and Chaya Kornberg, and Yechiel Eliezer ben Yitzchok Meir and Rochel Laya KornbergAnd this study page is also dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

(Numbers: 16:1-18:32)

(Haftara: Shmuel I, 11:14-12:22)

(Pirkay Avot Chapter 4)

1. [16:3] “Why do you raise yourself above the congregation of God?”  Our tradition tells us that Korach’s sin was the fact that he was motivated by jealousy, even though his arguments had some merit. However, our tradition also values intellectual clarity. Why does Moshe choose to bring a sign from Heaven to contradict Korach, rather than arguing with Korach’s ideas?

2. [18:1]  “…correct the sin of the holy place… and correct the sin of the priesthood”.  Being involved in significant activities means that there will be sin involved. What type of sin is this and how could this apply to our daily lives?

3. [Haftara: Shmuel I 12:3] “…whose ox have I taken; whose donkey have I taken; whom have I cheated…?”  A religious leader must first and foremost be honest. Why can’t a religious leader be knowledgeable and inspiring and also be dishonest?

4. [Pirkay Avot: 4:4] “…Be very humble…”  On the one hand, a person should be very humble. However, the Talmud tells us that each person should also say, “The world was created for my sake”.  How can a person be very humble and also believe that he or she is the center of the universe?

5. [Pirkay Avot 4:27] “… Don’t look at the container, but rather, at what is inside…”  We are told not to judge a person by his or her appearance, but rather by who they really are. However, our tradition teaches us to show extra respect for all old people. Why don’t we judge old people by who they are, rather than the fact that they are old?

Commentary

While praying, listen to the words very carefully. When your heart is attentive, your entire being enters your prayer without your having to force it. 

–R. Nachman of Breslov, 1782-1810, Ukraine.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Rivkah Rochel bat Ya’akov haLevi and Chaya Kornberg, and Yechiel Eliezer ben Yitzchok Meir and Rochel Laya Kornberg

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