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: 27:21- 30-10)

(Yechezkel 43:10-27)

1. [28:2] “This is the clothing that they will make…”  If the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) or the regular kohen do their ceremonial work in the tabernacle or Temple without their special clothing, then the work is not acceptable, and they have done a sin. What is the status of the clothing? When it is worn out, must it be disposed of in a holy way, or can it just be discarded like any old clothing? What is the “holy status” of other ceremonial objects—tefillin, lulav and etrog, a Kiddush cup, etc.?

2. [28:3] “…to make him holy, to serve me.”  What is holiness? What does it mean to be holy? What does this phrase in our kedushah prayer mean: “Holy, holy, holy is God. The whole world is full of His glory”?

3.  [28:3 ] “…to make him holy, to serve me.”  Rav Kuk (1865-1935, Lithuania, Israel) tells us that for some people serving God is like serving people. That is, it may be a great honour, but it also feels like a burden. For others, however, serving God is an act of freedom.  Pirkay Avot tells us that in the religious life, effort is what counts (Pirkay Avot 5:26).  Which of these two types of people is more praiseworthy?

4. [29:1]  “…to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests to me.´The position of Kohen Gadol (High Priest) is not hereditary—the most worthy person is chosen. The position of kohen (priest), however, is hereditary. The son of a kohen is a kohen. Why isn’t a regular kohen’s position also based on merit?

5. [Yechezkel 43:11] “If they are embarrassed with all that they have done…”   Only if the Jews regret the sins that brought about the destruction of the first Temple, will they be prepared for building the second Temple. If there is no regret, then there is no second Temple. Couldn’t one argue that by building the Temple, a central place for holiness and forgiveness, the Jews will be encouraged to regret their acts and turn to God? Why is this possibility not considered?

Commentary

Certainly the Holy Temple cannot hold God’s honour and greatness.  However, because of God’s love for Israel, He contracted his greatness so that His presence could rest on the Temple, and His kingdom could be revealed. In this way, we are able to take on the job of keeping His commandments and revealing His kingdom in the world.

–R. Nachman of Breslov, 17772-1810, Ukraine.

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 25:1-27:20)

(Kings I  5:26-6:13)

1. Parshat Trumah tells us about the vessels and “furniture” of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Next week’s parsha, Tetzaveh, speaks mainly about the clothing of the Kohen Gadol (the High Priest). Then, surprisingly, at the end of  Parshat Tetzaveh [30:1] , the golden altar—the incense altar—is spoken about. This should have been in Parshat Trumah. Why is the incense altar not mentioned with the other furniture and why is it brought after the Torah speaks about all the furniture and the clothing of the High Priest?

2. In the mishkan, there were things that appealed to all of our senses. The menorah: sight; the bread: taste; the incense: smell; the songs of the Levites: hearing; leaning on the sacrifice: touch. If the mishkan is supposed to be such a spiritual and elevating experience, why are the physical senses such a large part of that experience?

3. [25:4] “And blue and purple and scarlet…”  The Tabernacle in the desert had a wide variety of colours and materials. What is the reason for this variety, and how does the variety affect the people?

4. Our rabbis tell us that the mishkan is a model of man. The aron represents the, intellect and the faculty of speech; the menorah, represents the eyes and the sense of sight; the table that held the “bread,” corresponds to the sense of taste; the altar for the ketoret, is the sense of smell; and the outer altar represent the digestive system and other “functional” organs. Where are the emotions and intuitions represented?

5. [Haftara] The mishkan in the wilderness was built with voluntary contributions [Shmot 25:2]. The Temple in Jerusalem was built with a compulsory “mas” a tax—men were compelled to do the work. The Temple could also have been built through volunteers. What are the social advantages of voluntary contributions and what are the social advantages of a tax—compulsory contributions?

Commentary

[Haftara: 6:12] “As for this house which you are building, if you will walk in my laws…I will live among the Israelites, and not leave them”.

God said to Shlomo, the king, “Don’t think that this building with all its magnificence is what will bring my Presence to the people. Rather, it is proper behaviour and spirituality which bring my Presence. And through the spirituality, my Presence will remain even after the building is destroyed: “I will live among the Israelites, and not leave them”.

–Kochav M’Ya’akov, R. Yaakov Weidenfeld (1840-1894), Grimalov

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 21:1-24:18)

(Haftara: Jeremiah 34:8-22, 33:25,26)

1. [21:18] “When men fight and one hits the other…”  The aggressive person must pay for “embarrassment” when he hits someone. How do the judges decide how much to pay for embarrassment? Is a person more embarrassed when hit by a child or when hit by an older person?  Is a person more embarrassed when hit by an important person or when hit by an unimportant person? 

2. [21:18] “When men fight and one hits the other…”  The aggressive person must also pay for physical pain that he caused when he hit someone. There is no fixed amount. Every case is different. How do the judges decide how much he must pay for pain?

3. [21:28] “If one person’s ox injures the ox of another person, and it dies…”  When a person’s animal maliciously damages another’s animal, the owner of the animal pays for half of the damage the first 3 times. The Talmud offers two explanations of  the payment of half damages. One is that the owner should really pay full damages

because he should have watched the animal, and the Torah is being nice to him. The other explanation is that the owner really shouldn’t pay anything, because the animal had no history of damage. However, the Torah is being nice to the injured party, so the damager pays half. Which opinion do you agree with?

4. [23:5] “When you happen upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, bring it back to him.” This person seems to be a neighbour. We are commanded to love our neighbours. How did this person become an enemy? Is there a type of enemy whom you would not help, or to whom you would not return lost articles?

5. [24:11]  “…and they saw God and they ate and drank.” Why would they eat and drink after seeing God? R. Bachya (1340) says that their joy when they saw God was like the joy of eating and drinking.  The Chizkuni (1240) says that they ate sacrifices to God. Which explanation do you like better?

Commentary

God wants people to serve Him in all ways and situations…A person might be  travelling and cannot pray or learn. He should serve God in other ways…because God wants to be served in all ways…Therefore a person may find himself  on the road or speaking to people, in order to serve God in that particular situation.

–R. Yisrael, Ba’al Shem Tov, 1700-1760, Ukraine.

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

(Numbers 18:1-20:23)

(Haftara: Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5,6)

1. [19:5] “…you will be my own treasure from among all the nations…”  On the one hand, we are told that we are God’s special nation.  On the other hand we are commanded to be humble and not feel superior to people.  How can we resolve this contradiction?

2. [20:2]  “I am the Lord your God…”  Traditionally, we say that this is the first of the commandments and we are being commanded to believe in God. R. Chasdai Crescas (Spain, 1300’s) says that if we are listening to the ten commandments, then obviously, we believe in the One who commands—we don’t need a commandment to believe.  Do you think that it is appropriate to command people to believe in God?

3. [20:12] “Honour your father and your mother…” R. Chaim Falagi (1820, Turkey) says that we don’t need a commandment to honour our parents. That comes natural to us. This commandment is telling us that if we have unreasonable or disturbed parents, we must also honour them. Do you agree with his interpretation?

4. [20:12] “Honour your father and your mother…”   We are commanded to “love your neighbour as yourself”.  Doesn’t that include honouring? Are there limits on honouring someone other than one’s parents? Why is there a special commandment to honour one’s parents?

5. [Haftara: Yeshayahu 6:9]  “…you hear but you don’t understand. You see, but you don’t really know.”  If they already see and hear, but don’t really understand,  what can a prophet do for them? Don’t they need a leader to re-educate them, rather than a prophet to again tell them that they are doing wrong? What can a prophet do for them?

Commentary

Faith is pure when it is full of inner feelings without self-deception and without ulterior motives…Someone who is intelligent will not be content without rational thinking.  For him, a genuine faith will not be real unless it is illuminated by reason.

–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

( Shmot 13:17–17:16)

(Haftara: Judges 4:4-5:31)

1. [14:15] “…why are you crying to me…travel.”  The Talmud tells us that God desires the prayers of righteous people. If so, then why does God tell Moshe not to pray here? When are prayers desirable to God and when are they not appropriate?

2. [14:21] “…God sent a strong east wind the whole night…”  Many in our tradition have said that God prefers to act in the world through nature, rather than through miracles. Here also, God could have split the sea in one instant. Why did God prefer to do it in this more natural way?

3. [16:4] “…a day’s portion every day…” This pasuk seems to say that being able to live each day, without worrying about tomorrow, is a major principle in serving God. What is so important about this quality?

4. [16:32]  “…let the quantity of an omer be kept throughout the generations…”  What is so special about the “mun” that it should be saved for all generations?

5. [Haftara] The midrash says that the redemption from Egypt was because of the merits of the Israelite women. In the haftara, we hear about Devorah the prophet, and Yael’s killing of the enemy general, Sisera. If women are so important to us, why don’t they have more of a leadership role among the Israelites in the desert and afterwards?

Commentary

The fact that people are far from God and don’t get close to God is only because people don’t have presence of mind and don’t relax themselves. The main thing is to try to relax oneself and to ask, “What is the purpose of all the physical pleasures and all the physical pursuits of this world—whether they  have to do with the body or with matters outside the body, like being honoured by others.

If one thinks in this way, one will certainly return to God.

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

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

( Exodus 10:1-13:16)

(Haftara:  Jeremiah 46:13-28)

1.  [10:3]  “…this is what the Lord, God of the Hebrews said…”   The first pasuk in this parsha, tells us that part of God’s plan was to make Himself known to the Egyptians and to the rest if the world.  If so, shouldn’t Moshe and Aharon have called God “the God of the whole world”? Why is He called the “God of the Hebrews”?

2. [10:12, 13]  “And God said to Moshe, ‘Stretch out your hand’…”  “…And Moshe raised his staff on the land of Egypt…”  God told Moshe to extend his hand, but Moshe raised his staff. Why didn’t Moshe just stretch his hand and  why does the staff  have such an important role in the plagues and afterwards?

3. [10:19] “And God brought a very strong west wind which removed the locusts…”  The plagues are obvious miracles. Why does God sometimes use natural means to bring them or remove them? They should also be removed through miracles.

4. [12:11] “…and you shall eat it in haste..”  “Haste” or “energy” is a value in a Torah way of life. But being quiet and at ease is also a value [Jeremiah 46:27].  Does being hasty and energetic contradict the notion of being relaxed and at ease?

5. [Jeremiah 46:26]…and afterwards, it will be inhabited as in the old days…”  Other nations will be destroyed, but Egypt will be restored. In spite of all the suffering that Egypt brought on the Israelites, Egypt will be restored. What merit does Egypt have to be dealt with more positively than the other nations?

Commentary

The general idea of striving for equality, which is the basis of kindness and the pure love of people…is shown in the great vision of transforming everything to full and absolute holiness, in a gradual increase of love, peace, justice, truth and compassion.

–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

(Numbers 6:2-9:35)

(Haftara: Ezekiel 28:25-29:21)

1. [6:3] “I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov as “El Shadai, but my name…”  The different names of God are different revelations of the one God.  What does it mean that there are different revelations of God? Do people also show different revelations of themselves to other people?

2. [6:4] “I set up my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan…”  The land of Canaan (Israel) is on a trading route between Africa, Europe and Asia. It is a crossroads of different cultures. Why is this crossroads a suitable place for a development of God’s society of Torah?

4. [7:5] “…and I took the children of Israel out…” The Chassidic texts tell us that there were sparks of Godliness trapped in Egypt and Israel went down to Egypt in order to raise up the sparks. The sparks are the potential for Godliness which is hidden and trapped. What everyday acts of ours bring Godly potential into expression.

1. [7:17] “…and the water will turn to blood.”    Blood is a recurring image in the Torah. We may not drink blood. We may not have sexual relations after a woman’s period. We sprinkle blood of sacrifices etc. What does blood represent to us?

2. [Haftara: Yechezkel 29:3] “Pharoah…the big dragon that lies in the middle of his rivers, who said to me, ‘ I made it for myself’.”  This is how God describes Pharoah.  Pharoah is self-centered and selfish. In Pirkay Avot, it says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me…? (Pirkay Avot 1:14)  What is so bad about being selfish and self-centered?

Commentary

The Messiah will judge each person in such a favourable light, that the light of goodness in that person will awake…The most successful way to bring a person back to God is through encouragement and praise. 

–R. Ya’akov M. Shechter, born 1932, Jerusalem.

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

(Exodus 1:1 –6:1)

(Haftara: Isaiah 27:6- 28:13, 29:22,23)

1. [1:21] “…because the midwives feared God, He [he] made them  houses.”  There are two main explanations of this pasuk. One is that God made houses for the mid-wives as a reward for their devotion to God. The other is that Pharoah made houses for Egyptians among the Israelite houses, so that the Egyptians could hear that a new  Israelite baby was born, and they could inform the authorities. From the context of the pasuk (what comes before and after), which of these explanations seems like the better one?

2. [2:23] “…the Israelites sighed because of the work, and screamed…”  When the Israelites screamed, God heard them and the redemption started. The Torah does not say that they screamed to God, but only that they screamed. The screaming was preceded by sighing. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov tells us that a heartfelt sigh is a very precious thing. (Others disagree.) Why are a sigh and a scream so beneficial to a person?

3.  [3:2] “…the bush burned with fire and the bush was not consumed.”  God could have revealed Himself in many ways. Why did God reveal Himself with this rather small miracle?

4. [Haftara: Isaiah 27:12] “…and you will be gathered one by one…”  When Isaiah speaks of the final redemption, he says that we will be “gathered one by one”.  Where in our laws and customs do we see that the individual is very important in our tradition?

5. [Haftara: Isaiah 28:5]  “On that day, the God of hosts will be a crown of glory…”  What does it mean that God will be a “crown of glory” for us?

Commentary

The dynamic expression of the universal, divine psyche will be revealed in every cultivated soul . It will express itself in vision and in song. Its impact will be felt everywhere. At first it will make itself felt among the people of Israel, and before long, it will also be felt throughout mankind…all that has been forgotten will be recalled; and the joy of heaven and earth will return…

–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

(Genesis-47:28-50:26)

(Haftara: Kings I 2:1-12)

 1. [49:3] “Reuven, myfirst-born, you are my strength and the beginning of my power…”  Why is Ya’akov’s first born called thebeginning of his power?  How do one’schildren bring him or her power?

2. [49:7] “Let their anger be cursed…I will disperse them in Ya’akov and scatter them in Israel.”  Ya’akov thinks that violence will be reduced by scattering Shimon and Levi. However,perhaps violence will increase by their contact and influence on more people.Why would Ya’akov think that by spreading them around, their violence would be reduced?

3. [49:20] “From Asher will come the fattest bread, he will provide the king’s delights.”  This is Asher’s complete blessing. Asher will have very tasty food and give it to others.  How is this a serious blessing or even a serious description. Is there a symbolic meaning here which points to something spiritual? What is the meaning of this blessing?

4. [49:28]  “And he blessedthem–each person according to his blessing…”   Many of these

blessings seem more like Ya’akov telling his sons about their true nature.  How can telling a person about his true nature be a blessing?

5. [Melachim 1, 2:7]  “Showkindness to the sons of Barzilai…”   David asks Shlomo to be kind to those who showed kindness to David. Pay back the kindness. But David knows that real kindness does not want to be repaid.  Why is this so important that it is among David’s last words to his son?

Commentary

An illumination constantly flows from the source of the Torah.  It brings light from the highest realm of the Divine. It includes within it the values of the spiritual and the material, the temporal and the eternal, the ethical and the practical, the individual and thegroup, the smallest details and the cosmic truths.  These bring life to all who are in contact with them, and guard them in their purity.

–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 memoryof Sarah Beila Kummer bat Yitzchak and Chana, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben EliyahuKummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Genesis-44:18-47:27)

(Haftara: Ezekiel 37:15-28)

  1. [45:3] After Yehudah’s speech, Yosef suddenly tells his brothers that he is Yosef. What did Yehudah say that convinced Yosef to reveal his identity after all this time?
  2. [46:1] “…and he offered sacrifices to the God of his father, Yitzchak.” Why did Ya’akov offer sacrifices to the God of his father Yitzchak. Why doesn’t the pasuk say that he offered sacrifices to his own God?
  3. [47:9] “…few and bad were the days of my life…” Ya’akov sees his life as having been worthless.  However, the midrash sees Ya’akov as being the greatest of our forefathers.  What makes Ya’akov so great?
  4. [Yechezkel 37:15] “And the word (or thing) of God came to me saying.” When a prophet hears “the word (or thing) of God”, what does he hear or experience?  If it is a voice, is it a man’s voice or a woman’s voice, young or old?  The message seems to be in words. How does the prophet experience this?
  5. [Haftara: 37:24] “…and they shall all have one shepherd…” In another messianic vision, we are told that “all your children will be taught by God” (Yeshayah 54:13)—everyone will have a direct relationship with God. Here, we are told that there will be one leader on the model of a shepherd. If everyone will have a direct relationship with God, why is there a need for a shepherd-like leader?

Commentary

[45:13] “Tell my father about all the honour I receive in Egypt”.

Tell my father that I have reached the stage where I can get honour from people without it disturbing my service of God.  The honour I get is meaningless to me and does not affect me at all.

–R. Simcha Bunim of Peshischa (1765-1827)

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