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.

10154032_1420677554852983_1273682542_n IMG_1374 1013833_1509758299278241_7166669511388611699_n

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 7:12-11:25)

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

(Pirkay Avot Chapter 5)

1. [8:7]  “God is bringing you to a good land with brooks of water… going out in the valleys and the hills.”   In our literature, the land of Israel represents the ideal state of mind, and its government represents the ideal government—“a light unto the nations” (Yeshayahu 42:6). However, “valleys and hills” seem to represent failures and successes.  How can there be failures if we’re talking about an ideal state of mind and an ideal world?

2. [10:16] “Circumcise the foreskin of  your heart…”  Our texts also talk about the circumcision of the tongue. Our tradition speaks quite naturally about sex and related issues. We, unlike Western culture and religion, do not see sex as “original sin”. On the other hand, we have many restrictions about when sex is permitted and who our sexual partners can be. How can we, at the same time, be so guiltless about sex, and still have so many restrictions?

3. [11:24] “Every place that your feet walk will be yours…”   On a spiritual level, this seems to mean that in the ideal mental state, one will feel comfortable wherever one is. On the other hand, we are expected to be sensitive to injustice—to the weak and the poor. Does being comfortable mean that one will be less sensitive to the moral demands of one’s life?

4. [Isaiah 50:1] “…where is your mother’s document of divorce [from Me]…”  Our relationship to God can be like a marriage, or like a master-servant relationship, or like friends and so on. What factors define our relationship to God at any particular time—is it us, or is it our situation in life or is it tradition or some other factor?

5. [Pirkay Avot 5:10] “There are 7 qualities in a wise person: …he doesn’t interrupt another’s speech, he answers clearly without confusion, he asks according to the subject and answers properly, he answers in the order of the subjects raised…he admits to the truth”.  If a person is not really wise, but has these qualities, does that make the person wiser?

Commentary

Whoever loves true “wholeness” must remove from his heart every trace of arrogance. Arrogance eliminates the grandeur of the spirit. And when arrogance is gone…it leaves behind an impression of joy and true humility.

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

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  3:23-7:11)

(Haftara: Shabbat Nachamu: Isaiah 40:1-26)

(Pirkay Avot, Chapter 4 )

1. [4:7] “…listen to the laws and judgments…so you can live and come and inherit the land…”   The mission of the Jews is mainly publicizing one universal God, and spreading the importance of justice and compassion. Our mission can be carried out anywhere. Why do we need a land?

2. [4:30] “…and you will return to God…”  The Torah tells us that after sinning, the Jews will be dispersed all over the world, and then, as a result of their suffering, they will return to God.   Why does returning to God happen through suffering, rather than through positive events and joy?

3. [Haftara,  Isaiah 40:4] “Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill shall be made low.” This is a vision of the ideal life in  the messianic future.  The Radak, R. David Kimchi, (1160-1235),  says that in messianic times there will be no need to struggle.  Other sources, however seem to say that there will be struggle in the time of messianic consciousness.  Do you think that there will be struggle in the ideal messianic era or not?

4. [Pirkay Avot 4:1] “Who is strong? He who subdues his evil inclination..”  Why does it say, “He who subdues” rather than he who “eliminates”  his evil inclination?

5. [Pirkay Avot 4:1] “Who is strong?  He who subdues his evil inclination…”   The Ba’al Shem Tov says that one should use the evil inclination in the service of God.  How does one use the evil inclination in the service of God?

Commentary

When the longing to be good to everyone becomes intensified in a person,  then he knows that an illumination from the higher realm has come to him.  He is praiseworthy if he prepares a proper place in his heart, his mind, his actions and in all his feelings to receive this elevated light. It is the most precious asset on earth.  Let him hold onto it and not let it go.

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

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 1:1-3:22)

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

  1. [1:13] “Get men who are wise, understanding and knowledgeable…”  The first commandment that Moshe recalled is the appointment of judges and the necessity for justice, honesty and integrity. While justice is very important, one would think that proper beliefs, or devotion to God are more basic values in the Torah. Is justice our most basic value?
  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. [2:3] “You have circled this mountain (Sinai) long enough. Travel to the north.” Why were the Israelites circling the mountain? What change in mentality is represented by renewing their traveling?
  4.  [Haftara: Isaiah 1:11] “What do I need your many sacrifices for? says God.” God tells us through the prophet that He has no pleasure in the festivals and sacrifices if the Jews don’t act morally.  Can giving sacrifices with the right motivation help to make a person moral? What effect are the sacrifices supposed to have on us?
  5. [Haftara 1:27]  “Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and those that return to her with righteousness”.  It seems that the collective redemption is dependent on justice, while the individual redemption is dependent on righteousness. Is there individual redemption without collective redemption? What is the difference between justice (mishpat) and righteousness (tzedek)?

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 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 cof Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

(Numbers: 30:2-36:13)

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

(Pirkei Avot 2) 

  1. [32:1] “And the sons of Reuven had a lot of cattle…”  Two  and a half of the tribes of Israel had many cattle and wanted to remain on the other side of the Jordan River in order to take advantage of the pasture land there. An agreement was made which would allow them to stay on the other side of the Jordan. How can this agreement be possible? Wasn’t the goal of leaving Egypt to be a unique nation in the very holy and special land of Israel?
  • [36:3] “…their inheritance will be taken away from the inheritance of their fathers…”   The Torah prefers that the land of one tribe remain within that tribe.  However we know that one of the most important values of the Torah is unity between people.  What is the Torah’s message here?  Do we want unity or do we want clear differentiation?
  •  [3 weeks before Tisha b’Av]  We are now in the 3 weeks before Tisha b’Av. During these days we prepare for mourning for the first and second Temples and many other tragedies in Jewish history. The Temples, however, are just physical structures. What does the Temple and its service represent that would make us mourn so deeply.
  • [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?
  • [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

The higher holiness is full of  love, compassion and tolerance, when it is in its most perfect state… The more intense the search for God is in a person’s heart, the more the love of all people will grow in him.

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

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 cof Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

(Numbers: 25:10-30:1)

(Pirkay Avot, Chapt. 1)

1. [27:15] Moshe asks God to appoint a new leader for the Israelites, who would lead after Moshe dies. In addressing God, Moshe calls Him “God of the spirits of all flesh”. What is the meaning of this description of God, and why specifically at this point does Moshe use this description?

2. [Pirkay Avot 1:1] “Moshe received the Torah at Sinai, and passed it to Yehoshua, and Yehoshua passed it…”  Why doesn’t the Mishna say that Yehoshua received it from Moshe, and the elders received it from Jehoshua etc.?

3. [Pirkej Awot 1:6] “… and judge each according to his merits.” This statement is usually understood in this way that when there is doubt concerning someone’s actions, then you have to assume that this person has acted accordingly. Rabbi Nachman understands, however, that sentence in such a way that if you suspect that someone committed an unworthy act, you should look deeper into this man and find the spark of Holiness and goodness that is deeply hidden. Does the first opinion not agree with the opinion of R. Nachman? Does R. Nachman not agree with the first opinion?

4. [Pirkay Avot 1:6]  “…judge every person to the side of merit.”  If we are doubtful about whether a person did the right thing or not, we should assume that the person did the right thing. It would be more truthful to leave open the possibility that the person did not do the right thing. Why are we advised to judge every person in a positive way?

5. [Pirkay Avot 1:6-7]  “Distance yourself from a bad neighbour.” [1:12]  “Be one of the students of Aaron–love peace, pursue peace, love people and draw them close to Torah”.  Isn’t there a contradiction here? If one should distance oneself from bad neighbours, how can one draw them close to Torah?

Commentary

“Search for God when He can be found (Yeshaya 55:6)”—the initiative for the search rests entirely with man…The path to God is not a highway, but rather a narrow winding and challenging road.

–R. Y. D. Soloveitchik, 1903-1993, USA.

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 cof Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

1. [20:29] “…and Aharon died…” Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch says that “only a few days earlier, this same people had made the most serious and unjust accusations against the man whom they now mourned.  This shows that the complaints were a passing mood, but the people appreciated their leaders. ” What does this observation tell us about the people of Israel?  What does it tell us about Aharon?

2. [21:5] “…our soul is sick of this insignificant bread…” This bread was the manna that God gave the Israelites—the miraculous food. How could they belittle the bread in this way? What does this show us about human nature? 1.        

3. [23:3]  “And Bila’am said to Balak, “Stand over your offering…” Our tradition has an ambivalent relationship to Bila’am.  On the one hand, Balak considers him a suitable person to curse Israel. On the other hand, he gives Israel an extremely positive blessing, and speaks in beautiful, positive poetic images. The Torah also presents personalities of Israel with their weaknesses, in addition to their strengths. What type of personality is the Torah trying to develop in us, by having us learn about and identify with people with complex personalities?

4.   [23:9] “…a people will live alone, and will not be counted among the nations”.  Is this statement positive or negative?  How does it describe the situation of the Jewish people today?

5. [24:17] “…a star will step out of Ya’akov…”  The Ramban understands that the star, which is in the far ends of the universe, represents the people of Israel, who are in the far ends of the earth. The metaphor of a star is used to represent the Jewish people in a number of places in the Torah. Why is a star a good metaphor for the Jewish people?

Commentary

“I am always afraid to be more clever than I am religious. I would rather be religious than clever. But better than both religious or clever, I would like to be good.”

–R. Pinchas Shapira, 1726-1791, Koretz, 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 Kornberg

And 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 3)

1. [16:3]  “All the people in the community are holy…”   We are also told that “Your nation are all righteous (Yeshaya 60:21).”  We all know Jews who don’t seem to be righteous. How can we understand that “All the people in the community are holy…” ? 

2. [16:3]  “All the people in the community are holy…”   Korach’s argument is a good argument, but his is our classical case of an argument which is not “l’shem shamayim” – not argued out of pure motives. However our sages tell us (Talmud Nazir) that one should learn Torah even if not “l’shem shamayim”, and he will eventually achieve learning which is for pure motives. What is the difference between Korach’s lack of pure motives and a lack of pure motives in learning?

3. [Haftara: Shmuel I 12:11] “…God sent Yiftach and Shmuel and saved you…”  Yiftach, a judge of Israel, was on a much lower moral level than Shmuel. Based on this pasuk, our tradition tells us that “Yiftach in his generation is like Shmuel in his generation”. In other words, any religious authority should be respected in his generation, the way that greater authorities were respected in their generations. What are the positive and what are the negative aspects of this rule?

4. [Pirkay Avot 3:15]  “Whoever shames his friend in public…has no portion in the next world.”  This is the most severe punishment that is possible. Why is shaming someone publicly so terrible?  Is shaming a person privately a lot less severe or only a little better?

5. [Pirkay Avot 3:16] “…receive everyone with joy.” In Pirkay Avot 1:15, it says, “…receive every person with a pleasant face…”.  What is the difference between these two sayings?

Commentary

The holy point within everyone–if one fixes it and lights it up it properly—this is the revelation of one’s private messiah…This point lights up for him all of his Jewishness, and he goes out of his private exile—the exile of being controlled by his desires and appetites—and he achieves the salvation of his soul…

–R. Ya’akov M. Schechter, presently in Jerusalem.

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 cof Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

(Numbers: 13:1-15:41)

(Haftara: Yehoshua 2, 1-24)

(Pirkay Avot 3)

1.  [13:27, 28] “…the people who live in the land are fierce…”  The spies visited a place that was wonderful, but seemed too challenging. What life situations does this remind us of? How can we find inspiration for our own lives through this story?

2. [13:30] “Let us go up and inherit it (the land) because we have the ability”.  Calev and Yehoshua were confident that the Israelites could conquer the land. The rest of the spies were frightened and lacked confidence. What causes some people to be frightened while others are confident in a certain situation? Is this a function of different personalities or because of an intellectual process in the people?

3. [Haftara: Yehoshua 2:1] “…and they went and they came to the house of a prostitute and her name was Rachav…”  Rachav’s motivation in helping the Israelites seems to be to save herself and her family in the future. Our tradition appreciates her efforts.  Why should we admire a person who has no loyalty to her own people?

4. [Pirkay Avot 3:2] “Pray for the peace of the government, because without fear of the government, each man would swallow his fellow-man alive.”  We know the excesses of a government which is too strong. Why doesn’t the mishna mention that?

5. [Pirkay Avot 3:14-20] Beloved is man who was created in the image (of God). It is a sign of greater love that he was informed that he was created in the image…”  What does it do for a person and one’s life when one knows that he or she was created in the image of God? 

Commentary

You cannot find peace anywhere except within your self…When one has made peace within himself, he will be able to make peace within the whole world.

R. Simcha Binim, 1765–1827, Przysucha, 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 Kornberg

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

(Numbers: 13:1-15:41)

(Haftara: Yehoshua 2, 1-24)

(Pirkay Avot 2)

 1. [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?

2. [13:30]   “And Calev stilled the people…”   There are a number of different explanations for why the Israelites became quiet, and what they expected Calev to say. How many different explanations can there be for this action? How does our image of the Israelites change according to the different explanations? Why does the Torah leave certain stories or actions open to interpretation?

3. [Haftara: Yehoshua 2:1] “…they came to the house of a prostitute…”  Yehoshua send the spies to Rachav, the prostitute. Avraham, Moshe, Yitro and others are also outsiders to their societies and are heroes to us.  Why are we so sympathetic to outsiders?

4. . [Pirkay Avot 2:1]  “…What is the straight way that a person should choose for himself…”    A person should choose a balance between his or her needs and other people’s expectations.   Why is this called the “straight way”, rather than the correct way or the balanced way? 

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

If a person feels that he has a special talent or emotional quality that others don’t have, he should know and believe that this is not accidental. It is a clear hint from God for him to know what his special talent or quality is for serving God and bringing His presence into the world.

–R. Y. M. Shechter, presently in Jerusalem.

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 cof Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

(Numbers: 8:1-12:16) / (Haftara: Zecharia 2:14-4:7)

1.  [9:6] “And there were people who were impure and they could not do the Passover offering…” Whoever is ritually impure or too far away and can’t eat the Passover sacrifice on Passover can do it a month later.  If one were sick, one can’t hear the shofar later or live in a sukkah later. Why is this the only major commandment that one can do at a later date?

2. [11:18, 20]   “God will give you meat and you will eat it…until it comes out of your nose…”  God and Moshe are taking a slave people and trying to make them mature so that they can be a free people. Is this kind of cynical talk (“until it comes out of your nose”) a strategy for effective parenting, or is it a result of losing patience?

3. [11:28-29]  “…and he said, “My master, Moshe, destroy them.”  When Eldad and Medad have prophecy, Yehoshua suggests that they be destroyed, but Moshe says that he wishes all the people were prophets. What is the difference between Moshe’s ideal of leadership and Yehoshua’s ideal of leadership?

4. [12:3] Moshe knows through prophecy that there will never be another prophet like him (Deuteronomy 34:10). Knowing that, how can he be “the humblest of all people”?

5. [Zecharia 2:14]  “Sing and rejoice, daughter of Zion, because I am coming…”  When telling the Jewish people about the final redemption, God addresses us in the feminine. The midrashic literature tells us that the redemption is especially dependent on the women of Israel. Why do women have such a prominent role in the redemption?

Commentary

[9:21] “And sometimes  the cloud was there from evening until morning, and the cloud would go up in the morning and they travelled…”

The Sanctuary had many sections and parts. A work crew of several thousand Levites assembled the Sanctuary at each camp and dismantled and transported it when the Divine command would come to move on. Yet the “Tent of Meeting” was erected at every encampment–even if only for a single day! This teaches us that each and every one of our “stations” in life is significant. A person may find him or herself in a certain place or in a certain situation for a very brief period, and it may seem to him that he is merely “on the way” to some other place. Yet there is always something in that place or situation to be sanctified–something that can serve as a “Tent of Meeting” between Heaven and earth.

–R. Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of Lubavitch, 1902-1994.

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