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.

(Genesis-25:19-28:9) / (Haftara Malachi 1:1-2:7)

1. Yitzchak was almost sacrificed on the altar by his father, Avraham.  How might that event have affected him and his relationships with his family? Would this story of Ya’akov and Esav have been different if that event had not occurred?

2. [27:19] “…I am Esav, your first-born.”  Our tradition tells us that the main quality of God is Truth. Ya’akov lied to his father, Yitzchak. If a desperate gangster asks you where a friend of yours can be found, should you tell him the truth?  When is a person permitted to not tell the truth?

3. [27:33] “And Yitzchak was terrified with a terrible terror…and he really will be blessed.”  Yitzchak seems to be totally disoriented at first, and then he seems to be very self-confident when he says, “…and he (Ya’akov) really will be blessed”. What might have been going through his mind when he was so confused, and what made him so sure of himself after that?

4. [27:34] “…and he screamed a big and bitter scream…”  In the story of      Ya’akov and Esav, the heroes (Rivkah and Ya’akov) are not totally innocent and the villain (Esav) is shown to be very human and is not totally guilty.  What is the Torah trying to teach us by making this story so complex?

 5. [Haftara: Malachi 1:1] “The burden of the word of God…” God is accusing the Jewish people of not being really devoted to the service of God. They serve God in a “lukewarm, mediocre” way”. Is it easier to become a real servant of God from a place of mediocre service, or from a place of no service at all? 

Commentary

[ 25:22 ]   “And the children struggled within her…”

Ya’akov and Esav were twins, but they were very different from each other. Ya’akov was more studious and meditative, but Esav was more active. And really, every child should be raised and educated according to his own personality. However, both Ya’akov and Esav were educated in the same way—to be studious and meditative. Had Esav been educated to channel his own energies and talents toward Godly matters,  he may have had a better future.

–R. Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, Germany, 1808-1888.

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

(Genesis 23:1-25:18)

Haftara (Kings I  1:1-31)

1. [23:3]  “And Avraham came to eulogize Sara and to cry for her.”  Do we eulogize at a funeral for the sake of the mourners or for the sake of the deceased?  How truthful should a eulogy be? There are joyful times during the Jewish year when Jewish Law tells us not to say eulogies at funerals. Is it realistic to expect mourners to do without eulogies?

2.  [24:1]   “…and God blessed Avraham bakol—“with everything” or “in everything”. We know that Avraham was still lacking things.  What does it mean that “God blessed Avraham bakol—‘with everything’ or ‘in everything’ ”?

3. [24:15]  “…and behold, Rivkah came out…”  There are many people who find the story of Rivkah and Eliezer at the well to be an appealing and  charming story. What makes this story so charming?

4. [24:67] “…and he took Rivkah and she became his wife and he loved her…” The Ramban says that Yitzchak loved Rivkah because she was righteous like Sara.  Is it “true love” if somebody loves someone because she reminds him of someone else?

5. [1:5] Then Adoniyya…exalted himself saying I will be king.”  It seems that almost from the beginning of  the Israelite Kings, there was intrigue and trouble.  If so, why did God allow kings?  What advantages are there to having a king and  kingdom?

Commentary

All the spiritual work  for a person should be an involvement in the present moment—to try with his whole heart not to waste one moment of the world which is in front of him.  He should think that all that exists in his world is this day and this hour and his heavenly responsibility at this time.

–based on Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, 1772-1810, 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

(Genesis 18:1-22:24)

(Haftara: II Kings 4:1-37)

1. [18:13] God told Avraham that Sarah had said that she was too old to have a child. But really Sarah had also said that Avraham was too old to have a child. Rashi tells us that God had lied to Avraham for the sake of peace in the household, and Jewish law allows lying for the sake of peace. Is this really so wise?  Perhaps God should have told the truth to show how much we value the truth.

2. [18:25] “Will the judge of all the earth not do justice?” Why did God have to be reminded that He is the judge of all the earth? How can it be that Avraham sounds more just than God?

3. [19:8] “…I have two daughters…”  When the people of Sdom wanted to rape Lot’s guests, Lot said that he would give them his young virgin daughters. Lot made a moral choice which may not have been the best choice.  We often prefer situations where the correct moral choice is more obvious. What does the Torah want to teach us by putting people into difficult moral situations?

4. [22:3] “…and he saddled his donkey…”  The midrash says that this is the same donkey that Moshe rode to Egypt (Shmot 4:20), and the same donkey upon which the Mashiach will arrive (Zechariah 9:9).  How does the midrash understand this metaphor of the donkey?

5.   [Haftara–Kings II, 4:3]  “And he said, “Go borrow vessels…”  Elisha told the woman to bring him vessels so that he could do the miracle of giving her oil. We are told in our spiritual tradition that one has to have a vessel in order to be blessed.  What does it mean to have a vessel and how does one develop a vessel for oneself?

Commentary

Midrash: “Bringing guests into one’s home is more important than being with God”.

This is coming to teach us that even though having guests involves some negative things—one doesn’t learn as much during this time, and one might get involved in gossiping and so on—nonetheless “bringing guests into one’s home is more important than being with God”.

–Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer , The Ba’al Shem Tov, (1700-1760)

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

(Genesis 12:1-17:26)

Haftara (Isaiah 40:27-41:16)

1. [12:1]  “…leave your land and your birthplace and the house of your father…”  This pasuk could have said, “Leave your land”,  and  everything else would have been included.  What is the Torah adding by also mentioning  “your birthplace and the house of your father”?

2. [12:2] “ …and you will be a blessing.”  We understand how someone can give or receive a blessing, but what does it mean to “be a blessing”? 

3. [12:5] “…and they went out to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan.”  The pasuk could have said, “They went to the land of Canaan”.  Why does the Torah add all the extra words?

4.  [13:9]  “…separate yourself from me…”   After there was an argument between Avram’s shepherds and Lot’s shepherds,  Avram decides that he and his nephew should split up.  Avraham is known for his kindness, and our tradition sees him as a very intelligent and reasonable person.  Avram and Lot could have made peace between the shepherds.  Why did they decide on such a radical step and split up?

5. [Haftara: Yeshaya 40:31]  “Those who hope in God will renew their strength…”  Is this statement saying that the reward for faith in God is that God gives strength, or is it saying that the fact that one has faith in God will give a person more strength?  How does each of these attitudes show a different relationship to God?

Commentary

One can rule over one’s natural drives…in the same way as God made Avraham Avinu rule over all of his limbs.  That is to say, that God made Avraham Avinu successful in directing all his drives toward the good and the holy.

–R. A. 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 KornbergAnd this study page is also dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

(Genesis 6:9-11:32)

Haftara (Isaiah 54:1-55:5)

1. [8:22] “While the earth remains, there will be cold and heat, sowing and harvesting, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease”.  Is this the same idea as “There is a time for every purpose under heaven (Kohelet 3:1)”?  Is there another way of understanding the pasuk?

2. [9:6] “Whichever man spills the blood of another man, he will be killed by man, because He made man in the image of God”.  If man is made in the image of God, then what justification is there to execute the murderer? Wasn’t he also made in the image of God?

3. [11:4] “And they said, ‘Let us build ourselves a city and a tower and its top will be in the heavens, and let us make ourselves a name…”  Did they want to challenge God, or did they want to be famous, or did they want an identity? What proof is there for the answer?

4. [Isaiah 54:6] “And all your children shall be taught of  the Lord.”  In this messianic vision, we are told that God will personally teach everyone. Does that mean that everything will be so clear that there will be no intellectual discussion?

5. [54:10] “…my kindness will not depart from you, and my covenant of peace will not be removed…” In what way are kindness and peace similar? What other values are similar to kindness and peace?

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 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

Breishit 1:1-6:8

  Haftara: Isaiah 42:5-43:10

1. [1:1] “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The most common way of translating the first pasuk in the Torah is, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  Rashi translates it, “In the beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth, the earth was unformed and void…”  What is the difference between these 2 translations?  How do we see creation of the world differently according to each of the translations?

2. [1:3] “And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”  God created the world with words.  What types of things can we create with words?  In what ways or in what situations are words not sufficient for us? Why does the Jewish mystical tradition attach so much power to  words?

3. [3:22] “…man has become like Me knowing good and evil…” What did Adam and Chava lose by eating from the tree and what did they gain?

4. [3:24] “…to guard the way to the tree of life”.  According to Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, the way to the tree of life—to true life– is guarded , but is open to those who have developed morality and order. What other ideal qualities would be substituted for morality and order by other Jewish philosophies or movements (Chassidut, Mussar, religious-nationalism etc.)? What would an ideal Jewish society be for each of these  philosophies or movements?

5. [4:9] “…am I my brother’s keeper?”  The Torah does not have grammatical punctuation. In this pasuk, Cain could be speaking cynically or he could be speaking innocently. What is the difference to the story between these 2 ways of readings the pasuk, and how do each of the 2 different readings change our view of Cain?

Commentary

[Breishit 1:1] “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

This one verse is sufficient to teach us to see the world as God’s world and ourselves as God’s creatures, to prepare us for the demand that we are to recognize this world and ourselves as emanations of God, and therefore, as God’s sacred possessions, and that in this world of God, we are to use all of our energies—which also belong to him—solely for the purpose of doing His will.

–R. Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, 1808-1888, Germany. 

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

Parshat Zot Habracha (Deuteronomy: 33:1-34:12) / Parshat Breishit

1. [Shmini Atzeret]  On this festival, we begin to pray for rain. Rain, in its proper balance, represents blessing for us.  What is the meaning of the fact that rain, our main image for blessing, is not always so pleasant and is sometimes inconvenient for us?

2. [Simchat Torah] On Simchat Torah, we circle the central bimah in the synagogue 7 times while singing and dancing. We are joyous about having received God’s Torah.  On the 7th circle, we sing, “He who is dressed in righteousness, may He answer us on the day that we call”.  Why do we say that God is “dressed in righteousness” rather than saying that one of His qualities is righteousness?

3. [Hallel] On this festival, we say the whole Hallel after the Amidah, as a prayer of praise to God. “Hallel”comes from the book of Psalms. In the Hallel, it says, “The stone that the builders disliked, has become the main cornerstone”. What does that mean?

4. [Devarim 33:6] “Let Reuven live…”  One of the last things that Moshe does in this world, is that he blesses each tribe of Israel separately. Since the Torah values unity and togetherness so much, why does Moshe emphasize the individual nature of each tribe rather than the unity of the people of Israel?

5. [V’zot habracha] All year round, we have a full week to be involved with the parsha of the week. The parsha of  “V’zot habracha, however, is different. Most years, we have less than a week and sometimes only a few days.  What is gained educationally by starting Breishit immediately after finishing ‘V’zot habracha” on Simchat Torah, even if Simchat Torah is at the beginning of the week?

Commentary

When a person is joyful, he can give life and energy to another person. That is a very important thing, because most people are full of suffering and worries and various types of pain, and they are unable to express what is in their hearts. But when a person comes with a happy face, he can give the other person renewed life, and that is a very significant thing.

–R. Nachman, 1772-1812, 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

  1. Among the laws of the Sukkah, there are a number of interesting and very strange laws.  Jewish law allows us to imagine a complete sukkah when only part of the sukkah is there.  For example, if the wall of the sukkah comes within 24 centimeters of the ground, we imagine that it is on the ground.  There are many other examples. As long as the technical criteria are met, one could say that the structure of the sukkah only exists in our minds. Is this similar to cheating, or is it a deep understanding of halachah—Jewish law?
  • The laws of whether the lulav and etrog are kosher involve many details. In fact, many matters of Jewish law are very detailed.  Many in our tradition say that the Torah is trying to make us into people with expanded minds and wide visions. If so, then why must we be involved in so many details?
  • [Sukkot] Rabbi Nachman says that sukkah, and prayer with concentration and the land of Israel all represent the same idea. What do these three commandments have in common?
  • Normative Jewish law tells us to spend time in the sukkah and also to sleep in the sukkah (if the weather allows it).  There are Chassidim who do not sleep in the sukkah because they say that the sukkah is too holy for sleeping activities. What might be the philosophical argument between these two points of view?
  •  [Haftara: 1st day: Zecharia 14:9] “…on that day Hashem will be one and His name will be one.”   What is meant by the name of God (Y-H-V-H)? What is meant by “…on that day God will be one and His name will be one”?

Commentary

We say in our prayers, “Spread over us the sukkah of peace”. The sukkah is special to us even though it may be missing parts—it may have only two walls and a small part of the third wall;  the wall may not reach totally down to the ground, and so on. The matter of peace is similar. Peace is precious and positive even if it is not perfect.  One should try to achieve peace even in a partial way—between people, between the individual and the community, or between nations. We pray for peace, even if it’s only like a sukkah (which is not totally perfect). That’s how great peace is.

–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

First Day: (Genesis 21) / (Shmuel I 1:1-2:10)

Second Day: (Genesis 22) / (Jeremiah 31:2-20)

1. Rosh Hashana is the birthday of the world, but is also Judgment Day for the world. We blow the shofar to awaken ourselves, but we also eat apple and honey to celebrate the sweetness of the new year. What should a person’s mood be on Rosh Hashana—fear of judgment or a celebration of life?

2. Maimonides (the Rambam) tells us that we blow the shofar in order to wake ourselves from our spiritual sleep. Why do we try to awaken ourselves in such an emotional and unsophisticated way? Wouldn’t it be more effective to appeal to the mind with an effective reading from the Torah or the prophets?

3. Rosh Hashana begins the “10 days of tshuvah” which end on Yom Kippur. “Tshuvah” really means return—to God, and one’s people and a purer state. What if one never felt that he or she was involved with God or his people or a purer state? To what is he or she returning?

4. [Shmuel I 1:15] In the Haftara for the first day of Rosh Hashana, Chana says, “I have poured out my soul before God”.  We learn many laws of prayer from Chana, and she is a model of prayer for us. Why is this read on Rosh Hashana?  We pour out our soul in front of a dear friend, not in front of a judge. Should we relate to God with fear, as we would to a judge, or with intimacy, as we would to a good friend?

5. [Jeremiah 31:12] In the Haftara for the second day of Rosh Hashana,  Yirmiahu prophesies a messianic vision. In it, he says, “Their soul shall be like a watered garden”. What does it mean to be “like a watered garden”? Why is this a vision of an ideal time?

Commentary

There are two types of “tshuvah”: lower tshuvah and upper tshuvah. In “lower tshuvah”, a person regrets a particular sin or act, confesses to God, and says that he or she will not do it again. In “upper tshuvah” a person says “I want to be closer to God. I want the light of God to shine within me”. Both are necessary, but the most common tshuvah in modern times will be “upper tshuvah”.

–R. Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kuk (1865-1935), Lithuania, 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 29:9-31:30) / (Isaiah 61:10-63:9)

 (Slichot)

1. [29:9] “You are all standing today in front of God—your leaders, your tribes…”  Moshe says that all are standing in front of God today to be part of the covenant. Then he mentions all parts of the people specifically. What purpose is served by mentioning each part of the people separately, after we are told that all the people are being addressed?

2. [30:2] “And you will return to God and you will listen to His voice…”  Rav Kuk tells us that we hear the voice of God speaking to us as individuals and as groups, in our everyday lives.  In what ways do we hear the voice of God speaking to us?

3. [31:21]  “…and this song will serve as a witness for them…”    When the Jews will have turned away from God and  bad things will happen to us, this song will help to return us to God.   What qualities does song have that makes it better than stories or declarations to change a person’s attitudes?

4. [Haftara: Isaiah 63:9]  “In all their pain, He was pained…”   Isn’t God higher than pain. What does it mean when we are told that God is in pain when the Jews are in pain?

5. [Slichot] “The soul is yours and the body is your work…” On Saturday night, September 4, we begin saying slichot in order to prepare for Rosh Hashana and tshuvah.  Why do we say, “The soul is yours and the body is your work…”?  It would seem that this does not make us more responsible, it puts all the focus on God. How does saying this prepare us for tshuvah?

Commentary

The main ”listening to the voice of God”, is when one pays attention to the  whole process of life in all of its details…The more the details seem to be coming from an elevated spiritual place…in a clear way, the more a person hears with clarity the voice of God speaking to him—teaching and commanding.

–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