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: 30:2-36:13) / (Haftara: Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4, 4:1,2) / (Pirkay Avot 2)

  1. [30:3]  “When a person makes a vow…” The Talmud tells us that vows—promising to separate oneself from things that are permitted–is the first step to refined spirituality. What do vows have to do with more refined spirituality?
  2. [35:11-34] “…cities of refuge will be for you…” If someone killed a person accidentally, he could run away to a “city of refuge”, and he would be safe there from revenge. In those days, it was rare that someone killed by accident. Why does the Torah devote so much space to the “cities of refuge”?  What principles of law and behaviour are being taught here?
  3. [Haftara: 2:19] “Your own wickedness will correct you…”  How does one’s wickedness correct him or her? Is this an effective way of learning or an inferior way of learning?
  4. [Pirkay Avot 2:1] Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the rewards of the mitzvot.”  If we read this mishna in a simple way, it seems to say that one should not choose between mitzvot, but rather, do whatever mitzvah comes to hand even if there seems to be a more important mitzvah to do. That, however, cannot be true. What is this mishna coming to teach us?
  5.  [2:1] “Which is the right path for man to choose for himself? Whatever is proper for the one who does (or made) it, and proper in the eyes of others.”  Rav Ovadiah of Bartinuro (16th century, Italy) understands this to mean that one should find a balance between one’s own desires and the expectations of the community. However, R. Moshe Zacuto, (1625-1697) says that one should do balance both what God expects and what the community expects. How is this mishna understood differently by each of these explanations?

Commentary

[33:1]   “These are the journeys of the children of Israel…”

The forty-two “stations” from Egypt to the land of Israel happen in the life of every person from his birth until his return to his source. Leaving Egypt represents birth, and one moves on until one comes to the land of elevated life (elevated life in this world and in the next world).

–R. Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, (1700-1760)

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

(Numbers: 25:10-30:1)

(Haftara: Melachim I, 18:46-19:21)

(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?
  1. [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.?
  1. [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?
  1. [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?
  1. [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 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: 22:2-25:9)

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

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 6)

  1. [23:19 ] “God is not a man, that He should lie; or a person who changes His mind…” Our prophets also tell us that God is beyond human qualities—is total positivity. If that is true, why does God often seem so human in the Torah?
  1. This is the only parsha in the Torah (after Avraham) that is not centered in the camp or in the life of the Israelites. Some say that this parsha is coming to tell us how the people of Israel look so dignified and ideal from the outside. We know, however, about all the complaints, fears and arguments of the Israelites. What purpose is served by the Torah telling us that the Israelites looked so good from the outside?
  1. [Haftara: Micah 6:8] “…what does God ask of you: only to do justice, to love chesed, and to walk humbly with your God”. If these are the main things that God asks of us, what is the purpose of the other commandments of the Torah like eating kosher, keeping Shabbat, and so on.
  1. [Pirkei Avot 6:1] “…whoever learns Torah for its own sake (and not with ulterior motive) is called a beloved friend, who loves God and loves people, etc…” How does learning Torah make someone into a lover of people?
  1. [Pirkei Avot 6:8] “…old age and children are appreciated by tzaddikim (righteous people) and the world”. Is a tzaddik someone who has a certain state of mind, or is he or she someone who does many mitzvoth and good deeds?

Commentary

Every person must personally look upon himself as a partner with God…Creation exists for the sake of man, and it is man’s duty to work toward fulfilling God’s goal. Our sages thus teach us that everyone should say, “The world was created for my sake.”

–R. Aryeh Kaplan, 1934-1983. U.S.A.

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

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

(Numbers: 19:1- 22:2)

(Shoftim 11:1-33)

(Pirkei Avot 5)

  1. [20:12] “…You will not bring this congregation to the land…”    Moshe is later buried on Mount Nevo which, at first,  is outside of the land of Israel (Deuteronomy 34),  but later becomes part of Eretz Yisrael.  Therefore, even though God said that Moshe would not enter the land, Moshe really had entered the Land of Israel.    What can we learn from this fact?

 

  1. [21:9] “And Moshe made a serpent of brass…” When the Israelites were attacked by poisonous snakes, God tells Moshe to put a statue of a snake on a high stick. Whoever would look up at the model of the snake would be cured of the poisoning.  How can we understand this and what lessons can we learn from this?

 

  1. [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?

 

  1. [Pirkei Avot 5:13] “One who wants to give [charity], but does not want others to give..”. Why would a person who gives charity not want others to give? How could one rid himself of this quality?

 

  1. [Pirkei Avot 5:17] ” …that [argument] which is not for selfless motives will not endure.”  How does an argument for selfless motives endure?

Commentary

A person should serve God with all his strength, because everything has a holy aspect, and God wants a person to serve him in all ways.  Sometimes a person is talking to people, or is on a journey, and cannot serve God with prayer and learning. Nonetheless, God wants people to serve Him in all possible ways, so God sends someone to different places in order to do some service there.

–R. Yisroel ben Eliezer, the Ba’al Shem Tov, 1698-1760, Carpathia.

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: 16:1-18:32)

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

(Pirkay Avot Chapter 4)

  1. [18:1] “…bear the sin of the holy place…” What is meant by “the sin of the holy place”, and “the sin of the priesthood”?
  1. [18:8-20] “…I have given you the charge of my gifts…” The tribe of Levi gets gifts from the people of Israel. Doesn’t this seem like favouritism toward Levi? Won’t it cause jealousy?
  1. [18:32] “Don’t profane the holy things of the children of Israel so that you will not die.” Why is there such a severe punishment for profaning holy things?
  1. [Haftara: Shmuel I 12:3] “…whose ox have I taken; whose donkey have I taken; whom have I cheated…?” Shmuel is presenting his reliability as the religious leader to the people. Shouldn’t he mention his prophecies, his judgment and his successes. Why does he rely on his ethical behaviour to prove his dependability?
  1. [Pirkei Avot 4:7] “Whichever judge does not judge [but rather compromises] saves himself from hate…” Our tradition is that justice is a supreme value. Why is compromise of greater value than justice?

Commentary

Justice means consideration for every being as a creation of God, for all possessions as having a purpose before God…  Therefore we must be alert to the demands that each of these makes on us.

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

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

 

(Bamidbar: 13:1-15:41)

(Haftara: Yehoshua 2, 1-24)

(Pirkay Avot 3)

  1. [13:18-20] “And you will see the land…”  It seems that the spies were only supposed to bring back military information.  However, they also made an emotional evaluation, and therefore the mission was very unsuccessful. Was it Moshe’s fault because his instructions were unclear [13:17-20], or was the failure the fault of the spies?
  1. [13:27-29] “…we are not able to go up to the land because they are stronger than us.” It seems that the sin of the spies was that they discouraged the Israelites.  In the Torah, “discouraging” is not a specific sin (although it may not be a nice thing to do).  Why is the discouragement of the spies considered such a serious sin?
  1. [Yehoshua 2:4] “And the woman took the two men and she hid them…”   Rav Hertz (England, 1872-1946) says that Rachav hid the spies because “the oriental concept of hospitality  demands protection for the guest at whatever cost”.  This also happened when Lot protected the angels from the townspeople [Breishit 18:8].  Should this be a Torah value—that one should always protect his or her guests at every cost?
  1. [Yehoshua 2:15] “…go to the mountain and hide yourselves there for three days…” Rachav, the prostitute, is kind, brave, intelligent and well-informed in military matters.  Why doesn’t the author of this text worry that we might come to value and respect prostitutes?
  1. [Pirkay Avot 3:3] “Three who eat at one table and do not say words of Torah, it’s as if they ate sacrifices to the dead…”   People come together for many purposes. Why does this mishna focus specifically on people who eat together

Commentary

When one asks for something in prayer, one should ask that the evil and the darkness should be removed from the world, and goodness and the light of Godly life should be increased in their fullness. These things don’t just fix one area of life, but they fix everything which is deficient.

–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

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: 8:1-12:16)

(Haftara: Zecharia 2:14-4:7)

(Pirkay Avot, chapter 2)

  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?
  1. [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?
  1. 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?
  1. [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?
  1. [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

“Search for God when He can be found (Yeshaya55:6)”—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 Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

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

(Numbers: 4:21-7:89)

(Haftara: Shoftim 13:2-25)

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 1)

  1. [6:1] The nazir chooses an ascetic way of life. In many religious traditions, an ascetic becomes part of the religious establishment, but for us, the nazir remains an ordinary citizen. What does this fact tell us about Judaism?
  1. [6:7] A Kohen may attend the funeral of a close relative, but a nazir may not. Why should the law of a nazir be stricter than the law of a Kohen?
  1. [6:25-26] “May God shine His face toward you…” What does it mean for God to shine His face toward someone? What does it mean for God to hide His face?
  1. [Haftara: Judges 13:3] Our tradition tells us that God prefers to work within the laws of nature, rather than do miracles. Miracles are only for special situations. If so, why did an angel tell Samson’s mother about Samson’s birth? Why couldn’t a human prophet have told her?
  2. [Pirkay Avot 1:1] “They said 3 things…set up many students…” Why is the advice here to set up many students. Wouldn’t one have more of a positive influence on his generation and on future generations by writing many books?

Commentary

When one truly looks at the good side of each and every person, one comes to love people with a deep love. One has no need for even the slightest flattery, because one’s interest in the good that one constantly meets, hides all the negative aspects from him.

–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

(Numbers 1:1-4:20) / (Haftara: Hosea 2, 1-22)

(Pirkay Avot Chapter 6) / (Sfirat Ha’omer) / (Shavuot)

  1. [Haftara: Hosea 2:21] “I will betroth you to me in righteousness (betzedek) and in justice (bemishpat), and in kindness (chesed) and in compassion (rachamim)”. What is the difference between righteousness and justice? What is the difference between kindness and compassion?
  2. [Pirkay Avot 6:1] “…anyone who learns Torah for its own sake (leshma), is worthy of many things…” R. Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821, Lithuania) says that “Torah for its own sake” means for the sake of the Torah—to understand with the greatest possible depth and clarity. The Chassidic books say that Torah leshma means for the sake of God—loving God and learning in order to get closer to Him.  What kind of personality would be attracted to each of these approaches?
  3. [Pirkay Avot 6:1] “…anyone who learns Torah for its own sake (leshma), is worthy of many things…”    Is it better to learn Torah for a selfish reason or is it better not to learn Torah at all?
  4. [Pirkay Avot 6:6] “…and Torah is acquired with forty-eight qualities. These are: learning, listening, speaking with clarity, understanding…” What does it mean to acquire the Torah?
  5. [[Pirkay Avot 6:6] One of the 48 qualities of acquiring Torah is joy, and another is minimizing pleasure. Can’t physical pleasures give a person joy, at least temporarily? Would having that kind of physical pleasure and joy be a legitimate way of  acquiring Torah?

Commentary

[3:12] “…And  I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel… and the Levites shall be mine.”

“Not only the tribe of Levi, but each and every person in the world, whose spirit has moved him and has understood himself that he should separate himself to stand before God,  to serve Him, to worship Him, to know God and to walk in a straight way like God made him, and he has given up all the various calculations that men make–this man has become holy like a holy of holies, and God shall be his portion and his inheritance forever, and shall give him his needs in this world, as He has given to the Kohanim and the Levites…”

–Rambam, R. Moshe ben Maimon, 1135-1204, Spain and Egypt

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

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

(Leviticus: 25:1-27:34)

(Haftara: Yirmiahu 16:19-17:14)

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 5)

(Sfirat Ha’omer)

  1. [25:1]  “And God spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai saying:”  Introducing the commandment of shmita—the fact that one does not work the land in the seventh year–the Torah tells us that this commandment was given on Mount Sinai.  Generally, the Torah simply says, “And God spoke to Moshe saying…”. Why is Mount Sinai mentioned in relation to this commandment?
  2. [25:4] “But in the seventh year, there will be a Sabbath of rest for the land…” There are those who say that allowing the land to lie fallow for the seventh year is excellent agricultural practice. It is very good for preserving good farmland. Our tradition tells us that the reason for this commandment is so that we will understand that the land is really God’s and not ours.  Can both reasons be true?
  3. [Yirmiahu 16:19] “God is my strength and my stronghold, my place of escape…”    What does it mean that “God is my strength”?  Don’t I have to be my own strength and live my own life and fight my own battles?
  4. [Yirmiahu 17:11] “He who gets rich in a dishonest way…at his end , he will be a fool.”  How does being dishonest eventually make a person into a fool?
  5. [Pirkay Avot 5:26] “The reward is in proportion to the pain (effort).”  Sometimes a person’s judgment is not good and he or she puts a lot of effort into a project that is worthless.  Will the person be rewarded for that?

Commentary

Those who are continually reproving others and correcting everyone but themselves are like water which cleans away the dirt, but becomes muddy itself  in the process.

  1. David Twersky, 1808-1882, Talna, Ukraine.

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