DAY // WAY 87: SHABBAT THOUGHTS WITH RABBI ZIMMERMAN

100 Days – Naso

by Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, Temple Israel

 

Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman

Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman

This week’s Torah portion creates a perplexing reading of the text through the use of grammatical ambiguity.

The text reads:

And every portion from any of the holies that the children of Israel bring to the Kohen shall be his.  A man’s holies shall be his, and what a man gives to the Kohen shall be his.  (Numbers 5: 9-10)

What does the Torah mean that a man’s holies shall be his?  Does it mean the holies are given to the individual or to the Kohen?  Using nouns and pronouns in a cryptic fashion confuses the meaning of the text – or does it?  I believe there is a profound lesson held deep inside what might at first glance seem like a problem of grammatical clarity.

The idea that the possession of a person’s holies belongs either to himself or the Kohen teaches us that when things are holy, they are given to more than one person simultaneously.  When our acts are holy – when our lives are holy – we give as much as we receive.shabbat day_zimmerman

For example, the gift of Tzedakah is a gift that is given from one’s treasures and resources.  People who only see giving as the depletion of their resources rarely are generous and often do not receive the ultimate satisfaction that giving can award.

100 days-01There is social research that has monitored the health of giving.  According to a survey and study by researchers Dunn, Akin, Akin and Norton, giving actually makes one happier.  They randomly assigned people into different groups, giving one group instructions to spend $5 on themselves and one group to spend $5 on others.  Those who gave away the money reported being much happier.  Those who spent money on themselves showed no change in happiness.

The bottom line is that giving gives you pleasure and can make you happy.  The Torah is teaching us this very same message.  If giving to the Kohen makes one feel blessed and happier, then giving to the Kohen comes right back to you – so it’s both the individual and the Kohen who are simultaneously rewarded.

In these last 100 days of the community Federation campaign, we are taught in the Torah the age-old lesson that giving does not diminish us but rather shores us up, that what we give to others is also a gift we receive.  This is confirmed by modern social science.  As Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing new under the sun,” so from this moment forward let us all turn first to Jewish texts to find the answers for the 21st century.

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Be sure to check out the rest of our 100 Days events and posts on Twitter as well as on our website. Like posts like this? Why not give us a “chai” five?

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DAY // WAY 52: SHABBAT THOUGHTS WITH RABBI DAVIS

Harvesting Patience (Parashat Kedoshim)

by Rabbi Alexander Davis, Beth El Synagogue

 

I don’t have a green thumb. Even with all the rain we’ve had these past weeks, I can’t get my grass to grow. I put down new soil, spread the seeds and… nothing. I am thinking of planting Astroturf.

Rabbi Alexander Davis

Rabbi Alexander Davis

Our ancestors would not have had the same problem. They knew about sewing and reaping, planting and harvesting. And while I may have failed in farming, perhaps I can nevertheless glean from them a lesson.

We read in this week’s Torah reading about harvesting fruit trees: “when you come into the Land and plant fruit trees, their fruit shall be forbidden for three years. In the fourth year, it shall be set aside for rejoicing before God. And in the fifth year, you may use its fruit” (Lev. 19:23-25).

This is known as the mitzvah of orlah.  According to biblical law, this mitzvah applied only to farmers in Israel. But the oral law extended its application to outside of the Land.

Essentially, farmers did not use the yield of fruit trees for the first three years. In the fourth year, they brought the fruits to the Temple and donated them to the priests of the Temple. Only in the fifth year could a farmer taste the fruit of his/her labor.

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Commentators differ on the reason behind this mitzvah. Some claim that the fruit of the first three seasons was not healthy to eat or worthy of being brought before God (that is, it was not sweet enough). Ramban writes: “the fruit of the first three years is not fit to offer to God, for in those years the crop is small and tasteless; most of the trees will not even bring forth fruit at all until the fourth year. So we wait and taste none of it until we have brought all of the first good fruits as a sacred offering before the Lord.”

I don’t know if agronomists would agree with this analysis. But I see in this passage a lesson in patience. It takes a long time to enjoy the fruit of our labors.

100 days-01Serving on the board of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and as a co-Chair of Yachad, the new platform for Jewish education of Minneapolis teens, I see this lesson first hand. We must plan and propose, prune and pick. For example, in a start-up like Yachad, we understood that success would not happen overnight. It took years to cultivate relationships and nurture the program. But with patience, purpose and planning, the talented staff and lay leaders are planting the seeds of future growth for our Jewish community.

In this week when we celebrate the fruits of modern day Israel, in this season when we anticipate the arrival of fruits in the farmer’s market, we recall the efforts of our ancestors to bring forth an abundant crop of sweet fruit and in the process, harvest a lesson about the value of patience.

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Be sure to check out the rest of our 100 Days events and posts on Twitter as well as on our website. Like posts like this? Why not give us a “chai” five?

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DAY // WAY 38: SHABBAT THOUGHTS WITH RABBI RAPPAPORT

Memory and Tzedakkah

by Rabbi Debra Rappaport, Shir Tikvah Congregation

Rabbi Rappaport

Rabbi Rappaport

Until Rabbinical School, I believed that the Yizkor Service occurred once a year, on Yom Kippur. The afternoon when we’re fasting and deeply aware of our own frailty and mortality, we collectively remember our loved ones who have departed this life. While in fact the Yom Kippur Yizkor service was the original one (and the only one currently observed by many), our ancestors added three other times during the year for memorializing all of our close relatives who have died as well as Jewish martyrs. During the three Pilgrimage Festivals (hagim) of Sukkot, Shavuot, and Passover, our Israelite ancestors would make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem with their offerings. On the last day of each of these hagim, a Yizkor service provided – and still provides – a chance to remember all who have died.

Why do we do this collective ritual? Each one of our deceased loved ones is remembered individually on his or her Yarzheit, the anniversary of their death. Why then do we remember them collectively as well? The Hebrew root of Yizkor is zakhor, which means “remember”. Judaism is filled with calls to remember, especially at Passover, when we teach the story of our becoming a people, beckoning the next generations to join in our collective identity.

 

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Rabbi Ron Wolfson explains, “Originally, Yizkor was recited only on Yom Kippur. Its primary purpose was to remember the deceased by committing tzedakah [charity] funds on the theory that the good deeds of the survivors elevate the souls of the departed. It also enhanced the chances for personal atonement by doing a deed of lovingkindness. Since the Torah reading on the last day of the pilgrimage festivals [the holidays of Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot, when the ancient Israelites made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem] mentions the importance of donations, Yizkor was added to these holiday services.” (source: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/yizkor-the-memorial-service/)

100 days-01The Yizkor prayer reads, “May G‑d remember the soul of my [father/mother/loved-one], my teacher [insert Hebrew name] who has gone to his/her supernal world, because I will — bli neder without obligating myself with a vow — donate charity for his/her sake. In this merit, may his/her soul be bound up in the bond of life with the souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and with the other righteous men and women who are in Gan Eden; and let us say, Amen.

This year, Yizkor Pesach is today (Friday, April 29th) for Reform Jews and those in Israel, and tomorrow (Saturday, April 30th) for Conservative and Orthodox Jews in Diaspora.

Who will you be remembering?

Will you consider a gift the Minneapolis Jewish Federation in their memory?

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Be sure to check out the rest of our 100 Days events and posts on Twitter as well as on our website. Like posts like this? Why not give us a “chai” five?

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DAY // WAY 35: Practice Tzedakah

Meet Anton, Vira, and Alexey.

They could be your neighbors, members of your synagogue, or the family you see down the street and wave to in passing.

What you don’t know is that Anton, Vira, and Alexey live a world away in Pavlograd—along with 3,000 other displaced persons—in a Federation-funded center.

Unlike most of us, they will celebrate Pesach in their temporary home just a few dozen miles from the frontline of escalating violence in Ukraine. Forced to flee their home for safety, they are just a few of the young, middle-class families that now occupy this center, receiving food, medicine, and whatever else they need to feel safe and secure in these uncertain times.

You can help Anton, Vira, Alexey, and others just like them with a gift to Federation. Because we are all responsible for one another.

 

DAY // WAY 10 – Thoughts on Shabbat with Rabbi Kravitz

By Rabbi Harold J. Kravitz, Adath Jeshurun Congregation, Minnetonka, MN

rabbi kravitzCuba has taken center stage in the news this past month with the historic visit of President Obama. I had the privilege of leading a congregation trip to Cuba sponsored by our Adath Jeshurun that just preceded the President’s. Though ours had a somewhat lower profile, it was a deeply meaningful experience for all of us who had the privilege to participate. We were a group of 31 whose hope was to learn more about this island that Columbus referred to as the “pearl of the Antilles.” The first Jew to set foot on the island was Luis De Torres, a converso who arrived with the Columbus expedition in 1492, perhaps fleeing the inquisition. Fluent in Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic, he served as the ship translator, hoping to be able to communicate with the indigenous people they would encounter.

Torres did not live beyond that first year, but Cuba became a welcoming port to Jews for much of its future history. Most of the island’s Jews fled the country around the time of the 1959 revolution. Our trip was an extraordinary opportunity to encounter some of the approximately 1200 Jews who continue to live in Cuba and have been rediscovering their Jewish heritage since greater religious freedom began in the 1990s. I highly recommend reading Ruth Behar’s compelling study, An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba, which powerfully conveys that story and features many of the people we met during our travels.

shabbat day 10

It was deeply impressive to see firsthand the ways that the Jewish life has been revitalized in Cuba. Much of this is attributable to the effective work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) or “El Jointo” as it is referred to in Cuba. Through the efforts of the “Joint,” synagogues have been rejuvenated, Jewish life and learning has been revitalized, and Jews have reconnected to our people. The JDC could not function so effectively around the world (other than Israel) were it not the beneficiary of the nearly one million dollars that our Minneapolis Federation directs to it from our annual campaign.

Our Cuban brothers and sisters deeply appreciate our support and solidarity. It was positively inspiring to see the dedication of the lay leaders we met who have made possible the rejuvenation of Cuban Jewish religious and communal life. It was perfect that the week we visited Cuba’s synagogues, among other touring we did, was when the Jewish people were reading parshat Vaykhel, which starts with Moses assembling the people to build the ancient Tabernacle. Vaykhel is from the same Hebrew word as kehillah, meaning “community.” It was incredible to see the common impulse that drives us at Adath Jeshurun, in the Minnesota Jewish community, and in these revitalized Cuban synagogues to build meaningful Jewish communities to support another generation in creating a vital Jewish life. We look forward to seeing what warming relations between the USA and Cuba will bring in the years ahead.

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To learn more about our incredible global partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which we call JDC and Cuban’s call “The Joint,” visit their website.

Be sure to check out the rest of our 100 Days events and posts on Facebookon Twitter as well as on our website.

Have you made your donation to the Community Campaign this year?

A gift as simple at $18 can support the important work going on in Cuba to create the kind of vibrant Jewish community that ensures a Jewish future in every corner of the world.

Donate $18

 

DAY // WAY 13: Join 30 Days of Biking

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We are pleased to have 30 Days of Biking agree to join us on one of our 100 Days // 100 Ways—and you should be, too! For those unfamiliar, 30 Days of Biking is a promise to ride your bike every day in April and share your adventures online at #30Daysofbiking.

Minneapolis has been voted as the most bike-friendly city in the nation, a fact that each of us in our community—Jewish or otherwise—can be proud.

Still unclear what 30 Days of Biking is? They have a great video that tells their story better than we can.

Another great thing about 30 Days of Biking? You don’t necessarily have to bike outside. Enjoy taking spin classes at the JCC? That totally counts! All rider levels are welcome: children, teens, young adults, and don’t forget about Bubbe!

We encourage you to sign up to ride, download the Spoke Card to show your support, and share your biking adventures online at #30Daysofbiking or on our very own hashtag of #100DaysMPLS. Happy riding!

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Be sure to check out the rest of our 100 Days events and posts on Facebook and on Twitter, as well as on our website.

Like posts like this? Why not give us a “chai” five?

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DAY // WAY 8: SHOW US YOUR MPLS <3

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To kick off Week 2 of our 100 Days // 100 Ways campaign, we’re announcing our Photo Contest.

Here’s what you should know:

From now until Tuesday, May 31st at 1:05 PM CST, you can enter a photo a day for your chance to win a free 2-month subscription to Hello Mazel.

So, what do you need to do?

1. Request your very own “I STAR MPLS” stickers 

2. Take pictures of your “I STAR MPLS” stickers and upload them

3. Vote on your favorites and spread the word with the hashtag #100DaysMPLS

What are you waiting for? Show us how YOU “Star MPLS” and enter your chance to win.

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Be sure to check out the rest of our 100 Days events and posts on Twitter as well as on our website.

Like posts like this? Why not give us a “chai” five?

Donate $18

 

 

DAY // WAY 3: Celebrate Shabbat with P2G

Fifth graders share Shabbat messages

To celebrate Shabbat during 100 Days // 100 Ways, we asked fifth graders at  Bet Shalom and their “twin” classroom at the Hadarim school, in our sister-city of Rehovot, Israel to draw us images of Shabbat.

Below view a gallery of images from the Bet Shalom students. Stay tuned for more images, this time from Rehovot!

Background: Partnership2Gether

Minneapolis Jewish Federation is paired with the city of Rehovot, Israel as part of the Parntership2Gether program through the Jewish Agency for Israel. This partnership is in its second full year and has recently begun implementing exciting programming in both the Minneapolis and Rehovot Jewish communities.

School Twinning

One program of the Minneapolis/Rehovot P2G is a school classroom “twinning.” Twinning programs promote the sense of Jewish Peoplehood and shared responsibility. Students have the chance to meet each other and have dynamic conversations around issues such as Jewish identity and social responsibility.

Bet Shalom’s 5th grade class has been “twinned” with a class of the same age group in the Hadarim school in Rehovot. Hadarim is an elementary school which is predominantly Ethiopian (around 60%) and has been visited many times in the past by various Minneapolis delegations. Gayle Kaplan and Sally Abrams – both members of the P2G steering committee – have taught classes there and students on Alternative Spring Break with Minnesota Hillel just visited the classroom as well. (Masa Israel also has a program in Rehovot called Israel Teaching Fellows,  and a Minneapolitian is currently a Masa Teaching Fellow at Hadarim. Small world!)

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You’ll see these and more on our Facebook page every Friday. Be sure to check out the rest of our 100 Days events and posts on Twitter as well as on our website.

Like posts like this? Why not give us a “chai” five?

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30 years after Glienicke Bridge

Rachel Danziger Sharansky

In case you missed it, this moving piece was written by the daughter of Natan Sharansky, CEO of our partner The Jewish Agency for Israel and face of the modern day Exodus— an inspiring reminder of the human impact of your Federation support.

As my parents’ daughter, I am forever aware that I owe my existence to the people who yelled with my mother. I wouldn’t be here today if you, the Jews of the world, wouldn’t have opened your hearts and your homes and your purses. You marched in rallies, sent letters to your representatives, paid my mother’s tickets as she flew from one demonstration to another. You hosted her. You encouraged her. Your yells broke through the Iron Curtain. They broke into my father’s cell long before they broke him out of it. And they broke into my inner geography, where they ring and echo to this day.”

Tatiana and Bronislav will not go hungry

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Winter in Ukraine. The temperature is -27 ̊ F, and snow and ice have closed the roads.

 

But Tania is riding a borrowed horse and sleigh packed with food and supplies from Minneapolis Jewish Federation partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), for Tatiana and Bronislav. She’ll make this hour-long trek every day because Tatiana and Bronislav are elderly, disabled, and otherwise alone.

Ukraine is home to some of the most vulnerable Jews in the world. Tens of thousands of elderly Jews in small towns dotting the region struggle to survive. During the harsh winter months, many, like Tatiana and Bronislav, live without adequate heating or even central plumbing.

That’s why Tania and hundreds of other workers and volunteers at Hesed social welfare centers, run by JDC, go the extra mile to ensure no Jew is left behind.

When the weather is good, Tania drives her moped to their remote farm to bring supplies, cook, clean and care for the couple. And when the weather is bad — as it often is — she loads up her brother’s horse and sleigh with supplies and makes the long trek herself. And when her brother needs his horse, she walks. For over an hour.

I had to go, otherwise they will starve, she says.

Tania insists the motivation behind her selfless work is Tatiana and Bronislav themselves. “Despite their condition, they do not lose heart. They amaze me with that,” she says. “I am doing everything for them as for my relatives. I do not see any difficulties in my work; how is it possible to have hardships in the work that you love?”

On behalf of Tatiana and Bronislav, thank you

Your support of Federation ensures that these Jews — some of the world’s poorest — do not go hungry.