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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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 31: Thoughts on Shabbat with Rabbi Stiefel

What questions will you ask this year?

by Rabbi Sharon Stiefel, Mayim Rabim Congregation Sharon S - AS cropped

One of my favorite Haggadah commentaries I found in recent years is this:

Isidor I. Rabi, the Nobel laureate in physics was once asked, “Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer or businessman, like the other immigrant kids in your neighborhood?”

“My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: ‘Nu, Did you learn anything today?’ But not my mother. She always would ask me a different question. ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘Did you ask a good question today?’ That difference—asking good questions—made me become a scientist.” (Donald Sheff, New York Times, Jan. 19, 1988)

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Pesach is built around questions.

Not only are there the Four Questions, the actions we do at the Seder and the items we put on the table are to inspire questions. It is a way to open our eyes to ask, “Why are we behaving so differently tonight?”

Last year, just prior to Pesach, I distributed a stack of cards with questions on them to use at the Seder.  (If you go on line you can purchase a “Passover Box of Questions” advertised to jump start conversation at your Seder.) There are numerous other ways to elicit questions at a Seder. Everyone attending a Seder can be asked to arrive with a question about Pesach or the Exodus. Or rewards can be given at the Seder to encourage questions. A former teacher of mine distributes Passover candy to every person who asks a question at his Seder. 

Teachers know the importance of encouraging questions to keep students absorbed in learning. The importance of questions is the underpinning of our tradition. The Talmud itself is a form of questions and dialogue.

100 days-01Questions are at the heart of being a liberated people.

In a slave’s world, there is no room for questions. Life is arbitrary. Things are the way they are and the slave has no role in changing their existence. Free people, on the other hand, want understanding. We are not automatons; rather, our role is to personalize the story of the Exodus so it is ever more meaningful to us every year.

Often when we study text together, we implicitly embrace that the questions are more important than the answers. We hold contradictions in our tradition, find ourselves at moments of cognitive dissonance, and wrestle with troubling texts. And when we ask our questions, we engage with in conversation that builds our relationships with one another and with our heritage. We share a common bond of valuing our questions.

May this upcoming Pesach be full of questions, as well as joyous and sweet for you and those you love.  

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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 8: SHOW US YOUR MPLS <3

2016-03-08 13.25.03

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.

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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.

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P2G Update: Synagogue via Skype, JWRP visits Rehovot

Have you met our sister? It’s true, Minneapolis has a sister city in Israel: the beautiful town of Rehovot! Through this Partnership2Gether initiative, Minneapolis is strengthening a connection to Israel and building a stronger sense of Jewish peoplehood. Here are just a few recent stories of partnership, from Darchei Noam and  the #MOMentum mission, and click here to learn more about Partnership2Gether (and make sure to like us on Facebook!)

Thanks to technology, we are able to bring two synagogues, with a deep love of learning, together.

Beginning November 17, Congregation Darchei Noam in St. Louis Park will begin simultaneous study sessions with synagogue The Berman Shul in Rehovot, Israel.

The six classes will be held on Tuesday evenings, the Minneapolis group meets at Darchei Noam at 7PM and on Sundays at 11AM. The following Sunday the groups will gather via Skype in Minnesota and Israel to discuss what they learned and share insights.

These classes are free and open to the community. The schedule is below, and we hope to see you there!

  • Amos – NOV 17th | Sunday Skype discussion on NOV 22nd
  • Hosea – DEC 15th | Sunday Skype discussion on DEC 20th
  • Micah (Micheas) – FEB 9th | Sunday Skype discussion on FEB 14th
  • Habakkuk and Zephaniah – MARCH 8th | Sunday Skype discussion on MAR 13th
  • Obadiah – MAY 17th | Sunday Skype discussion on MAY 23rd
  • Haggai and Zechariah – JUNE 14th | Sunday Skype discussion on JUN 19th

For more information, contact:

Congregation Darchei Noam
2950 Joppa Ave. S. at Minnetonka Blvd. | 952-452-8476
DarcheiNoamMN@yahoo.com | www.DarcheiNoamMN.org


Minneapolis women visit Rehovot!

The #‎Momentummn‬ delegation of the‪#‎MOMentumtrips‬ of women visited Rehovot on Tuesday, October 27th as a part of our Partnership2Gether program through the municipality of Rehovot, the Jewish Agency and the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.

The visit was hosted and sponsored by Rehovot’s Deputy Mayor, Zohar Blum, and David Ashkenazi, Rehovot’s Chief of Staff and Head of Foreign Relations Department.

The group spent the day touring the city (Weisman Institute and the Ayalon Institute), visiting kindergartens and early childhood care facilities in Kiryat Moshe as well as a little bit of shopping.

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The highlight of the visit was dinner at the Minkov Citrus Orchard Museum along with Rehovot members of the partnership’s Steering Committee which is Co-Chaired by Dr. Yoram Blachar.

The meeting between members of the Steering Committee and the women from the Minneapolis community was successful, exciting and left a taste and desire for further development of the relationship.

Fun fact: Melanie Ginsburg, a MASA Israel student from Minneapolis on a Teachers Fellows program in Rehovot, spoke with the group while they were there about how Federation supports Masa (which is also a Jewish Agency for Israel program), and about what she is doing in Rehovot.

Dozens of members of the Minneapolis Jewish community are scheduled to visit Rehovot in the upcoming months to continue establishing relationships and friendships with the residents of Rehovot.

 

Conversation with Ahava Tomer

Below is a terribly sad and moving portrait of a recipient of support from the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for the Victims of Terror. With distance and through media we sometimes forget the real people behind the stories.

Thanks go to several of our partners in Israel, who not only visited the victims but shared these stories with us while juggling everything else that they do. Trying moments like these remind us of our  incredible mission and the truly exceptional and warm colleagues who deliver that mission in Israel and around the world. We have many hands working around the clock to bring what is going on in Israel a little closer to our community around the world.

JAFI

Jewish Agency representatives met Ahava Tomer outside the ICU at the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. She has hardly left the place ever since her son, Yonatan, was rushed there two days ago after being stabbed numerous times by a terrorist. She is not allowed to enter and see him often, but she said Yonatan is already doing better and calls her on his cell phone from inside the ICU room. He is laying in a bed near Nadav— a 13-year-old boy who was critically wounded in the same attack.

Ahava said her son was at her bedside every day at the hospital three months ago when she underwent surgery to address a disability she has suffered from since contracting polio as a baby. Now he is hospitalized just down the hall from the ICU where she received treatment and she can’t believe she is back.

She proudly described how Yonatan, who is the youngest of her 11 children, saved many lives during the attack when he shouted “terrorist, terrorist,” and yelled at a little girl to hide in a building. The girl’s father has since called Ahava weeping, and thanking her son for saving his daughter’s life.

Ahava recounted the day of the attack, saying that Yonatan was supposed to come back home from synagogue. When she heard ambulances outside, she tried calling him on the phone but he didn’t answer. She grew more and more frantic, calling him to no avail until a stranger answered the phone, telling her that her son had gotten a scratch and was in the hospital. It took Ahava several hours to get to the hospital since the roads were all blocked. When she finally got there and saw her son in the ICU bed she couldn’t believe it was him and broke down crying.

As she was sitting outside of the ICU room, she noticed that there was an Arab woman sitting across from her. Only later did Ahava realize that this was the mother of the terrorist who had attacked her son and was being treated in a bed right near Yonatan and Nadav — the other victim. After making a request to the staff, the terrorist was moved to another room.

Ahava, who received an emergency grant from The Fund for the Victims of Terror, is in desperate need of the financial assistance. Her husband is also handicapped and since the day of the attack hasn’t been physically able to visit the hospital. The family doesn’t own a car, so in order to come to the hospital she needs to get rides from neighbors and friends. Ahava plans on using the money from The Fund to help Yonatan while he is in the hospital by getting him a decent pair of pajamas and slippers to wear.

“It is very special that there are people around the world that care about someone like me, may I never need such a gift in the future,” Ahava said. “I want to say not just ‘thank you,’ but ‘a thousand thanks’ — I wish health to all those who gave and that may we never need such gifts in the future!”

** Important Note: Everyone mentioned is a real person. We have used aliases to give the family some measure of privacy during these trying times.

Because of your gift, victims of the horrifying terrorist attacks happening throughout Israel will receive assistance quickly—often within 24 hours—so they can start the process of healing.

DONATE TODAY

We helped to build Israel. Today we help keep it strong.

Israel-Connections

 

OUR PLEDGE

For more than six decades, we’ve helped strengthen the State of the Israel. And our commitment continues. Unwavering.

Federation is dedicated to ensuring that all of Israel’s citizens have equal access to educational and economic opportunity. And we work tirelessly to deepen connections between the Jewish State and the global Jewish community.

 

HOW WE HELP

Despite Israel’s economic success, one in five Israeli families lives in poverty. We provide a safety net for the most vulnerable, and we advocate for those in distress.
When Israel is threatened, we mobilize our networks at home and overseas to come immediately to her aid.
That global connection is fostered by immersive experiences for young Jews and programming that brings Israel to life in communities throughout North America.

 

OUR IMPACT

Federation has helped millions of immigrants move to Israel and start new lives—26,000 in the past year alone.

Thousands of elderly benefit from innovative services they receive right in their homes. Thousands of poor families know their children will have a brighter future thanks to our Federation-supported programs. Job training programs tackle high unemployment among the one million Israelis with disabilities.

The money we raise during times of crisis helps keeps Israelis safe during conflicts and funds post-trauma counseling for tens of thousands living on the front lines.

And we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of young Jews forge a personal connection to Israel through programs like Taglit-Birthright Israel, and built strong relationships between communities in Israel and North America through Partnership2Gether— including our partner city, Rehovot.

We stand by Israel’s side. Always.

While you can’t prevent further escalation in the violence in Israel, you can deliver swift assistance to the victims through the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for Victims of Terror.

Because of your gift, victims of the horrifying terrorist attacks happening throughout Israel will receive assistance quickly—often within 24 hours—so they can start the process of healing.

DONATE TODAY

CHANGE YOUR PROFILE PICTURE

We’re sending strength to our Israeli brothers and sisters. Join us by changing your profile picture to show your solidarity. You can change your profile picture by right clicking on the photo in below and clicking “Save Image As.” Once you have saved the photo onto your computer, hover your mouse over your own profile picture and click “update profile picture” then select the image and “save profile picture.”

Send-Love_FB-profile

Louis Herman Israel Experience Fund recipient: Abe Passman

Born and raised in the Jewish community of Minneapolis, Louis Herman never had any children.
But he thought of the community’s children as his children, and used his hard-earned wealth to support causes that focused on Jewish education.  In 1992, Mr. Herman donated $1 million to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation as an endowment. A few years later, the LOUIS HERMAN ISRAEL EXPERIENCE FUND was established.

Since its inception in 1995, the Louis Herman Israel Experience Fund has awarded more than $1,000,000 in grants to over 1000 Minneapolis teens. Many of these grant recipients have returned from their Israel Experiences to become active members of their Jewish community, fulfilling Mr. Herman’s vision of developing a new generation of committed Jews. Mr. Herman’s generosity to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, and to other Jewish institutions, has touched the lives of thousands of Jewish youth and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Recently, we had a couple recipients of grants from the Louis Herman Israel Experience Fund return from their Israel programs. We wanted to share their words with you, just to show how impactful this experience is to Minneapolis youth between the ages of 15 and 18.

Abe Passman had this to say about his Israel Experience:

I had a great summer!

Abe PassmanThis photo is meaningful to me because I praying and connecting to Judaism with four guys who are now some of my best friends. Along with that, this was at a Synagogue in Sienna, Italy. It is no longer in use except for on high holidays. The rabbi (an orthodox man), however, came in and led Monday morning services with a mixed gender minyan and allowed us to read from a 200 year old Torah! I got an Aliyah!
The Israel experience was amazing. Everyone on my trip really loved who I was and there was never a reason to put on a mask and fake who I am as a person. I now have 13 new best friends, some of whom I have spoken to everyday since we got back. Even though I had been there with my family, this trip allowed me to really appreciate and admire the State of Israel. I am so thankful for the opportunity to go on USY Pilgrimage.

2a. How attached do you feel to Israel? Very much

2b. How knowledgeable do you feel about Israel? Very much

2c. Would you like to be more involved in the Jewish Community? Very much

Thank you so much!

-Abe Passman

To learn more about the Louis Herman Israel Experience Fund, and to see if you’re eligible, visit this page or contact Ariel at 952.417.2319 or abiel@mplsfed.org.