Jewish Literacy Subscribe

A selection of initiatives, blogs, resources and communities on Jewcology which focus on jewish literacy.


Blogs

Jewish Urban Farming Internship

Urban Adamah, based in Berkeley, CA, is a three-month intensive residential leadership training program for young adults ages 20-29, that integrates urban organic farming, social justice work and progressive Jewish living and learning. Twelve Urban Adamah Fellows are selected each season to operate an organic farm and educational center, intern with community organizations addressing issues at the intersection of poverty, food security and environmental stewardship, and learn an approach to Jewish tradition that opens the heart and builds joyful community. Applicants do ...

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Cisterns or Trees…?

(reposted from a blog by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, http://blog.bjen.org/) There is a wonderful teaching in the Jerusalem Talmud which reads: "Rabbi Yohanan, speaking on behalf of Rabbi Yossi, says: 'Just as they (the other rabbis) believe that civilization depends on cisterns, so I believe that civilization depends on trees.'" The work of blending civilization and nature has always been a challenge. In this "man vs nature" tug of war, we must ask, who wins? What has precedence over what; what should yield to what? Gray infrastru...

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Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment

Core teachings on 18 topics linking Torah and the environment were released between Tu b'Shevat 5772 and Tu b'Shevat 5773 as part of Jewcology's Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment, in partnership with Canfei Nesharim and a host of other organizations who shared materials across the Jewish community. The materials were shared at least 145 times on the web, in at least 99 social media postings, and reached over 51,000 people during the course of the year, as part of a Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment. The materials comprise the most comprehensive set of ...

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Olives — the fruit of light and metaphor

As today is the first day of Chanukah, I think it a fitting time to reflect on the virtues of olives and olive oil; their benefits, and some of their hidden meanings. The story of Chanukah is the age-old struggle of the Jewish people to remain Jewish in a non-Jewish world. According to the Talmudic legend, when the Hasmoneans recaptured and cleansed the Temple following their victory over the Syrians, they were able to find only a single vessel of oil sufficient for one day's lighting of the Menorah. But, as the story goes, a miracle occurred, and it ...

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There’s Light.

We love this time of year. The opportunity to share special moments with family, lighting candles, eating latkes, and sharing special community celebrations. As we come together to celebrate happy moments, Chanukah is a great time to share Torah learning and to remember to be mindful of our energy actions. Chanukah reminds us that even when things may seem dark, there's light. To share the light this year, Canfei Nesharim's website features the following resources: • The Miracle of the Vessels, a Torah teaching to learn with ...

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The Festival of Lights: The Spiritual Dimension of Energy

Oh, Lord, my God, You are very great; You are clothed in glory and majesty, Wrapped in a robe of light; You spread the heavens like a tent cloth. (Psalm 104:2) Hanukkah which means “(re)dedication” has also been called the “Festival of Lights” at least since the 1st Century CE as the earliest reference to this name is found in the historian Josephus: And from that time [the purification of the Temple by the Maccabees] to the present time we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, ...

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Here I Am: Responding to the Call in Creation

Some years ago I was leading an interfaith environmental spirituality retreat near Seattle. My co-leader and meditation teacher, Kurt Hoelting, asked us to do a “walking meditation” where we would mindfully walk. This meant that while we were walking (and we were not to try to direct where we were walking) we tried to be mindful of each step, focusing on the place where we put our foot down and trying to be in the present moment of each step. In practice, this kind of walking is much slower than regular walking but is wonderful to focus the mind on a sense ...

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Why We Occupy Shabbat!

This past Shabbat I participated in Vancouver’s first “Occupy Shabbat.” The thirty of us crammed into Occupy Vancouver’s meditation tent weren’t the only ones celebrating this way. In cities across North America, Jews of all types are joining together to Occupy Shabbat in conjunction with the Occupy Together movement now galvanizing the continent. What does it mean to celebrate this weekly holy day in solidarity with and surrounded by activists, artists, and people calling for a better tomorrow? What can we learn from this day about ...

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The Tower of Babel

I’ve been thinking lately how all stories are created in the image of their tellers, and all tellers are created in the image of life, and all life is created in the image of the Holy One, Tzelem Elohim. In this way, all stories contain sparks of holiness. After all, Reb Nachman of Bratzlav says that every story has something that is concealed. What is concealed? Nothing less than the hidden light from the beginning of creation! This is why no story is too small for our attention. For instance, this past week, Noah receives so much attention, and ...

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thoughts about sustainability – from Noach to Abraham

Einat Kramer “And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.” Genesis 9:16 Parshat Noach details a terrible ecological disaster, the Flood that immerses the world in water and brings an end to all life – all because of man’s despicable behavior. In this parsha we meet Noach, the first “environmental activist” who acted upon a divine commandment to keep every species of animal ...

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Forest Gardening: A Living Sukkah

Sitting in our Sukkah at Eden Village, a hexagon of black locust from our forest, I can gaze in each direction and learn something about the place I am dwelling. I can look out to the east and see our production fields, mostly in covercrop of oats, with an occasional row of cosmos or cabbage, and behind the fields a cob oven, and behind that, our kitchen. To the south, a wetland and forest, from which we harvested the black locust and the invasive phragmites which we used as schach to cover our Sukkah. To the north, the office, theatre,and share circle, center of the ...

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The many meanings of Sukkot

I love the holiday of Sukkot, and for many reasons. I feel it is a holiday with many meanings, and many lovely paradoxes. I love how Sukkot encourages us to spend more time in the outdoors, and yet how it encloses us within walls and a roof, even as we are exposed to the elements at the same time. I love how it reinforces our human ingenuity in building structures, and yet reminds us how fragile and impermanent these structures really are. I love its inherent earthy-ness, how it connects us to trees and fruits through the lulav and etrog, and also connects us to the ...

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“Water, Water Everywhere and Nor any Drop to Drink”: Praying for Rain at the Right Time and in the Right Amount

When I was in Israel for my Junior Year abroad in 1974, I remember that on Erev Sukkot the headline on the Jerusalem Post read: “Sukkot Starts Tonight, Weatherman Predicts No Rain.” For those of us in the Northeast this year Sukkot started with a lot of rain continuing a very wet few months that caused severe flooding in many areas. In Israel, rain at this time of year would very unusual which is why the Mishnah says the following: All the seven days [of the festival of Sukkot] a man must make the Sukkah his permanent abode and his house his temporary ...

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Why Sukkot might be better than Purim

Both holidays are about being joyous, celebration, and sharing your joy with community. Purim focused on the joy of not getting killed off as a people, while Sukkot celebrates the (hopefully) fruitful harvest, a result of hard human work and physical support (sun, rain) from G!d. Purim gets points for yummy treats, and I should know as the 4 year host of a hummentashen bake off. But Sukkot deals the upper hand for many reasons, including 7 whole days of fun. It is also one of the holidays with multiple names, two being: Zeman Simkhateinu, the Season of our Rejoicing ...

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Isaiah’s Fast: This Yom Kippur, Volunteer, Donate & Mobilize

Yom Kippur, the ‘holiest’ day of the Jewish year. Millions of Jews worldwide get dressed up in white or their best attire and sit together in synagogue, hungry, lamenting all the bad things we have done as a community of flawed individuals. When the average person is asked about Yom Kippur, fasting is first on their mind. Fasting has become a central tenet of Yom Kippur practice, but what is a fast and why do we do it? Three of the most common modern arguments for fasting include: Through the act of fasting we cleanse our bodiy and soul; we keep ...

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The Sacred Trees of Betar

Dear Friends, I love how stories contain so much more than just what they are “about”. Like seeds from an ancient world, they have the ability to surprise and grow in unpredictable ways. Check out this obscure story from the Talmud (Gittin 55a, from Ein Yaakov, 1999 English translation): “Because of a (broken wheel) from a carriage, Betar was destroyed. [How did that happen?] It was the custom in Betar that when a boy was born the parents would plant a cedar tree, and when a girl was born they planted a pine tree. When they got married the ...

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What’s this Rosh HaShanah thang?

Dear chevra, When the Talmud takes up Hanukkah, it begins, “Mah zot Hanukkah, What’s this Hanukkah, anyway?” The ancient Rabbis did not like its military overtones. But they took great delight in Rosh Hashanah. It’s more than a “new year”: “Rosh” means “head” or top,” but “shanah” is from a root that means both “change” and “repetition.” Only makes sense if you think of a spiral, where a new turning grows from an older reality. Transformation. We ...

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How counting to 50 can heal the planet

Last week we completed the Sefirat Ha-Omer, the counting of the 49 day period between Pesach and Shavuot, culminating with the celebration of Shavuot, which falls on the 50th day. In agricultural terms, this is a period of waiting in between the barley harvest and the wheat harvest in Israel. In religious terms, this period is a time for preparation and transformation that preceeds Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Sefirat Ha-Omer is very similar to the mitzva of Sefirat Ha-yovel, whereby we are enjoined to count 49 years and consecrate the 50th ...

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