Chavarah- Jewish Community Learning

A blog of Jewish study and traditions. Notes from classes: Torah Study with Rabbi Marder, Toledot and Shabbaton as well as other details found of interest.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

A leftover dilemma

The discussion about leaving the forgotten sheath in the harvest for the needy started a side discussion on the problem of leftovers from an event.

It seems that sometimes it is even difficult to give away the leftovers.

There are places and organizations that feel they cannot leave or give the leftovers to those in need due to possible legal liability if the food is mishandled and someone gets sick from it. This is a valid point but sad.

It seems that if you want to be sure your event leftovers are donated, you should arrange to box them yourself and bring them to the food bank or food distribution points yourself. But the most important fact here is that we must try to get the food to those in need now since it is not the custom for 'gleaning' after our events. So this is a reminder to try to plan for this ahead of time.

There was an interesting day when I observed a small group of Beth Am teens that stopped by the synagogue on a Saturday afternoon to get the luncheon leftovers because they were hungry. I thought this was very resourceful on their part. And while we can't call them the poor of our community, these teens did harvest their own food from the forgotten 'harvest' of the day.

Then the point was brought up about fruit trees that are left unharvested. Jana H. mentioned Village Harvest, at as a place to help with this one.

I also found some good articles with ideas on how to be more proactive with our efforts to take care of others and the world:

Leftovers to feed the hungry
article on leftovers dilemma

The Mitzvah without Kavanah

Deuteronomy 24:19-22
This is another reminder to take care of others who are less fortunate than you are. If you forget some in your harvest - do not go back to get it - leave it for the poor.

Why not just harvest it and give it away? This helps those in need maintain their dignity to collect their own food.

Side note: Rabbi Marder read part of Keats poem Ode to a Nightingale

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path 65
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that ofttimes hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

As it refers to Ruth as she harvested from another's field.

This led to an interesting discussion on about Heschel's commentary on Religious Behaviorism, where you will do things without knowing why. And noting that this particular mitzvah that is more about forgetting than remembering.
Hirsch points out that the forgotten sheath is not yours alone and that you must share with those in need.

Social Welfare is not personal sentiment. It is an obligation.

It will create a sense that it is not needed to 'grab every cent from the harvest' and inspired proverbs that remind us 'do not rob the desitute'.

So it can be a mitzvah sometimes to forget, if it helps those in need.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sharing Historic Finds

Thanks to Harve Citrin for finding this interesting report on Archeology and the Exodus
The full details:
Report on Archeologic Findings- Pharoh's Chariots in the Sea

The Exodus - We remember always... Archeological findings:
The Route: based on findings this is the map of the probable route:

Pharaoh's Drowned Army

Confirmation of the actual Exodus route has come from divers finding coral-encrusted bones and chariot remains in the Gulf of Aqaba
Since 1987, Ron Wyatt found three 4-spoked gilded chariot wheels. Coral does not grow on gold, hence the shape has remained very distinct...

Mineralized Bone - found at the crossing site

Fascinating information and go to the link for his full report.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Goals - Out of the Strong Sweetness

* Choose to follow the teachings of God.

* Learn.

* Remember the past and use that to do Tikkun Olam.

"Remember that we were slaves."


To develop a quality of empathy for others (from Rashi)

To take from our collective personal experience to be inspired to do good.

Poem: Out of the Strong Sweetness - 1959
Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976)

Out of the strong, sweetness;
And out of the dead body of the lion of Judah,
The prophecies and psalms;
Out of the slaves in Egypt,
Out of the wandering tribesman of the deserts
And the peasants of Palestine,
Out of the slaves of Babylon and Rome,
Out of the ghettos of Spain and Portugal, Germany and Poland
The Torah and the prophecies,
The Talmud and the sacred studies, the hymns and songs of the Jews;
And out of the Jewish dead
Of Belgium and Holland, of Rumania, Hungary, and Bulgaria,
Of France and Italy and Yugoslavia,
Of Lithuania and Latvia, White Russia and Ukrainia,
Of Czechoslovakia and Austria,
Poland and Germany,
Out of the greatly wronged
A people teaching and doing justice;
Out of the plundered
A generous people;
Out of the wounded a people of physicians;
And out of those who met only with hate,
A people of love, a compassionate people.

- - -

Widows are Special

Deuteronomy 24:17
‘don’t take the widow’s garment in pawn…’

The widow has been hurt more than most others by circumstances and therefore she deserves to be cared for.

Torah emphasizes this over and over. Job was an advocate for social justice and pointed out that it was important to care for the widow… even saying:

(Job22-05:11) You sin by not feeding every widow and orphan
(Job22-21:30) Accept God-repent-help widows-all will be well

Elijah was also a crusader for justice and focuses on care of the widow. There is a popular story of the widow who shares her last flour and oil with the prophet. But she is assured that her flour will not run out because of her generosity.

So to research further about how the widow is special I found some interesting links:

R. Asher Meir Analysis

Ethicist View in Modern Times

Commentary on Parasha Ki Tetze

So are widows (and widowers) special today? Yes in that it is important to be sensitive to their loss. And the overall picture to be kind and generous to those who are less fortunate. Remember that people can live in abundance and still be hungry.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tsedek is the Pursuit

"Tsedek is not a destination, it is the pursuit"

"God becomes evident THROUGH the people we help"

"Don’t seek to do Justice by unjust means"

Quotes from this week's Torah Study that are worthy of remembering.

As discussion traveled through the many reminders of the rights of the stranger. Deuteronomy 24:17-18 and back to Exodus 22, and Leviticus 17 & 19 and on to the Prophets - Isaiah 1, Jeremiah 7, Job, and into the Proverbs "do not rob the wretched or destitute". It is evident that this is a pervasive theme in Tanach. Concern for the stranger is unique in Biblical times to those who follow the word of Torah. We are reminded that "we were once strangers" almost as often as we are reminded of the Exodus story itself.

Then the discussion turned to the difficult question of "why is the world not perfect?" if God is in control. I like the analogy that we are like 'property managers'. But we have a very big job to repair the world and the laws in Torah make an excellent guide for many difficult situations that just happen.

Then we got into the discussion about how to treat the widow and special consideration needed. This will be continued next session.

Research from “tsedek, tsedek” this week led me to an interesting analysis of repeated words in Torah - Link.

And an interesting D’Var Torah on Justice and reflections for Rosh Hashanah 5767: Link.