Archive for the 'D’var Torah' Category

How My Dog Turned Me into a Vegetarian


Due to my son being an only child with little perspective on living with siblings- friendships, fights and loyalty, my husband and I adopted mans “best friend” with the hope it would become Jonah’s “little brother”. The big hope was that our gorgeous red and white cocker spaniel rescue dog was to would teach my son the responsibilities of caring for another dependent being. We had images of my son walking and feeding our new addition to the family.
What actually transpired was far from my vivid imagination. Flynn gravitated to me – I became his world and he, my shadow. Irrespective of my mood, Flynn was always happy to be with me and tail wagging to prove his point.

Blessings of Satisfaction

Tuv Ha’aretz Reflections on Parshat Ekev, by Rabbi Marc Soloway

The intuition to make some kind of blessing or prayer before eating, either traditional or spontaneous, transcends religions and cultures.  Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and probably every religion has its version of making a spiritual connection to the food we are about to eat, whether an established formula or a moment of meditation.  The Talmud has a strong statement that anyone enjoying the physical pleasures of this world without first saying a bracha, is like someone who steals from the Temple! (Berachot 35a).

The Price of Fish: Parshat Beha’alotcha

In this week’s parasha, Beha’alotcha, Bnei Yisrael continue their journey from Egypt to the promised land. They are provisioned during their desert wanderings by manna, a mysterious food which appears on the ground with the nightly dew, and, according to midrashim,[1] exhibited a variety of tastes. It is against this background that we read the Israelites’ astounding complaint:

If only we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for free, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. [2]

The Israelites had only just been redeemed from tortuous oppression, so it is most perplexing that they would now long for the ‘free’ foods of slavery. Commentators have offered a number of explanations, claiming that perhaps the fish were so cheap or easy to catch such as to be considered free.[3] The Sifrei, however, provides a more profound interpretation.

A Tale of Two Covenants: Rainbow Day, Shmita, and the Gulf

The iridescent colors reflected off an oil slick are like a twisted and distorted rainbow.

This coming Monday, May 10th, is also the 27th of Iyyarthe date when Noahs family and the animals left the ark and received the rainbow covenant.

There is a special correlation between this weeks Torah portion and the rainbow covenant of Noahs time. And there is a foreboding contrast between the rainbow covenant and whats happened in the Gulf of Mexico. The tension between these dynamic relationships in many ways defines the predicament of our time.

New Podcast Episode with Wilderness Torah’s Julie Wolk

Listen to our new PODCAST, Episode 5 by clicking here!

Co-Founder Julie Wolk sits down with me on the latest Hazon Podcast. Listen to what Wilderness Torah is doing to revitalize the American Jewish Community. Also, don’t forget you can subscribe on iTunes by searching “Hazon”.

Also, don’t forget that it is Earth Day this week, so check out all the options going on in your area. For a good listing, check this website out

They have a map where you can choose where you live and find out what is going on near you!

New Podcast – RideCast Special

Happy Rider

Check out this new special Ride Edition Podcast! If you haven’t heard, Hazon is allocating funds raised from the Bay Area Ride a bit differently than past rides. It’s pretty exciting and really putting the power in the hands (or cycles) of Ride participants, who will get to decide where to allocate the funds they raise.
Also, if you didn’t hear about last year’s NY Ride engagement story, Marc tells us what he was thinking the day he proposed on the Ride.

Check it all out by clicking here!

On Nisan and on Recalling

cherry blossom chrysler

The month Nisan begins tonight and with it, so many associations. Last year, I wrote about the practice of refraining from eating Matzah from Rosh Hodesh Nisan (i.e. tonight) until Passover. Most people make, if any, the association of dreaded Pesach cleaning and preparation. I’ll be writing some about that in a few days or next week, God willing, but for now, let’s stick to things connected specifically to Rosh Hodesh Nisan.

One association fewer people make is that Birkat haIlanot, the blessing over blooming trees, is typically said in the month of Nisan:

Torah to Go! Parasha Tetzaveh

photo by wollombi

This week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, opens with the commandment that the Israelites should bring ‘pure oil of beaten olives’ to the Sanctuary, so that Aaron and his sons can kindle a ner tamid, or a lamp which will be kept always burning.

The ner tamid is rich in symbolism, but for today, let’s focus on its fuel.  The commandment is to bring pure – we would call it, ‘extra-virgin’ – olive oil.  In the ancient world light was created from any number of substances.  In some forms of the Shabbat evening service we read a passage called Be-Meh Madlikin, from the Mishnah (Shabbat 2:1-7) which proves that pitch, wax, cottonseed oil, fat from sheeps’ tails or tallow, sesame oil, nut oil, radish oil, fish oil, gourd oil, tar or naptha were all possible sources of fuel.  But there Rabbi Tarfon rules that only olive oil may be used for Shabbat candles.

The Adventures of Todd & God: Bal Tashhit

This year my New Year’s resolution was to waste less food, and I guess I was on the same page as, um, God, because the newest video from is all about Bal Tashhit, the commandment from the Torah that prohibits wasteful destruction. In the past God has appeared to Todd as an orange, a female house DJ, and Flava Flav’s long lost twin borther. But this episode, God upped the ante–he appears as Al Gore.

Shomrei Torah Synagogue: Torah To Go! Parashat Va’era

Torah To Go – Va’era

At the beginning of this portion, we have a piece of Torah that gives rise to one of the most ancient traditions we possess:

6  So say to the people of Israel, I am God, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will save you from their slavery, and I will redeem you with a outstretched arm, and with great judgments; 7  And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exodus 6:6-8) 

Sukkot Drash Tishrei 21 5770/Oct. 9, 2009

Author’s note: The following is a drash I gave at my shul two days ago. My shul, Havurah Shalom in Portland, Oregon, is a participatory congregation.


We are in the final days of Sukkot, one of Judaism’s three harvest festivals, and one of my favorite times of year. The traditional observance of Sukkot: building a booth, decorating it with greens and seasonal fruits and veggies, eating and sleeping under its roof through which we must be able to see the stars, all highlight and make holy things we do every day: living in our homes, eating meals together, even sleeping. Perhaps this is why I look forward to Sukkot so much, or perhaps that it often coincides with my birthday (I’m still young enough to enjoy rather than dread it), or perhaps simply that it happens during the autumn, my favorite season of the year.

Judaism is particularly connected to food, and Sukkot especially to the bounty of our fall harvest. Now is the time for the first apples of the season, in all their amazing varieties, for winter squashes, for root vegetables, and for the last of summer’s abundance: the tomatoes, the zucchini, the pesto made from homemade basil. It is a time to celebrate the simple pleasure of growing and cooking and eating.

D.I.Y. Et Pret A Manger

This blog is not the right place for it, but still, Roger Cohen has really gotten on my nerves over the last year or so.  His ranting about how wonderful Iran is and how great it is for the Jews there made me question my devotion to the New York Times.  His  piece “Advantage France,” in Sunday’s paper, about some of the differences between the French diet and the American diet, may have me beginning to change my mind.  I’ve only spent a few days in France, and only in Paris, but I’m guessing he’s exaggerating somewhat.  Nevertheless, the idea of Americans adopting any diet (or lifestyle, really) that required not only combining the ingredients and cooking them, but processing them to begin with (filleting the fish, making the pasta, etc) does sound beautiful and absurd.  The idea of connecting to food on a “gut” level and a geographic one far predates the terroir of which Cohen writes, at least in Jewish tradition.


This past shabbat I visited Tikvat Israel, the synagogue whose Tuv Ha’aretz CSA we joined at the beginning of the summer. In honor of Shabbat Hazon, the shabbat before the fast of Tisha B’Av, and to celebrate the success of the Hazon CSA, Tikvat Israel served a vegetarian shabbat lunch for its congregants and CSA members. The lunch was chock-full of delicious organic and locally grown vegetables. Farmer Pam’s produce was used in such dishes as cucumber salad, savory zucchini bread and vegetarian chili. In addition to being delicious, the lunch served as a wonderful way to connect congregants and members of the CSA.

Fruit In Its Season

Yesterday was the first day (finally!) of my local farmers’ market here in NJ, and I’ll admit I went a bit fruit happy, coming home loaded with local blueberries, strawberries, and cherries. It took some detective work to figure out what things were not local–the farmer may be Pennsylvania Dutch but those sure aren’t local peaches, not yet. I’m much stricter about eating fruit locally and seasonally than I am vegetables. I can go months without fresh berries or stone fruit, hoping that it counts towards my balanced diet if I eat many servings of fruit in the summer and far fewer in the winter. Sure, there are days towards late February when I am sick of citrus fruit, grapes, and bananas, and look longingly towards the plums flown in from California. But in my heart, I know they will disappoint me.