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Yom Yerushalayim: When Streams of Tears Carried Us to the Wall

For two thousand years of exile, our people have prayed.  We have prayed – not to return to the land of Israel, but to return to the holy city of Jerusalem, Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh!  “Please turn Your wrath and anger away from Jerusalem, Your holy mountain…And now, our G-d, heed Your servant’s prayer and pleas, and let Your face shine on Your desolate Sanctuary, for Your sake, O Lord…” (Tachanun Prayer)
When Jews began to return to the land of Israel after the destruction of the first temple, Nechemiah came to the land of Israel and saw a community in crisis.  What was the cause of their difficult situation?  Nothing other than the degradation of Jerusalem: “The remnant that are left of the captivity there are in great affliction and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire…” (Nechemiah 1:3) When Jerusalem is desolate, so are we; only with its rebuilding can our people regain its strength.
When the Independence War ended in 1948 with the Old City of Jerusalem in Jordanian control, our joy was muted; when Jerusalem was liberated nineteen years later, our joy knew no bounds!  Even today, 53 years later, every Jewish heart beats faster when we hear those awesome words: “Har HaBayit b’Yadeinu”, “The Temple Mount is in our hands!”
Yom Yerushalayim, the return of our people to our holy city, is not merely a miracle of our generation; it is a miracle that belongs to all generations.  As R’ Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “We did not enter the city of Jerusalem on our own in 1967.  Streams of endless crying, endless praying, clinging, dreaming, day and night, midnights, years, decades, centuries, millennia, streams of tears, pledging, waiting – […]

By |May 22, 2020|

A Corona Jubilee?

Imagine a world in which no sale of property is final; a world in which, every fifty years, a nation’s economy is turned completely upside down as land is returned to its original owners.  Real estate empires would crumble, with massive land holdings divvied up into small farms overnight.  Thousands of impoverished tenants would be transformed into landlords, with each family reclaiming its ancient heritage.

It sounds fantastical, but this is an accurate description of Yovel, the Jubilee year described in Parshat Behar.  Every fifty years, on Yom Kippur day, the shofar was blown throughout the land of Israel.  With the call of the shofar, each man returned to his family’s ancestral land, and all Hebrew servants were set free.  And for the entire Yovel year, the land would lie fallow; “for it is a jubilee; it shall be holy unto you.” (Vayikra 25:12).

Although the Yovel year has not been practically operative for close to 2,500 years (since the destruction of the first Temple), it nevertheless demands explanation.  Why does G-d call require a dramatic restructuring of the economy every fifty years?  And what are we – 21st century Jews – meant to learn from the Mitzvah of Yovel?

When our ancestors first crossed the Jordan River and entered the land of Israel, each family received its own portion of the land.  From that time forward, every Jew was bound up with his unique piece of earth, working and developing it and ultimately passing it on to his children.

In Jewish thought, the ownership of land represents something more fundamental than an economic asset, something deeper than rock and soil.  Each portion of land symbolizes its owner’s unique “portion” in life; for just as every plot of land is unique, so […]

By |May 14, 2020|

After the Cave: A Lesson from Rebbe Shimon for the Post-Corona World

As the Talmud famously relates, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was once overheard criticizing the Roman regime, and when his comments were reported to the Roman authorities, he was forced to flee for his life.  Without telling anyone of their whereabouts, Rabbi Shimon and his son hid in a cave, where they were sustained by a spring of fresh water and a carob tree that had miraculously sprung up at the entrance to the cave. For twelve years, Rabbi Shimon and his son studied and prayed without interruption, until they became the holiest sages of their day.

After twelve intense years, the prophet Eliyahu brought them good tidings; there was a change in the Roman government, and it was now safe to emerge from the cave and return to society.  Rabbi Shimon and his son left the cave, and soon passed a field where they saw Jewish farmers working the land.  Shocked by such mundane activities, they said, “How can people give up the sacred study of the Torah (חיי עולם, eternal life) for worldly matters (חיי שעה, temporal life)?!”  As soon as they uttered these words, all the produce of the field erupted in flames!  Immediately, a voice from heaven spoke to Rabbi Shimon and his son: “Have you come out to destroy My world? Go back to your cave!”  And so they returned to the cave for another twelve months, only leaving when they heard the same heavenly voice calling them to leave.

Upon leaving the cave for the second time, they saw an older Jew carrying two bunches of myrtle, rushing to get home on Friday afternoon.  Curious, they asked the man what the myrtle was for. “It is to adorn my house in honor of the Shabbat,” the […]

By |May 11, 2020|

The Shabbat of Greatness

A “Great” Shabbat?

Every year on the Shabbat before Pesach, I give a Shabbat HaGadol drasha on (what I hope is) a compelling topic relating to the holiday of Pesach.  Over the last several years, we’ve studied the ‘four sons’ in depth, as well as other Mitzvot and customs of the Seder.  But often overlooked, in both my own speeches and others, is the status of this Shabbat itself – the “Great Shabbat”, Shabbat HaGadol.  Why, exactly, is this Shabbat so great?

Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher, in his classic Halachic work, the Tur, explains:

The Shabbat before Pesach is called Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Shabbat.  The reason for this is that on this Shabbat, a great miracle occurred.  On that first Pesach celebrated in Egypt, there was a special commandment to set aside a lamb for the Passover sacrifice on the tenth day of Nissan (four days before the sacrifice was actually brought), as the verse states: ‘In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household.’  The people of Israel left Egypt on Thursday (the 15th of Nissan), and so the tenth day of Nissan fell on Shabbat.  On that Shabbat, each Israelite family took a lamb and tied it to the legs of their bed.  When the Egyptians asked them why they were doing this, the Israelites answered: ‘These lambs will be slaughtered as a Passover offering according to G-d’s command.’  Hearing this, the Egyptians ground their teeth (in anger), for the Israelites were planning to slaughter lambs, which they considered to be gods.  But the Egyptians were not able to protest.  Because of this great miracle (that the […]

By |April 2, 2020|

The Lulav Jews: Rediscovering Pride in Modern Orthodoxy

Orthodox Lite?

For as long as I can remember, anxious leaders and thinkers in our community have been asking the same question: can our community – the Modern Orthodoxy community of America – survive?  But in recent years, as the broader American population has become increasingly polarized in its political and cultural views, “centrist” orthodoxy seems, more than ever, to have lost its luster.

Numerically, the Modern Orthodox make up only 3% of American Jewry – perhaps 175,000 Jews altogether – a number which has remained static for some time, and which is far smaller than the growing Yeshivish and Chassidic communities.  Some of our children leave Orthodoxy altogether – an all too common, and painful, phenomenon – while others join the Yeshivish community, which also weakens the community they leave behind.  Finally, many of our most dedicated young people make Aliyah, a source of great pride for our community, but one which deprives American Modern Orthodoxy of its most passionate and idealistic future leaders.

But beyond numbers, the more significant question is whether there is a compelling reason to remain a part of this community altogether.  Why, exactly, would one choose to live their life as a Modern Orthodox Jew?

The financial pressures that go hand in hand with Modern Orthodoxy, with yeshiva day school tuition at the top of the list, are enough to make many people think twice before joining the community.  Compared to public school, or even right wing yeshivas, the costs are astronomical.

And in return, what do we get?  Though we enjoy schmoozing with our friends at Shul, the Tefillah experience itself isn’t exactly inspiring, to put it kindly.  Lacking the passion and joy found in many Chassidic communities, many adults join their […]

By |October 16, 2019|

Zoo week in the sunflower class camp

We celebrated Mazali’s birthday by baking pink cupcakes, making her a Jewelry box and birthday crown. We sang happy birthday and ate the delicious cupcakes.

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For our animal theme this week the children enjoyed playing with the farm house toy animals and sand old mc Donald with animal puppets.

The children glued loose parts on their fish. They also glued on black and white foam paper on to a plate and made zebra masks.

The zoo came to visit camp. The children got to hear facts about the animals and touch some of them.

The children ate teddy bear graham cookies for snack in honor of Zoo week.

The children love using their imagination while playing with their friends.

Riding bikes,scooters and bouncing on bouncy balls is a good way to work on our gross motor skills.

The children squished their hands into shaving cream during water play. They used sponges to wash cars and spray bottle to clean it off. They cooled off with a ices treat.

The children used animal foam shapes and painting outside with foam paint. It was fun to wash out hands off in the water table and watch the water change colors.

For our zoo theme week we made a snake out of beads. The children are so good stringing the beads onto the land yard.

Play dough time

We had a camp wide Shabbat with Rabbi Mischel. We sang Shabbat songs while listening to the guitar. We lit the candles ,drank grape juice,ate challah and had a special Shabbat treat.

Summer went by so fast. We all had a blast. We will miss everyone. Hope to see everyone for Camp Cochavim 2020.

Shabbat Shalom,

Morah Blimie, Hannah and Emunah

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By |August 14, 2019|

Beach week in the sunflower camp class

The children really enjoyed art time this week. They made many beach themed projects. They glued fish onto a fish bowl and poured sand on to it. They poured different colored sand and made a sand necklace. They were so proud to wear their necklaces. They also made a beach in a bottle. Pealing and sticking on fish stickers to the bottles, pouring sand and sea shells into the water bottle really made us feel like we were at the beach.

In honor of our counselor Klilah’s birthday we baked a beach theme cake. The children measured, poured and took turns mixing the ingredients. We added blue food coloring to represent the ocean. We joined the sprouts class for a picnic birthday party. The children ate the delicious cake as well as an ice cream treat for our carnival day.

Carnival day was so much fun. The children jumped in the bounce house. Played all kinds of carnival game like ring toss. Took pictures in our photo booth and got their faces painted.

The children gave the lemonade drink for carnival day a thumbs up.

The children’s imagination grew during play time when they used the toy tools to fix the doll house. Reading stories, riding the scooters and bikes was enjoyed by all.

During circle time the boys shared their tzitut to make a bracha and kiss it.

During water play the children had fun squishing their hands into the blue food coloring that was mixed into the shaving cream. They washed toy cars with soap,water and sponges. The car wash has become a very popular game at water play.

For beach week we made moon sand. The children poured and mixed flour and baby oil into a container and […]

By |August 8, 2019|

Beach week at Sprout Camp

The children had a wonderful day on Monday celebrating beach week at sprout camp. We started off with water play and welcome to our new camper Boaz. It was cool outside today so the children enjoyed playing for a while at the water table, sprinklers and cars. Then we came inside to dry off and have our delicious snack together. After snacktime we went into the art room to paint a treasure box present for Ami who turned two on Sunday. We will celebrate his birthday together tomorrow. Since it’s beach week the children also went fishing in a mock fish tank with colorful rings made from a pool noodle. The children had a wonderful time scooping up the rings and catching them with wooden spoons and other utensils. We finished off the day in our exploration room where the children played with the sand table boxes of beans giggled together on the slide and played hide and seek in a tent. We had a great day together. p

On Tuesday at camp we started off with water play, but filled the tables with liquid soap to make suds to wash the cars. We also had a fun time coloring the water with food coloring, to make green, blue, red, orange and yellow water. The kids had a great time playing with the suds and washing no cars and each other. Then we came inside to dry off and celebrate Ami’s Two-year-old birthday with a special treat of marshmallow rice crispy bars with sprinkles. The children really enjoyed singing to him and giving him a beautifully decorated tzedkah box that they made themselves. Then we made lemonade with the children since it’s beach week. The […]

By |August 6, 2019|

Sprouts camp, let’s pretend week

We had a great day today at sprouts camp where we started off the day at water play. The children splashed and cooled off from the hot summer sun. They had a great time playing in the sprinklers and blowing bubbles. Then we came inside for ice pops and snack 😊 Since it’s exploration week, we had the children do some dot paint on rainbow printouts and painted glue on the pictures to stick on the clouds. The children were also happy to have counselor Lilly back at camp. They had a wonderful day!

Tuesday was a hot day outside, so we started with water play. We took out the cars and made a car wash! They had a fabulous time together splashing in the cold water while driving cars! We decided to pretend we were bears today since it’s less pretend week in our so the children had apples and honey for a snack. We had a great time playing in the exploration room in the afternoon with the sand table and buckets of dried beans.It was a great day at camp,

The children had a fabulous day at camp on Wednesday. We started off in the shade of the playground. The children played with balls and chalk and bubbles and had a great time. Then we moved over to water play to cool off from the very hot sun today. We kept the cars outside for the children to play with and they love the idea of the car wash they splashed in the water and sang songs and blew bubbles together. Then we came inside for snacktime and enjoyed some quiet playtime with our classroom toys and books. Since it was Wednesday we […]

By |August 2, 2019|

Let’s pretend week in the sunflower camp

The children used their imagination to make their own pictures out of colored sticks. Some children said they made a boat,dog and even a cake. They are very proud of their art master pieces.

The children colored with brown markers and crayons and stuck stickers on to a plate to create their own bear masks to go on our bear hunt.

The children had an amazing time at imagine that.

Playtime, story time and riding bikes is enjoyed by all. It’s a great way for the children to use their imaginations. During bike time the children take turns filling the bikes up with gas and even pretending to change tires.

The children sit so nicely and sing loudly while we say our tefilah by circle time.

During water play the children played car wash. They used sponges and shaving to wash the cars and used buckets of water and sprays bottle to wash them off. Some children drove their cars through the sprinkles. The children enjoyed a special ices treat.

The children’s imagination grew as they played in the playground. Some children collected sticks,rocks and soil to make a bonfire. While others used soil and acorns to make pretend cupcakes.

It was amazing to see their creations made out of legos. Some children made cars, dogs, and even a cowboy woody.

The children made a special Shabbat treat. They measured and poured out the Rice Krispies and mixed in the marshmallow fluff and sprinkled the top with colored sprinkles. It was so delicious to eat with our Shabbat grape juice and challah.

Shabbat Shalom,

Morah Blimie, Hannah, Emunah

By |July 31, 2019|