11th Shevat, 5773, 22nd Jan 2013
In the broad scheme of things, spelling isn’t the most important thing in the world. (Sme of yu wll hv seen th wll-crculated rticle by Grhm Rwlinson tht demonsrates hw relatively easily we reed thngs lk this; if you haven’t, check out Typoglycemia .) The fellow we know as “William Shakespeare” spelled his own name in different ways during his lifetime, and its spelling evolved further after he died.
Nevertheless, the world has moved on since Shakespeare’s day; few of us nowadays would knowingly misspell a word. But a Jewish blogger thinks that we’ve been misspelling Tu B’Shvat for some while now, and last year he wrote a rather excellent blog post, titled, “Hazon sinks deeper into the hall of shame.”
Of all the things that we might, over the years, have been attacked for, I never imagined that the spelling of Tu B’Shvat might have prompted such opprobrium, but so it goes: the world of Hebrew transliteration is more passionate than some of you might suppose.
How, then, does one spell Tu b’Shvat?
The answer of course is: טו בשבט or, more accurately sometimes, ט’’ו בשבט.
Within this, ‘Tu” is the letters tet and vav, whose numeric values in Hebrew are 9 and 6, which sum to 15; “Shevat” is the Hebrew month; and “b” is a prefix meaning “of” or “in” (in standard transliteration, using a prefix causes the month’s name to conjugate to Shvat). So Tu B’Shvat – in Hebrew – is the 15th of Shevat.
September 28th 2012 / 12th Tishrei 5773
Sukkot starts on Sunday. It’s one of my favorite holidays: Sitting in a succah; the lulav and etrog; celebrating the harvest; feeling exposed to the world – in good ways; thinking about relationship to place – both locally, and in relation to Israel. Celebrating the change of season.
Liz and I are going to Isabella Freedman for Sukkahfest this Sunday – Freedman being the perfect place to spend Sukkot, as the New England leaves start to change color; and Sukkot being the perfect time to be at Isabella Freedman, especially since this year the succah, which is huge and beautiful, has a solid foundation, and thus won’t slide into the mud if it rains, which the weather forecast says is statistically unlikely. (Sukkahfest is almost sold-out, but to get one of the last reservations, or to join a list for cancellations, check Isabella Freedman’s website.)
August 23rd 2012 / 5th Elul 5772
It’s the dog-days of summer, but also the pre-season for the New Year. College students are moving into new dorms; rabbis are getting ready for Rosh Hashanah sermons. The shofar is blown at the start of morning services. The political conventions are about to happen. A new 7+ year daf yomi cycle is underway.
And I find myself thinking about questions and answers. In a few different contexts, in the last week or two, I was either revising educational materials, or else meeting with Jewish institutional leaders and talking about the forthcoming shmita (sabbatical year), which starts on Rosh Hashanah 5775 (2014).
Old models of pedagogy, and old models of orthodoxy – Jewish, Christian, and Western – tended to focus on answers and, in particular, the right answers. More recent ones nominally emphasize questions – “the question is more important than the answer,” etc.
I’m struck by how corrupting it is when people ask rhetorical questions, or questions to which they seek to elicit a particular answer. If you know the answer, why ask the question? Don’t waste my time. Or don’t pretend that you’re respecting my opinion, when really you’re not.
I think this is especially a problem in certain parts of the liberal Jewish world. I was going through some educational materials last week and I was trying to drill in to questions that are real questions. I think we do this too infrequently. (more…)
Thursday, 9th August 2012 / 21st Av 5772
New York, NY
Even though it’s August and the heat is at its worst, I wanted to mention the Shabbat of Hanukkah, which falls when the Hazon Food Conference returns to the east coast at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Freedman was where the Food Conference started, it’s the home of the Jewish Greening Fellowship, Adamah, and because its capacity is smaller than UC Davis (home of last year’s conference), it will certainly sell out. Early registration is open now and if you know that you’d like to come, please sign up now to book your place. (more…)
Thursday, 26th July 2012 / 7th Av 5772
I’ve spent the last few days with the Cross-USA riders and it’s been an inspiring and fascinating experience (and there are photos and stories online.)
Because the shabbat before tisha b’av is known as Shabbat Hazon, I’m often especially aware of this time of year. I wrote last week about Tisha B’Av in relation to mourning and hope. I wanted to add something this week about sinat chinam and ahavat chinam. (more…)
July 19, 2012 / 29 Tamuz 5772
Hazon’s theme quote, from the late Reb Shlomo Carlebach z”l, is “The Torah is a commentary on the world, and the world is a commentary on the Torah.” It’s a quote that means, essentially, if Jewish tradition matters at all, it has to be in a relationship with the world in which we live. We see this easily in relationship to Passover – themes of slavery and freedom are on the one hand traditional ideas in Jewish liturgy, and also animate contemporary discussions about food justice or Darfur or women’s rights. But it’s more of a challenge to see this play out 365 days a year. In what ways is the Torah a commentary on our daily lives, and how does the world we live in shift our understanding of Jewish teachings and Jewish ideas?
We’re now in the period of the Three Weeks, a period of mourning between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av. It’s a part of the Jewish calendar that is only minimally observed in the non-Orthodox Jewish community today. At a basic and traditional level, the period is marked by restrictions on eating meat and drinking wine. Most Jews haven’t heard of it, and for those who have it is often not a deeply meaningful part of the tradition. How could or should we make sense of it? (more…)
This summer, the first of 10,000 bikes will land on the streets of New York City thanks to a new bike share program. It’s as good a time as any for us to go back to basics in relation to Hazon’s work. While it’s true that I’m tremendously proud of our food work, and the role that Hazon has played in creating and supporting the New Jewish Food Movement — for instance, this is the seventh year of our annual Hazon Food Conference, and our CSA program is rolled out in 60 communities across the country — it’s also true that none of this would have been possible without the rides. (more…)
Easton, WA, June 12th / Kinneret, Israel, June 14th
I’ve started writing this email at the very beginning the Hazon Cross-USA Ride. And I’m finishing it by the shore of the Kinneret, in Israel, for our Siach conference. I’m excited to be in Israel and looking forward to Siach and the start of the Cross-USA Ride was amazing. (more…)
Shavuot is a rabbinic holiday overlaid upon an agricultural one: chag hakatzir (the holiday of reaping the harvest) and yom habikkurim (the day of the first fruits) which then became zman matan torateinu – the time of the giving of the Torah. And it’s the time of the giving of the Torah – and not, in its name, the receiving of the Torah because, in a sense, a person can give a gift, but only the recipient can decide if s/he wants to receive it. Thus each year, as it were, the Torah is given – and we each get to decide whether and how we receive it. (more…)
Second day of Hanukkah 5772 / 22nd December 2011
I got back from sabbatical exactly ten weeks ago. To my pleasant surprise, I’m still feeling calmer, more focused and more energized. That’s partly testament to riding my bike to work more regularly, and cutting down on sugar and junk food. But it’s also about having had the chance to step back from the day-to-day, and to think about Hazon’s work in relation to the world around us. As the year draws to a close, I want to give you a partial snapshot of Hazon, and a sense of where we’re headed. (more…)