BLESSING FOR STUDYING TORAH

L’Dor VaDor – לידור ודור

legacy, literally from generation to generation

Every generation of the Jewish community passes traditions and values to the next. We often receive our legacies from our families, but equally from our community, industry, friends, networks, etc. This is more than a mere copy being forwarded, rather we shape Judaism as we share it with the next generation. That is how Judaism evolves, while staying consistent with our past. As we pass Judaism to the next generation, we must consider which voices are heard and valued, which are missing. We must be conscious of what values we model and teach, as well as how we share them.

FROM OUR TRADITION

  1. One day, he [Choni the Circle Drawer] was walking along the road when he saw a man planting a carob tree. Choni said to him: After how many years will this tree bear fruit? The man said to him: It will not produce fruit until seventy years have passed. Choni said to him: Are you certain that you will live seventy years, that you expect to benefit from this tree? Choni said to him: I found a world full of carob trees. Just as my ancestors planted for me, so I too am planting for my children. Babylonian Talmud, Taanit, 23a
     

  2. The real challenge of feminism to Judaism emerges....When women, with our own history and spirituality and attitudes and experiences, demand equality in a community that will allow itself to be changed by our differences, when we ask that our memories become part of the Jewish memory and our presence change the present.... Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective
     

  3. Memory is the connections. Meaning comes from what something is connected to. Something unconnected, unassociated with, unrelated to anything is literally meaningless. Conversely something connected, associated, linked with many things is supercharged with meaning. And the farther back in time the connections go, the greater the meaning. By joining pieces of our lives together we create ourselves, free ourselves. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, The Book of Words

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. What are some values (positive, negative, or neutral values) that you have received? List them.

  2. What is a value you particularly want to pass forward to the next generation? Why is it important to you?

  3. What is a money value that your family/community passed forward to you?

  4. If you want to pass forward that money value to the next generation, how do you do that? If not, how do you prevent passing it forward?

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Tikkun Olam – תקון עולם

legacy, literally from generation to generation

Rooted in teachings from the Mishneh (2ndc. CE) and Lurianic Kabbalah (16thc. CE), the term tikkun olam, in modern Judaism, has become a clarion call for repairing the brokenness of the world. It points to social injustices, while inviting us to be God’s partners in fixing them. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the brokenness, but tikkun olam is work done together in divine and human partnership, giving us strength and perseverance.

FROM OUR TRADITION

  1. Rabbi Tarfon used to say: The day is short, the task is abundant, the laborers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master of the house is pressing. He used to say: You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to desist from it. Pirkei Avot 2:15- 16
     

  2. No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock fetters of wickedness; to untie the cords of the yoke; to let the oppressed go free; to break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry; to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to ignore your own kin. Isaiah 58:6-8
     

  3. When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the Eternal am your God. Leviticus 19:9-10

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. When you look around to the world, what brokenness do you see? Make a list (Please save this list for a session four)

  2. Now put a mark next to the three types of brokenness that concern you the most.

  3. How can we find balance between being attentive to improving the world and being
    overwhelmed by those needs.

  4. Share a story of repair that gives you hope, any example from a small act of kindness or a
    major philanthropic effort.

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Bitachon – ביטחון

trust

Bitachon literally means trust, but usually refers specifically to trust in God. The traditional texts explore the connection between faith in God and trust in God. It is also possible to widen the discussion of bitachon to consider our sense of trust in the world in general. Therefore, our definition of this value can expand to include our feeling of security, whether universal or in a specific realm. Trust and security can lead to optimism.

FROM OUR TRADITION

  1. [The Israelites were fleeing servitude in Egypt, Pharaoh’s army was pursuing them, and no one want to proceed as the Sea of Reeds split open.] One said, 'I'm not going in first," and another said, 'I'm not going in first." …Since they (the Israelites) were arguing, Nachshon ben Amminadav jumped (into the Sea of Reeds), and his tribe followed him into the sea. Midrash, Mechilta DiRabbi Yishmael, BiShalach
     

  2. A woman of valor: Her worth is far beyond that of rubies.
    Her husband trusts (בָּ֣טַח, batach,) her, And lacks no good thing.
    She is good to him, never bad, All the days of her life….
    She rises while it is still night, And supplies provisions for her household….
    She girds herself with strength and performs her tasks with vigor.
    She sees that her business thrives; Her lamp never goes out at night….
    She gives generously to the poor; Her hands are stretched out to the needy. 
    Proverbs 31:10-20, excerpted

     

  3. Grant, O God, that we lie down in peace, and raise us up, our Guardian, to life renewed. Spread over us the shelter of Your peace. Guide us with Your good counsel; for Your Name’s sake, be our help. Shield and shelter us beneath the shadow of Your wings. Defend us against enemies, illness, war, famine and sorrow. Distance us from wrongdoing. For You, God, watch over us and deliver us. For You, God, are gracious and merciful. Guard our going and coming, to life and to peace evermore. Hashkiveinu from the evening prayer service

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. What factors allow us to trust?

  2. When is trust warranted and when is distrust or fear to be embraced as a warning?

  3. In matters of money, what instills trust and security in you? What does not?

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Tzedek - צדק

justice

Popularly understood to mean justice or righteousness. The term has a relational dimension. As Rabbi Jill Jacobs extrapolates from the word’s cognates, “…a person practices tzedek (alternatively understood as courage, legitimacy, loyalty, or responsibility) not abstractly, but within the context of a relationship with another person.” Tzedek is the root of the word tzedakah, which means to monetary gifts to the poor. Today we often expand the understanding of tzedakah to denote creating justice through financial means. Tzedakah, differs from charity, which comes from Latin, meaning gifts given out of benevolence and generosity. Rather, tzedakah is a mitzvah, an obligation.

FROM OUR TRADITION

  1. Tzedek, tzedek tirdof, Justice, Justice, you shall pursue, Deuteronomy 16:20
     

  2. Given our understanding of tzedek as a relational term that indicate the responsibility of the powerful for the powerless, and the pursuit of a society that establishes protections against oppression, we can now define tzedakah as a financial means of achieving these goals. In addition to being a means of meeting the immediate physical needs of the poor, tzedakah ideally aims to transform the system into one that is more equitable for the most vulnerable members of society. Rabbi Jill Jacobs, There Shall Be No Needy 
     

  3. The Torah created a remarkable framework for caring for the most desperate and hurting people in the ancient world.  At a time when wealth was your land, animals, and crops, the Torah stipulated that a certain part of your fields didn’t in fact belong to you at all, but belonged to people who were poor, needy, and homeless. These are called:
    Pe’ah – the corners of the field;
    Leket – the gleanings that were dropped by those harvesting the field the first time around, or were neglected to be harvested;
    Shichecha – parts of the field that had inadvertently been forgotten to be harvested.
    Rabbi Neal Gold, Blog, 2017/4/17

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. Deuteronomy 16:20 instructs us to pursue justice. What is the difference between doing and pursuing justice? Why pursue?

  2. Take a look at your list from the Tikkun Olam discussion in session two. Mark the forms of brokenness you pursue to repair through tzedaka, investment, or hands on work. Give an example from your life of justice you are pursuing.

  3. Tzedakah is commanded, an obligation. Would you rather it be an obligation or a free will offering? Why?

  4. What are some of the ways we can pursue tzedek justice through money? Think broadly, beyond tzedakah.

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Anavah – ענווה

humility

Like most personal traits, Anavah, humility, is about finding balance. Too much humility can reflect poor self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. In addition, acting with too much humility can lead to limiting your impact on others, as well as feeling the joy of being you. Too little humility can reflect inflated ego and self-absorption. Acting with too little humility can mean not creating space for others. The goal is not to have or not have humility; it is to have balanced humility.

FROM OUR TRADITION

  1. Rabbi Simcha Bunam of Pzhysha used to teach: each person must have two pockets, so that they can reach into the one or the other according to their needs. In the right pocket are to be the words “I am but dust and ashes.” (Genesis 18:27) And in the left: “For my sake the world was created.” (BT, Sanhedrin 37a) Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim: Later Masters.
     

  2. Rabbi Meshulam Zusya of Hanipol (Anipoli) used to teach, “‘In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?'” Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim: Early Masters
     

  3. Eternal, we are arrogant and stubborn, claiming to be blameless and free of sin. In truth, we have stumbled and strayed. We have sinned. Introduction to the Ashamnu prayer, Yom Kippur
     

  4. Be serious and humble; do not seek honor or take excessive pride in your position or clothing, But do not overdo it, for excessive humility easily becomes presumption. Eliezer Papo, Pele Yoetz

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. Everyone has moments of too little or too much humility. However, when you consider Rabbi Zusya’s pockets, would you reach for the left or right pocket more frequently? What prompts you to need one pocket over another? How would having those messages available shape your feelings? Your actions?

  2. As women, how do we fill more space and take on more leadership, but retain the appropriate balance of humility?

  3. How does social media shape our relationship to humility?

  4. How does our balance of humility affect our money decisions?

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Chinuch – חינוך

education

Judaism values and celebrates education. Parents are commanded to make sure their children receive a solid Jewish education, but also to ensure their children learn to swim and have a craft or trade, a way to support themselves (Kiddushin 29a). Adults are commanded to engage in Talmud Torah, Torah study, as a lifetime pursuit. Sometimes Torah is defined very expansively. For example, Maimonides even considered math and science to be part of Torah. Education takes place in every stage of life, in both formal and informal settings, through direct pedagogy and living example.

FROM OUR TRADITION

  1. And you shall love the Eternal your God with all of your heart and all of your strength and all your might. And these words which I command you today shall remain in your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you are sitting in your home and when you are walking on your way and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your arms and wear them as frontlets between your eyes. and you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
     

  2. For thousands of years, we Jews had nothing but books. We had no lands, we had no holy sites, we had no magnificent architecture, we had no heroes. We had books, we had texts, and those texts were always discussed around the family table. They became part of the family life, and they traveled from one generation to the next — not unchanged, not unchallenged, but reinterpreted in each generation and reread by each generation. Amos Oz
     

  3. Rabbi Ḥanina said: I have learned much from my teachers and even more from my friends, but from my students I have learned more than from all of them. Talmud, Taanit 7a

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. Share a reflection on a favorite teacher. Why is this person important to you?

  2. In your adult life, who or what has taught you the most?

  3. In money matters, when do you know that you have enough information to make decisions? What information or process helps you move forward?

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Shalom/Shleimut– חינוך

peace/wholeness

Peace is our deepest prayer, but what is shalom? Is it something tangible, describable? Or is it merely the absence of negative, destructive forces? Does the ideal of peace vary from person to person? One way to parse shalom and shleimut is to think of shalom as the communal form and shleimut as the personal experience of peace. As Rabbi Richard Address explains, “…shleimut is the sense that our life has evolved into a feeling of complete harmony.” These words remind us of shlom bayit, the quest for peace within our homes.

FROM OUR TRADITION

  1. This “peace” is not just … lack of war between different groups. Saying that “God’s Name is ‘Peace'” means that peace has a meaning beyond lack of war, a meaning that also transcends the transient phenomena of our world and reaches the highest levels of existence. It is peace not only between people who hate each other, or between the beasts of the field, but a general, all-encompassing peace which is an expression of the whole (in Hebrew, the words “peace” – shalom, “whole” – shalem, and wholeness – shleimut, all come from the same root), and which is therefore peace between all the warring forces in the world. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
     

  2. Hillel used to say: be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving humanity and drawing them close to the Torah. Pirkei Avot, 1:12
     

  3. Said Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai: Great is peace, for all blessings are included with it, "Adonai grants strength to God’s people, the Eternal blesses God’s people with peace" (Psalm 29:11). Ḥizkiyah said two things. Ḥizkiyah said: Great is peace, for all the commandments are written this way: "When you see" (Exodus 23:5), "when you encounter" (Exodus 23:4), "when you come across" (Deuteronomy 22:6). If a commandment comes to you, you are bound to do it, but if not, you are not bound to do it. But here it says "Seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:15) – seek it for your place, and pursue it for other places… Vayikra Rabbah, 9:9

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. How can we each pursue peace?

  2. What makes you feel shleimut, wholeness? 

  3. In which parts of your life do you want a greater feeling of shleimut?

  4. How can money/wealth lead or detract from the feeling of shleimut?

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