Monthly News from JNF’s Advocacy & Education Department
Shana Tova from Jewish National Fund-USA’s Israel Advocacy and Education Department! There are many programs and events happening around the country, with school back in session, 9/11 programs commemorating the 20th anniversary of that tragic day, information sessions for Alexander Muss High School in Israel, and more. But during the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah, we’d like to take the time to pause and reflect on all we have accomplished as a community, and to thank you for being a part of our education family. We wish you and your families a very sweet, happy, and healthy 5782!
The Israel Advocacy & Education Team
The Gift You Give, Before You Get It
From Parashat Ki Tavo, Deut 26:1-29:8
By Rick Abrams, Israel Programs Admissions Director, NJ & Eastern PA
A familiar yet curious text occurs in the week’s Torah portion, Parashat Ki Tavo. This portion is toward the end of Moses’ long sermon to the Children of Israel, right before they enter the land promised to them by God.
Here’s the text, from Deuteronomy 26:1-10 (with the Hebrew only for 5-10)
When you enter the land that The Eternal your God is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that The Eternal your God is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where The Eternal your God will choose to establish His name.
You shall go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, “I acknowledge this day before The Eternal your God that I have entered the land that The Eternal swore to our fathers to assign us.” The priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down in front of the altar of The Eternal your God. You shall then recite what follows before The Eternal your God:
אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי וַיֵּרֶד מִצְרַיְמָה וַיָּגׇר שָׁם בִּמְתֵי מְעָט וַיְהִי־שָׁם לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל עָצוּם וָרָב׃
וַיָּרֵעוּ אֹתָנוּ הַמִּצְרִים וַיְעַנּוּנוּ וַיִּתְּנוּ עָלֵינוּ עֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה׃
וַנִּצְעַק אֶל־יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֵינוּ וַיִּשְׁמַע יְהֹוָה אֶת־קֹלֵנוּ וַיַּרְא אֶת־עׇנְיֵנוּ וְאֶת־עֲמָלֵנוּ וְאֶת־לַחֲצֵנוּ׃
וַיּוֹצִאֵנוּ יְהֹוָה מִמִּצְרַיִם בְּיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבְמֹרָא גָּדֹל וּבְאֹתוֹת וּבְמֹפְתִים׃
וַיְבִאֵנוּ אֶל־הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה וַיִּתֶּן־לָנוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ׃
וְעַתָּה הִנֵּה הֵבֵאתִי אֶת־רֵאשִׁית פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר־נָתַתָּה לִּי… ׃
“My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. We cried to The Eternal, the God of our fathers, and The Eternal heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. The Eternal freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, O Eternal, have given me.”
Sound familiar? Yes, much of this same text is used in our Passover Haggadot, during the main part of the seder, the maggid. So, for the rabbis who assembled the Haggadah, this text makes perfect sense. It is curious to me that the Haggadah ends with verse 9 and doesn’t mention that God “brought us to …a land flowing with milk and honey.”
More curious though, within the text, is the fact that Moses says this before the Israelites enter the land. This fact perplexes me, and many others, like Rabbi Dr. Dalia Marx, professor of liturgy and Midrash at HUC-JIR, Jerusalem. About this topic, she wrote:
The declaration of the first fruits is a bold text. The context of the passage in Deuteronomy, as part of Moses’ address to the Israelites on the plains of Moab, calls upon the Israelites wandering in the wilderness with no permanent ties to the earth to imagine themselves as farmers securely living in their own land. But simultaneously, the text demands of (future) farmers living in their own land that they remember their days as wanderers in the wilderness—and necessarily as well ponder the fragility of their own lives.
This text, and context around it, does something remarkable: it brings the past into the future. It allows us to remember our long and wonderful history and shows us how we can use it to guide our actions moving forward. The people with no land (yet) are to make sure that the first fruit of their soil is offered to God when they do get to the land.
It’s why we on Pesach can take the seder’s “thesis statement” (In every generation one is obligated to feel as if we were freed from Mitzrayim) and use it to kindle a fire under us to improve this world by teaching and living values like righteousness/tzedakah, and loving-kindness/chesed.
This time-bending ability allows us to step into the roles of supplicant and congregant every year at this time. (S’lichot for many of our communities, is this coming Saturday night). And it reminds us that, although God promised the “land of milk and honey” to Moses and his community, today the Jewish National Fund-USA is still building and renewing the land.
Join us in helping to support the land and people of Israel on Sunday, September 12th, as we take part in our second Spectacular Sunday event. Click this link to set up your own fundraising page, and be sure to tune in for live music, comedy, and more. Every dollar you raise will be matched dollar for dollar up to $1.5 million. So, every dollar counts twice as much! No donation is too small.
Live Jerusalem S’lichot Tour
In preparation for the High Holy Days, the neighborhood of Nachlaot in Jerusalem awakens early to recite the S'lichot prayers. Join Jewish National Fund-USA, Olam Shalem, and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael in this unique interactive spiritual experience and live tour of Nachlaot. Through prayer and songs, we will bring you the magic and mystery that emanates from the streets of Nachlaot during this time. This free virtual experience will be offered in both a Hebrew and English format.
Hebrew Virtual Tour: September 1, 2021 at 6pm ET
English Virtual Tour: September 2, 2021 at 6pm ET
Caravan for Democracy Teaches Student Leaders about Israel
This past July, Jewish National Fund-USA helped over 60 student leaders from universities all over the country see Israel. These students are beyond the Jewish faith, and all have an interest to learn more about Israel. This fully subsidized mission has been instrumental in helping Israel garner more support on college campuses. Jewish National Fund-USA is currently accepting nominations for student leaders to join the next Caravan for Democracy Mission in December 2021. Know a student who would love to experience Israel as a leader on their campus? Nominate a student today!
Sign Up for Tu BiShvat 2022
We’re already preparing for Tu Bishvat 2022! Every year we offer a comprehensive educational and fundraising program for schools and organizations. Sign up below to help us plan our full program, and get access to training, and our fundraising kit!