Sabbaths and Sabbaticals

May 16, 2014

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, May 16, 2014.

Sabbaths and Sabbaticals

Of course, we all understand the imperative of the Sabbath: to rest. Although today’s Jews who mark the Sabbath  look at that resting in a whole spectrum of ways from secular, to just Jewish, to the various range of religious Jews from those who don’t follow Jewish law strictly, to those who are very strict. Just like the Sabbath is a Sabbath of human beings who sometimes see themselves imitating God by resting on the seventh day, the Torah tells us that the earth itself must rest just as humans rest, and as the Torah tells us that God rests. The resting of the land is, in fact, discussed in this week’s portion as well as in last week’s. According to the Torah, we must allow the land itself to rest during the Sabbatical year (every seventh year) and especially in the Jubilee year (every 50 years). Scientists and horticulturists today tell us that allowing the earth to rest, is, in fact a good idea. At the very least, rotating crops, or allowing land to lie fallow helps replenish the soil – it’s necessary for good growth. Sustaining the earth helps nurture us, and, according to the Torah, is one of our essential responsibilities.

Of all the Jewish organizations in town, Tikkun Ha-Ir is the one that has undertaken to tackle the notion of stewardship of the earth, and feeding the hungry. Their name, Tikkun Ha-Ir, means “Repairing the City.” At their annual meeting this week they spotlighted their activities with their initiative “Surplus Harvest Milwaukee,” as well as honoring volunteers and staff of the Jewish Community Pantry.  Over the last year, they have collected 28,000 pounds of fresh produce from the Jewish Community Garden, and from private gardens, and from restaurants all over the city. These vegetables have been donated to food pantries and shelters in Milwaukee including the Jewish Community  Pantry. For many people living in “Food Deserts” in Milwaukee – areas where it is cheaper and more convenient to purchase junk food than it is to buy fresh vegetables – these pantries literally save their lives and allow families to feed their children healthier food. We are so proud of Tikkun Ha-Ir and the Jewish Community Pantry who passionately uphold these essential Jewish Values of sustaining the earth and feeding the hungry.

For more information and to get involved in Tikkun Ha-Ir go to get more involved in the Jewish Community Pantry go to

JCC Staff and Jewish Community Pantry volunteers being honored at the Tikkun Ha-Ir event.

Shabbat Shalom