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Friday, January 29, 2010

Kumah's Amazing, Unbeatable, Crunchy Munchy Tu B'Shevat Seder

We offer for your Tu b'Shevat-dining pleasure, written with our own dirt-encrusted hands, the Totally Awesome Kumah Tu B'Shevat seder! May it help you dig deeper roots in the Land, and taller branches in the Heavens.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Rain Drain

I am writing this on Rosh Chodesh of the month of Shevat. "Jewish Arbor Day" is coming up in 15 days and I am dreading it and wishing that someone would stick in a leap-month of some kind. When I see the beautiful white flowering of the almond tree I am sickened.

Why? Because I know that no rain has fallen. January has been the driest one on record in Israel. The Lake Kineret water supply is so low that ecological damage has set in. The summer is going to come very soon and it will dry up the rest of our precious water supply. The country is on the verge of dehydration and I just wish that winter had another month to do its thing - but to no avail.

All the commentators explain that we are in a drought. Low pressure this, high pressure that. But why is there no rain? No commentator has an answer. It's a fluke; it's nature; it's bad luck...

Judaism has always believed that rain, or lack of it, is under the direct supervision of G-d, and He doles it out in accordance with our behavior. If we are good, we are wet. If we are bad, we dry up. It's a simple, effective and direct causal relationship. It's also very kind, because it's a barometer of how we are doing as a nation. A period of drought is a period of self-reflection, prayer and repentance.

I am not G-d, but I figure He wants me to think about some reasons why there is a drought. It's like when a parent sends you to your room and says, "Think about what you did."

So here is some self-reflection:

Maybe the rain isn't coming because of Gilad Shalit and Jonathan Pollard.

In the last few weeks they were both on the verge of freedom, but they were denied that basic human right. Gilad Shalit has been held captive in Gaza for almost three years. During Operation Cast Lead, Gilad probably heard Israeli bombs landing hits on Hamas targets close by to him. He probably thought, "They are finally coming for me." Maybe he even though that this whole war was started just to bring him home. Alas, the war has ended, but our pain remains. Gilad is not home yet; instead, he is in the brutal hands of our haters. Why did our beloved country stop the war prematurely without bringing him back?

Jonathan Pollard may have also thought that his day of release had arrived. He has been rotting for 22 years in prison for the crime of passing vital information to Israel from a friend. In George Bush's final moments in office, Jewish activists pulled every political string to get a last-minute pardon from the President. Days before Bush's presidency came to a close, the White House actually suspended the comment line - they shut it down - so they wouldn't have to hear any more of the numerous calls begging for Jonathan's release. But while Pollard activists were doing their part, the political echelon never mentioned Jonathan, and we never heard that the State of Israel brought pressure to bear on America.

The redeeming of captives is one of Judaism's greatest commands. It speaks of everything we hold so dear, including, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." If we can't get them released, why would the clouds release their precious blessings on us?

Or maybe the rain isn't falling because of Israel's Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled against the Jewish National Fund's policy of selling land only to Jews. Yet the JNF collected that money from Jews throughout the world with the express purpose of buying property in the Land of Israel for Jews. How could that foundational Zionist activity be made illegal?

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the State can evict Jews from a building that was purchased in Hebron from Arabs. Yet the Jewish community had every proof that the house was legally bought, including video tapes of the seller admitting the sale and the receipt of money in return. Now, that house stands empty and boarded-off after an army eviction. How can legal purchases be overturned so arbitrarily?

Even more recently, the Supreme Court overturned a bi-partisan Election Committee decision to ban anti-Israel Arab parties from running in the upcoming election. The Knesset Election Committee felt that blatantly disloyal parties should not be allowed to run. But the Supreme Court, asserting itself in Israeli politics, overruled the committee and allowed those parties to run even though they openly support the destruction of Israel.

G-d in Heaven hates injustice, but it seems that the highest law in our land has no law at all. Their anti-Israel bent coupled with their immense power, untamed by any checks and balances, makes the Supreme Court the most dangerous entity in Israel today. How can we expect the Heavenly Court to judge us favorably when our own court has no regard for truth?

Or maybe the rain isn't falling because we waste the water we are given.

If you went to a venture capitalist and asked for a million dollars for a project, you would not be surprised if you got only a part of that money with the rest of the cash contingent on how you use the seed money first. Rain from heaven is the same. G-d says to us: "Here is just a bit of rain, and if I see you use it wisely, I will send down some more."

In many dry countries, like Australia, water capture technology is widespread. Roofs collect rain and siphon the water into big storage buckets. That water is later used for gardening or for toilet. Dish water and shower water is routinely recycled into the gardens in many countries. Israel should be a leader in this kind of technology, pioneering better ways to capture and utilize every drop of rain. But it is not. Most of the water that goes to the gutter on a rainy day gets dumped out into the desert with no practical usage. It simply gets wasted.

Now why would G-d send us more rain when we waste His gifts? Why would He give us blessing when we tolerate injustice? Why would He give us a hug when we forget to hug those who need us most?

Think of the drought as a gift, as a personal wake-up call to the nation. We can wake up. We must wake up. Or maybe instead we should just go back to our dry sleep. You know, dust to dust. Low pressure this, high pressure that. It's a fluke; it's nature; it's just bad luck.


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Monday, January 21, 2008

Tu B'Shvat in Beit Shemesh

Seder Tu B' Shvat & "Peirot Tish" w/ Rav Simcha Hochbaum (of Chevron) & Judah Mischel; Live Music, Divrei Torah, The 7 Species and over 60 Fruits & Nuts from Eretz Yisrael
@ Yeshivat Reishit, 21 Rechov Rashi, Beit Shemesh, 7:30pm (Men Only Please)

ברוכים הבאים

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kumah's Tu B'Shevat Seder

Does anyone know what tomorrow is?

If you are living in the United States of America you will probably answer “Of course - it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

No, silly! Tomorrow night is Tu B’Shvat!

(Those of you in Israel would say “Of course – It’s Tu B’Shvat tomorrow night!” And would say – “Really? MLK day? I had no idea!”)

Tu B’Shvat – yet another reason to make Aliyah. Here this “forgotten holiday” is actually widely celebrated. The sad truth is (even though, or perhaps because, I grew up in Yeshivish surroundings) I never even heard of a Tu B’shvat seder until I actually made Aliyah. Here everybody makes them.

Last year Kumah’s own Malkah put together an absolutely stunning Tu B’shvat Haggadah! (Special thanks the Yechiel for helping us dig it up.)


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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Planting in Gush Katif (1.5 Years Ago)

Keeping with the Tu B'Shvat theme, I decided to post some old planting pictures. These were taken 1.5 months before the expulsion (30 Sivan, 5765 - July 7, 2005). The funding for these plants came from Tzedakah because the government had stopped giving loans to farmers. If I remember correctly, these were planted in Gadid.

This is me:

All done:

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Got the Post TU B'Shvat Greens

There is something extra Ayit Fallspowerful about the winter prayer for rain that comes from the mouths of farmers. Since moving to Moshav Yonatan in the Golan Heights just one month ago, I've tried to do my part as well, joining my prayers for rain with those of these men of the Land. We've gotten a few sprinkles here and there, but nothing like the downpour beginning last night and continuing all day today.

The rolling hills and mountains are lush with exploding greenery and the waterfalls are gushing liquid gold straight to the Kinneret. Check out this picture of the Ayit waterfull in the central Golan. Intense.

Here in the Golan, especially in the moshavim and kibbutzim, you get a constant reminder of what it means to live close to the Land. Just this past Saturday night there was a moshav sponsored Tu B'Shvat party in the brand new lul, chicken coop, that the agricultural collective here just added to their many endeavors. Lovely Leah in the LulThe party was the moshav's way of dedicating this new state of the art, massive facility, which will eventually hold up to 25,000 chickens at a time for 3-4 month cycles. Our rabbi spoke about the connection between the last week's Torah portion, the new lul and Tu B'Shvat.

He described how it was that even after Am Yisrael witnessed the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the Red Sea they still complained about not having the quantity or variety of foods they had in Egypt. In other words, you can take the slave out of Egypt, but it's tough to take the slave out of the Israelite. Part of being a slave is that although life is hard and portions might be meager, at least you know where your next pot of meat is coming from. So Hashem tides them over with the manna to show that ultimately sustenance comes from Above. But it would be a tough lesson because in the Land of Israel they had to work by the sweat of their brow to produce food. This still holds true today. And it is the working of the Land, he said, that solidifies the Jews' connection to our home. This connection is weakening throughout the population, he worries, and is leading to results like the Disengagement. That said, it is because of strongholds of Jewish agriculture, like our collective, that this connection is kept alive by sowing the seeds and deepening the roots (Tu B'shvat connection) of our future here on the Land.

Speaking of Jewish agriculture, there was a powerful write up about Shai Dromi in the local Golan paper. I'll save that for a future blog.

In the meantime, suffice it to say, I'm blessed to live in a place where the water runs fast, the rabbis speak the truth and the parties are held in chicken coops.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Pictures from Tu BiShvat Keep Making Aliyah Shabbaton in Beit El

Tu BiShvat Tree Planting for all ages...
... on the Jewish Artis Hilltop in Beit El

The almond tree blossoms, as the classic Israeli
folk song goes, HaShkediyah Porachat - תחרופ הידקשה

Some other cool trees in Beit El:

More Tree Planting:

The Group on the Artis Hilltop of Beit El, then walking down to the cave, and listening to Tour Guide Yishai:

Arutz-Sheva Studio Tour and Recording, Motzaei Shabbat:
Yishai and Zev, Arutz-Sheva radio hosts

The group listens as we record...

Never too young to be on Arutz-Sheva!

Yishai loves his live studio!

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Kabbalistic Tu B'Shvat

Hey All, this is my first time posting, so any sweet and kind constructive criticism would be appreciated :)

Well Happy Tu B'Shvat!!!! ( Better late then never)

So when I heard it was the new year for the trees, I was a little curious what exactly that meant. I mean, our new year, Rosh Hashana consisted of many different prayers, the prohibitions nearly as stringent as Shabbat ( no use of any electronic items...), and the like. However, the new year for the trees didn't seem as "hard core," I mean we don't even add the "yale veyavo" blessing in our daily prayers. So I wanted to know what is so special about having a new year for the trees. Soooo, I went to the Shlomo Carlebach Shul, in the upper west side (NYC) and boy did I get what I asked for!!!

Apparently Tu B'Shvat is quite a cool holiday, even though it doesn't have all the hype of our new year or other holidays. It is steeped in mystical innuendos and the combination or our material world to the higher realms above. The meal (or as you will soon find out Seder, yeh like Pesach) lasted quite a while, but I will try to give you a little taste of the Kabbalistic Tu B'Shvat.

Ready....Nice... Aight here we go.

So the Kabbalistic Tu B'Shvat Seder was created in the 1500's by the Kabbalists of Sefad, Israel which were followers of the Ari Hakadosh ( Rabbi Issac Luria). The Seder is modeled like the Pesach Seder. We drink 4 cups of wine, but they start off as white wine, and a drop of red wine is added to each cup thereafter, until the last cup is totally red. You eat a total of 21 fruits, in 3 orders, corresponding to the 3 of the 4 Kabbalistic worlds; Olam Hab'riya ( world of creation), Olam Yetzira ( world of formation), and Olam Asi'ah ( world of action). There are set phrases and blessings that are recited during each world phase, and before going from one world to the next, a slight mediation is done, to allow the participants to fully internalize the spirituality of the fruits before they internalize the physical aspect (taste) of them.

So you can ask, what can be spiritual about fruit? Well one part of the Seder discusses that each person, while participating in the Seder, should have the intention that the fruit they are eating is a way to fix the sin of Adam and Eve with the Tree of Knowledge. The fact that a little orange can have the spiritual ability to fix the first sin of this creation, was quite cool.

Anyhow, I will end with one last interesting idea. One main part of the Seder was all the various blessings over the different fruits. One reason for this is because each thing G-d created, including fruit, has a specific angel that looks over it. When you make a blessing over the fruit, you enable that angel to produce more fruit, and help the spirituality of the fruit to spread over the world. ( side note: I love angels, so I particularly liked this one).

So that's the gist of if. Hope you enjoyed, comments are encouraged :)
TTFN, DFTSS. ~ Shulamit

Question: What fruit can be eaten whole, without throwing anything away?

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Tu B'Shvat in Beit El (Photos!)

Kumah, Yavneh Olami, and Am Segula teamed up to put together an unbelievable Tu B'Shvat Shabbaton in gorgeous Beit-El!

On Friday the group planted trees in one of the highest and most breathtaking points in the region. If you weren't there here's a bit of what you missed!

Yishai shows the group the stunning view.

Everyone helped out!

Keep making a splash!

More photos are on the way!

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Friday, February 02, 2007

The Rising

"Planted in the House of Hashem, in the courtyard of our God they will blossom" (Ps. 92)

Rebbe Yisrael, the Maggid of Koznitz explained that while the physical body of The Holy Temple has been destroyed, the essence of the Beit Hamikdash, the heart of the Jewish Nation, remains vibrant and intact.
Although no longer manifest physically as a tangible structure, the spiritual reality and influence of The Temple continues pump and direct Divine Life Force to the collective body of the revealed world.

"Man is as the tree of the field": Regardless of how brittle and weak we may appear externally, to the extent that we are connected to our Roots, the tree will continue to live, be rejuvenated and thrive. On Tu B'Shvat, when the sap begins to Rise within the fruit bearing trees, the process of rebirth begins (continues?) for Am Yisrael and all of creation. After a long and difficult winter- a long and difficult Exile- we are blossoming, and signs of renewed strength, life and growth begin to appear...

Tu B'Shvat is a time for a renewed commitment and strengthening of our National Mission, and a Return to our "Roots". At the core of our identity is the Heart of Am Yisrael: The Beit Hamikdash.

While we sing, enjoy and celebrate the fruits of The Land this Tu B'Shvat / Shabbat Shira, let's renew our "Temple consciousness" and remember the focal point of our spiritual and daily lives.

This Shabbat, when the Sea is splitting once again, let us pray that we merit the fulfillment of the Divine Promise described in the Shirat HaYam, and the Ultimate Goal and Purpose of our Nation:

"You will bring them and plant them on the Mount of Your Heritage, the Foundation of Your dwelling place that You Hashem have made..."

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Kumah Reloaded!

Above is the actual promo poster for The Matrix: Reloaded. But why did they pick 5.15 to launch the film? Could it be because Shevat is the fifth month? (Count 'em: Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat.) And the 15th of Shevat is symbolic of rebirth and rejuvenation, being the Rosh Hashana of the trees?

Of course not! We Jews start counting from the month of Nissan... so tomorrow, Tu B'Shvat, would be 11.15 - not 5.15.

(Incidentally, 5.15 is Tu B'Av on the Jewish calender. Hmm.)

Still Kumah does find Tu B'Shvat to be the perfect backdrop to unveil our new look, and a whole new team of star bloggers!

(And yes, we know all about all the kinks we still have to work out on the site and will shortly finish up those renovations.)

I'm honored to be the first blogger on this new site to help you free your mind...

Enjoy the ride!

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Malkah's Brand New Tu B'Shevat Seder!

There are several good Tu b'Shevat seders available on the internet, which will enable to celebrate the New Year of the Trees and the mystical and delicious fruits of the Land of Israel.

But when searching for one to conduct for myself and my friends this year, I couldn't find one that truly spoke to me.

So I made one.

Thanks to Aish, Yavneh Olami, Ahavat, the Jewish Women's Center of Pittsburgh for their contributions.

I hope you have a holy and meaningful Tu b'Shevat, here in the Land of Israel!


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