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Tuv Ha'Shavuah Articles -- June 24, 2010

A Heavy Dose of Trust
By Justin Goldstein, Hazon Rabbinic Fellow

In Parashat Balak we read the famous story of the Moabite king, Balak, who wants the support of the prophet Bilaam.  In exchange for great honor, Bilaam was asked to curse the Israelites because the king feared they would consume everything in their path as they made their way toward Eretz Yisrael.  While traveling with the princes of Moab to do the bidding of Balak, at God’s own behest, God sends a divine messenger which Bilaam does not see standing in his path.  The donkey he is riding upon, however, does.

In a tragic, if not comical, display of arrogance, Bilaam strikes the donkey a total of three times after suffering personal injury and humiliation.  And as if nothing were particularly strange of it, God opens her mouth and Bilaam’s donkey says, “Am I not your donkey which you’ve ridden, upon me, from when you started until this day?  Have I been accustomed to do this to you?” 
It is striking that the donkey can see what the prophet cannot.  Rashi, the 11th century French commentator, notes that God gave animals the ability to see and comprehend things which human beings cannot.  According to Rashi, we would lose our minds if we could see the things animals can see.  Divine messenger or not, Bilaam truly had no choice but to trust the donkey upon which he rode from when he started―a donkey who had guided him safely and with good intention.

When we rely on our local growers to provide us with our produce we must do so with a heavy dose of trust.  As members of CSAs, we don’t always know exactly what we’re going to get.  Many times, farmers and gardeners never know exactly what they’re going to get.  Those who grow our food rely on their knowledge, expertise, intuition, and a good deal of trust.  Had Bilaam trusted his donkey’s instinct, he wouldn’t have had to go through the pain and embarrassment.  Like a trustworthy companion, we have to rely on those who grow and sustain our food.  Like our growers, we must also trust the earth and trust God to provide for us what we need in each season.  Sometimes the human instinct is to fight back, but the key to successful gardening and farming, and to a successful kitchen experience with a CSA, is to trust the earth and those who grow our food. 

News from Eden Village Camp
By Debra Rich, Farm Manager

Welcome to the exciting new farm at Eden Village Camp! Since March, we have been working non-stop to design and implement a small-scale production farm that will not only provide wholesome organic produce to campers and staff, but be an inspiring tool for teaching about sustainable practices, organic farming, and Jewish tradition. Within our 1.75-acre field, we currently have more than ¼ acre in organic vegetable production, a small composting area, one acre in cover crop for improving soil structure and fertility for future years, and a half acre of permanent educational gardens that will provide a plethora of Jewish agricultural and educational learning experiences.

Our production field boasts a wide variety of vegetables, including potatoes, onions, leeks, tomatoes, peppers, beans, lettuce, and squash. We have created a set of raised bed gardens, one for each of our bunks and planted with a variety of produce, so that all of our campers have the opportunity to take ownership in the farm through harvesting, seeding, transplanting, and maintaining their own bunk garden. We call them the Bunk Beds! In addition, campers will help us to finish a fifth raised bed, allowing them to learn, from beginning to end, how to create a growing space. By the end of their camp experience, they will have all the knowledge and skills necessary to grow food in their own backyard!  

Our permanent teaching gardens will contain an incredible array of elements. The central area is being constructed as a twelve-bed Jewish calendar garden, where plants in each bed will provide educational teaching tools relating to important holidays and traditions woven into the Jewish calendar. Additional elements in this area of the farm will include a cob oven to be built by campers and staff, a composting toilet for teaching about alternative, sustainable practices, and a planted corner where we honor and teach about peah (the traditional practice of leaving the field’s corners for those in need).

Linking our production and cover crop fields to the permanent gardens is a set of pathways converging in the center of the farm, to a sukkah. This traditional six-sided structure will be canvassed on top but open on all sides, welcoming everyone to the center of the farm where they may rest on strawbale benches under the shaded canopy and enjoy all the sights, sounds, and smells the farm has to offer.

All of these elements create a farm rooted in Jewish tradition, where each camper becomes an essential part of the community by connecting deeply with their food systems, building their farming skills, and strengthening their Jewish identity.

Community Organizing and Your Food
By: Suzanne Bring and Melissa Rudnick

As community organizers, we would like to share a recent story that’s emerged from our efforts to incorporate food justice into our local community’s array of concerns. We welcome your comments and, especially, your advice.

Parents, frustrated by the lack of healthful options on the menu at a local institution at which their kids are Jewishly educated, form a committee. Their goal―offerings that are nutritious, lower in fat and processed sugar, higher in whole foods, vegetables, fiber―food that’s in keeping with their broadly-agreed-upon values. These parents are conscientious about what their children eat at home, and, after listening to them describe what’s served at this institution―and what’s not―we sympathize.

Wherever a committee forms to deal with a frustration, community organizers see an organizing opportunity.
As we begin to work with this committee, we ask:
  • How can the parents situate this effort to change the food offered within the context of Jewish values? For instance, how do Jewish teachings about respect for the body, stewardship of the earth, and treatment of animals inform the parents’ interests? Changing the what the kids eat could be a chance to use a Jewish food justice curriculum in that institution, for all ages of learning, all year long―a curriculum that looks at the causes of hunger locally and globally, a curriculum that includes Jewish texts on poverty and justice, a curriculum that builds among children and adults a respect for the natural world and responsibility to the needs of human community.
  •  Are there food justice components to the committee’s concerns? This committee, for instance, knows that it has relative privilege, i.e., it can choose the content of its own and its children’s diets, while so many others locally and around the world can only hope and worry that a next meal can be found.
  • How far-reaching should be the committee’s efforts? For instance, should it organize for an institution that purchases fair-trade, so that products of international origin promote good wages and working conditions? Should offerings be organic, so that farm workers are protected from at least one of the hazards (chemical exposure) that accompanies that work? Should the institution adopt a union-only or living wage vendor policy, or should it audit its vendors and suppliers according a range of socially-just business criteria (a la Hekhsher Tzedek)?
  • Should an effort to change food served at the institution include ongoing social action, such as collecting donations for a food shelf or volunteering at a day shelter kitchen? Should the effort include a community garden or participating in Hazon CSA?

Have you, in your community, engaged in a similar effort? If so, what have you done? What have you learned?
Your comments welcomed. 
Suzanne Bring, development director (
Melissa Rudnick, community organizer (

Check out the Hazon Food Guide to learn more about how you can change your food at your Jewish Institution.