“Tzedakah” is the Hebrew word for acts of charity or righteous giving. In English: giving aid, assistance, and money to the poor and needy or to other worthy causes. However, the nature of Tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word “charity” suggests benevolence and generosity, a magnanimous act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy. But, the word “tzedakah” is derived from the Hebrew root, Tzadei-Dalet-Qof, meaning justice or fairness, and that is at the core of our farm education program at SLC.
On the farm, we discuss a lot of heady subjects–environmental justice, the care of ecosystems, climate change, personal responsibility, and global citizenry. Much of this is addressed in the Torah; Jewish agricultural laws and traditions go back thousands of years and the Torah has much to say about charity and justice as they relate to farming.
It is a great joy for Ivy and me to weave these things into our programs to make connections for the campers between the farm and our Jewish educational mission at SLC. As I tell the kids every day, this is a teaching farm and we are all teachers. This stimulates fabulous discussions about fairness, cooperation, teamwork, and global stewardship. It is a huge part of what we do on the farm, and it might surprise you how much the kids have to say about these things.
Surprise (and a lake) are what my day is all about.
It amazes me how often our campers ask about our Seven Species Garden: the wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranates, figs, dates, and olives we have planted, next to the beautiful sign Ivy painted, are a constant reminder that our Jewish heritage is a pillar of the SLC farm. The kids notice this, and we talk about it, and it is all part of their understanding that the ancient Israelites were the first environmentalists who gave us the law of Shmita, the seven-year sabbatical (fallow land), and Tzedakah, and many of the other tenants of food justice and the importance of caring for our soil, water, air, and each other.
This is part of what makes camp so special. (How great is that?)
Until next week, Stay dirty.