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December 27, 2014 / 5 Tevet, 5775
 
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First Of The Land


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There are 613 mitzvoth – we all know that. We also all know it is impossible for one person to perform all 613. Twenty-five mitzvot can only be performed in the Land of Israel, which leaves many Jews out in the cold, shall we say. After all, the people of Israel and the Land of Israel are inextricably intertwined; they are in fact dependent on one another for survival. But Judaism has a solution or as a modern Israeli would say, a “patent.” Mitzvot can be performed by proxy; by taking a part in a mitzvah one merits a share in the whole.

For example, let’s say you want a share in the mitzvah of reshit hagez, the first wool of the first sheep shearing that is brought to the Kohen. No problem, you just contact, Reshit Ha’aretz, a farm established in Beit El, a community that also fortuitously has a stellar Yeshiva. They sheer the sheep on the farm and bring the first wool to the rabbis who are also Kohanim in the yeshiva there.

Reshit Haaretz, now in its fourth year was established for the precise purpose of performing the mitzvot that can only be performed in the Land of Israel. And the cooperative also offers you the opportunity of performing these mitzvahs virtually. It’s an opportunity Moshe Rabbeinu would have treasured.

“We thought that we were really missing out because so many important mitzvot, obligatory me’de’oraita, are so very distant from every Jew, and we began to think of a practical way to enable every Jew to participate in their performance,” explains Rabbi Ronen Zer, 46, the founder of the Reshit Ha’aretz farm. Zer means bouquet, so it appears his agricultural calling was predestined.

“After receiving blessings and approval of the endeavor from the most prominent rabbis, I left Tzfat together with my family and settled in Bet El. Here in the region designated for the tribe of Binyamin, we decided to establish the Reshit Ha’aretz farm.”

The farm enables any Jew, no matter where in the world he resides, to be a partner in the purchase of the farm and the performance of the 25 land-related mitzvot. The farm spans an area of several dunams and contains fields of crops, vineyards and olive groves, enclosures for animals and livestock and a winery where the biblical mitzvot are performed using the fruits and produce of the farm. For example- setting aside terumot and maasrot (tithes), neta revai (the eating of fourth year produce in Jerusalem), peah, leket, shichecha and others. And the holy animals of Israel are also not neglected. For example, The rarely performed mitzvoth of Peter Chamor, the aforementioned reshit hagez, and the gifts of zeroah, lechayayim and keiva to the Kohen among others. During a Shemittah year, of course all the laws are stringently observed and the fruit orchards are open for the public at large, who are free to help themselves. The fruit is hefker, after all.

“With the establishment of the farm, we intended to grant merits to the residents of Israel living in cities and urban areas, who wouldn’t have an actual opportunity to perform these important mitzvot personally,” explains Rabbi Zer, as he plants a new vineyard on one of the farm’s slopes. “Afterwards, we thought that if we can grant merits to Jews in Israel, why not also grant the same privilege of these mitzvot to our brothers and sisters overseas, as well? We approached Torah leaders and they gave us their blessing for this holy enterprise. The Institute Machon HaTorah VeHa’Aretz cooperated with us and we composed a monetary contract that is halachically binding and a means by which our brothers and sisters abroad can also become partners in the farm.”

A few weeks ago a festival celebrating reshit hagez was held at the farm, as well as the mitzvot of zeroah, lechayayim and keiva, with the participation of rabbanim and an appreciative crowd of participants. The wool of an entire of flock of sheep was sheared, the parts of the animals undergoing ritual slaughter were presented to the Kohen amid a festive atmosphere, and the celebration also included hands-on activities and creative workshops for children, music, and a food market. It was a grand festival celebrating the performance of mitzvot ha’teluyot ba’aretz, reinforcing our attachment to and ownership of the land of Israel and our joyful adherence to its mitzvot.”

Among the farm workers are 8 teen boys from Siach Hasadeh, a rehabilitative program for youth at risk, instituted by Rabbi Ronen.

“The farm is our second home,” David tells us, while repairing the gate to the sheep pen that had became dislodged because of the strong winds often blowing on the farm on the hills. “In every program I was placed, I didn’t adjust. I was kicked out of yeshiva and didn’t fit in to a new school. I started roaming around bored and idle and felt like a failure. But at that point Rabbi Zer asked me to come to learn and work at the farm. Here, I really feel alive. I tend to the animals and feel needed. I’ve even managed to make up the lessons that I missed by participating in a special study program here”.

“I noticed”, elaborated Rabbi Zer, “that more and more excellent boys from good homes are finding themselves on the streets, doing stupid things and behaving in a manner that could easily lead them down a slippery slope to delinquent behavior and crime.” This was tremendous hashgacha pratit for Zer who was in need of as many helping hands as possible. “I proposed to some of these boys that they come and work for me on the farm. The offer appealed to them and they started coming and fell in love with the place. I make sure to pay them for their work, which gives them a sense of commitment towards the farm and provides them with feelings of success and self-worth.”

The boys arrive at the farm every day, work in the fields and orchards, grow and sell organic vegetables and are also in charge of leading groups of visitors on a tour of the farm and hosting farm-related events.

“They are treated as equals, they feel useful, and because they are productive and creative, they are slowly regaining confidence in themselves and in society”, attests Rabbi Zer with a smile of genuine satisfaction and joy. “We named the program Siach Hasadeh (conversations of the field) because in the fields, conversations are different, there are no distractions, no detrimental influences, no barriers, and no need to pretend. Just like nature itself, in the fields everything flows easily, and here, the chevra (group of boys) open up to us and each other and ties and connections are forged.”

Koby, another participant in the Siach program adds, “What this farm has to offer is real geulah (redemption), Eretz Yisrael is being redeemed, the special mitzvot are also being redeemed by being performed once again and we merit that the public at large can join us in this endeavor. We also merit a personal redemption for each and every one of us, because if it weren’t for the farm, I don’t know where I might have been right now”.

Megalalin zchut al yedai zakai- A merit is brought about by an entity that is worthy- Rabbi Zer humbly claims. “The truth is that I hadn’t planned that the farm would become what it is today, but I am glad that it has.”

Rabbi Ronen invites all of Am Yisrael to become a partner in the performance of these special and important mitzvot, on to the land of our forefathers, and in addition, support an educational endeavor that is genuinely saving souls and planting seeds in more ways than one. Although not every person in the entire nation of Israel can share 4 dunams (roughly 4000 square meters) – though they might merit the miracle of expansion experienced in Beit Hamikdash – only 400 people have availed themselves of this unique opportunity and Rabbi Zer says that they can accommodate 10,000 partners.

Participation in 25 mitzvahs are yours for the taking and sowing and planting and reaping. For $90 a year, a shtar kinyan can be obtained through Machon HaTorah VeHa’Aretz in Ashkelon.

And when Mashiach comes we’ll all be ready to bring our offerings of Reishit Ha’Aretz in the Beit HaMikdash.

To buy your share in this mitzvah, please contact:
Phone: 972-8- 684-7325
Fax: 972-8-684-7055
Site for secure donation: secure.toraland.org.il/farm.aspx

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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/feautures-on-jewish-world/first-of-the-land/2012/06/29/

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