Monday, November 23, 2009


"[Yaakov] said to [the shepherds], 'Do you know Lavan the son of Nachor?' They replied, 'We know him.' And he said to them, 'Is it well with him?' and they replied, 'It is, and behold, Rochel his daughter is coming with the flock.' [...] While he was still speaking with them, Rochel came with the flock which belonged to her father because she was a shepherdess." (Gen. 29:5-9)

This post is dedicated to the first explicit mention of a woman farmer in the Torah, namely, our third matriarch Rochel. In her honor, I will spotlight a modern, Jewish, woman-owned and operated farm called Jacob's Ladder Farm, which is coincidentally named after Rochel's husband, Yaakov (or Jacob).

I have to be honest, I don't know that much about this farm, but they have consistently appeared in Google searches over the years, and I've read enough on their website to be very impressed. It is a traveling farm with the primary purpose of connecting children and adults with traditional knowledge and appreciation of Hashem's world, and in particular, to do it in a holistic way. In their own words,
"To see our precious new generation caring for Hashem's creatures with breathtaking sureness is to re-encounter the process through which our Jewish leaders--Yaakov, Moshe, Shaul, David--developed their compassionate shepherding of flocks and so were chosen, later, for compassionate shepherding of Bnai Yisrael. So, too, is ecological training at the child level-in a Torah context--a worthy start for future Jewish leaders."

I love their compassionate approach to teaching about animal husbandry. For instance, they offer a class on "How the Animal World provides us with 'gifts,' and how we harvest those gifts without hurting the animals we care for. Activities may include: milk a goat, shear a sheep, feel the down on a duck, learn how to hypnotize a goose for down- gathering, pluck a molting Angora bunny, balance a peacock feather, and (in season) put baby birds down for a nap!"

It is interesting to point out that, despite their impressive goals and programming and being a women-run business, I can't find the above reference to Rochel on their website, e.g.
"[The] Jewish nation began as shepherds and animal owners: Just about anybody you can think of in the Torah had flocks--Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, 12 brothers, Bnai Yisrael in Egypt, Moshe, Shaul, David. Very early on we see our Avot being kind to animals: Rivkah includes the camels when she gives Eliezer water; Jacob builds Sukkot to shelter his flocks; Jacob and David fight off predators to save sheep; Jewish leaders are chosen based on their mercy developed as shepherds (Moshe, David)."
The farm is based out of Maryland, so if you're ever in the area, think about showing them some support. This is really an amazing and necessary endeavor, and I hope they will be successful and that many more similar farms will develop in Jewish communities across the US. Their point is very well taken, and it is the same point that inspired me to start this blog. Dai l'meivin.

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