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Planet Jewish: “Greening” your Shabbat

Shabbat is a day of rest and spiritual enrichment for the Jewish people. It is a wonderful time to reflect on the Jewish principle of ‘bal tashchit’ which forbids wastefulness. Here are a few ways to enrich Shabbat by being more mindful of our connection to the land and of the importance preserving and restoring the Earth rather than wasting resources.

Make the Shabbat Table More Sustainable. For Shabbat candles, consider using natural candles such as those made of beeswax. Beeswax candles are clean-burning, non-allergenic and are a renewable resource. If you like to have a centerpiece at your Shabbat table, consider using potted plants, herbs or locally grown fruit arrangements rather than flowers, which only last a few days and often are grown with pesticides. Also consider using a cloth tablecloth and cloth napkins both to make your celebration more special and to reduce the use of disposable items that clog landfills.

Eat More Sustainably During Shabbat
. Make a conscious effort to eat organic and (where possible) locally grown foods for Shabbat, rather than foods shipped from far away and that leave a higher carbon footprint. Even if you don’t eat entirely “local,” consider including some easily found local foods, such as eggs, baked goods and produce, in your Shabbat meals.

Study Sustainability. If it is your custom to discuss Torah or other Jewish texts at the Shabbat table, ask your guests to bring quotes, Jewish text or songs on an environmental theme to share during your meal.

Explore Nature on Shabbat
. Weather permitting, try to spend some time outdoors and in nature on Shabbat. Use this day to celebrate the wonders of creation. This is another way to make the day restorative, restful and reflective.

Do More to Reduce Your Own Carbon Footprint Based on Your Level of Observance. For more observant Jews who are Shomer Shabbas, unplug any appliances that will not be in use during the entire length of Shabbat. Use automatic timers for lights you are going to use over Shabbat so that they go on only after it turns dark rather than keeping lights on for the entire length of Shabbat. For those not Shomer Shabbas, walk, ride a bike, carpool or use public transportation to Shabbat services.

For more ideas on greening your Shabbat, contact JEI at 314-442-3894 or gwechsler@jcrcstl.org.

Resources: Jew & the Carrot, www.jcarrot.org

This article originally appeared on jewishinstlouis at http://www.jewishinstlouis.org/blog.aspx?id=345

Gail Wechsler is the Director of Domestic Issues/Social Justice at the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis. She is the staff person for the Jewish Environmental Initiative (JEI), a committee of the JCRC and a part of the JCRC's Bohm Social Justice Initiative.
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