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The holiday of Shavuot is coming soon.   Shavuot celebrates the occasion of G-d  giving the Torah to all of the Jewish people.  It also is known as the Festival of First Fruits.  In Biblical times, Shavuot was the first day in which individuals could bring first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem. Listed below are a few things you can do to celebrate the environment and the natural world on this spring holiday.

  1.  Plant seasonal, native plants and flowers for the holiday:  One Shavuot tradition involves decorating our homes and synagogues with festive flowers and blooming plants.  Growing or purchasing your own native plants for the holiday helps the local environment. Native plants need less water and attract few if any weeds or pests, as opposed to non-native invasive species.
  2. Study Jewish text on the environment:  Shavuot also typically involves studying Torah deep into the night. What better way to honor the environmental side of the holiday than by studying those parts of the Torah that focus on protecting the Earth, planting trees and taking care of G-d’s creation for future generations.
  3. Think organic with the festive dinner:  Traditionally, the menu for Shavuot includes dairy products.   Consider purchasing organic milk, cheese and other dairy items for the meal.  Also look for locally made products where possible.
  4. Dig deeper to increase the personal meaning of this holiday:  Because Shavuot includes eating dairy as opposed to meat, it already focuses on eating in a more eco-friendly way (preparing  meat for consumption involves much more energy and water use than preparing dairy products).  Go the next step and think about where all the food you eat typically comes from and the effects its growth and production have on the environment. Consider going meatless at least part of every week even after the holiday ends.

Chag Sameach!

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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