Jewcology Blogs


A Dialogue Between a Jewish Vegetarian Activist and a Rabbi

  For a long time, I have been trying to start a respectful dialogue in the Jewish community. Because I have had very little success, I am presenting the fictional dialogue below. I hope that many readers will use it as the basis of similar dialogues with local rabbis, educators, and community leaders. Please share with others. Jewish Vegetarian Activist: Shalom rabbi. Rabbi: Shalom. Good to see you. JVA: Rabbi, I have been meaning to speak to you for some time about an issue, but I have hesitated because I know how busy you are, but I think this issue is ...

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Effectiveness of Jewish Environmental Education?

I am looking for research on the effectiveness (effects along any dimension) of Jewish environmental education and not finding very much material. There is a lot written about what Judaism teaches about our relationship and responsibility to nature and all life, lots of curricula, but I've seen almost no research of what effect/impact the education that we're doing is having. Could someone point me in the right direction? The only two pieces I've found so far is Hazon's recent but very general analysis of JOFEE and an older article by Dr. Gabe Goldman in a CAJE Journal. ...

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Towards an all-inclusive Tu Bishvat

Tomorrow (Shabbat 11th February) we celebrate Tu Bishvat, the Jewish New Year for trees. It is a time when we celebrate the natural world, when we take time to contemplate all that God has provided for us – the trees, flowers, fruit, rivers, seas. But in such times of celebration we must also spare a thought for those less fortunate. Those subject to rejection because their physical form isn’t perfect.  Those who find themselves dismissed from lack of beauty. That is, those fruits and vegetables excluded from the supermarket shelves due to blemishes or ...

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Tu Bishvat: All About the New Year of the Tree(s)

Tall Trees in Bidwell Park, Chico, California
My youngest daughters' friends were impressed that Judaism celebrates a New Year of Trees, marked by planting and honoring trees. Here's a round-up of how to observe this special day. (more…)

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Gateway of Trees: Tu Bishvat Resources on Wellsprings of Wisdom

Tree on the banks of Big Chico Creek, California, Julie Danan
If you are looking for fresh material about Trees and Tu Bishvat, I invite you to explore the Gateway of Trees on Wellsprings of Wisdom. Wellsprings of Wisdom is a virtual retreat center built around ancient Jewish symbols from nature. Explore Trees in Jewish sources and your own life, through many modalities including photos, nature sounds and video. Enjoy Torah study, rituals, and a guided mediation. There are stories and blessings about trees as well as resources for celebrating Tu Bishvat, the New Year of Trees. Plus that time I hugged a tree. Learn about the cosmic ...

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Winter Holds the Promise of Spring: Monthly Update from Wellsprings of Wisdom

First snow of the season, Julie Danan
We are experiencing tumultuous times, but that very turmoil calls more people to take personal action for service, healing, and bettering the world. To avoid burnout and bitterness, it’s important to stay centered and nurture our inner lives. Wellsprings of Wisdom strives to integrate the timeless and the timely, Tikkun HaLev (healing our hearts) with Tikkun Olam (repairing our world). (more…)

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 The Best Approach to Promoting Veganism?

  While climate change is an existential threat the United States, and, indeed, the entire world, there has not been sufficient attention to it by most people. It was not discussed at all during the recent presidential debates, and was not a major campaign issue. Unfortunately, “denial is not just a river in Egypt,” and most people today are, in effect, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as we head toward a giant iceberg. Here are several importan  reasons we all should be very concerned about climate change. Science academies worldwide, 97% of ...

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Tu B’Shvat: Celebrating the New Year for Trees

Richard Schwartz has written this anthology about Tu B'Shvat (also written as Tu Bishvat), the holiday that is on the 15th of Shvat (this year starting on Shabbat evening, February 10 through Shabbat, February 11). The celebration in some ways can be similar to a Passover seder (not as long), and the foods served (many fruits and nuts) have special significance. In addition there are many reasons that Tu B'Shvat is especially important today with our concerns about the environment and climate change. Take a look at the articles below to learn more about Tu B'Shvat and ...

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Questions That Can Be Considered at Tu Bishvat Seders (With Responses)

It is hoped that the questions below will be helpful to people leading Tu Bishvat seders, as a way to increase audience participation. Suggested responses are given following the questions. Please send me suggestions for additional questions and for improved answers. Thanks. The questions are below, followed by suggested answers: 1. What is the origin of Tu Bishvat? 2. Where is Tu Bishvat mentioned in the Tanach? 3. Why are we considering trees and fruits and nature in the middle of the winter? 4. Why was the 15th of Shvat singled out to be the ‘New Year for ...

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For Tu Bishvat: 36 Jewish Quotations About Trees

Since Tu Bishvat is considered the "birthday for trees," a time when trees are to be judged regarding their fate for the coming year, I hope the following Jewish quotations about trees and fruits will be helpful for celebrations of this increasingly popular holiday. 1. And God said: "Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit -- to you it shall be for food." (Genesis 1:29) 2. In the hour when the Holy one, blessed be He, created the first person, He showed him the trees in the ...

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Tu B’Shvat and Vegetarianism

Tu B'Shvat is arguably the most vegetarian of Jewish holidays, because of its many connections to vegetarian themes and concepts: 1. The Tu B'Shvat Seder in which fruits and nuts are eaten, along with the singing of songs and the recitation of biblical verses related to trees and fruits, is the only sacred meal where only vegetarian, actually vegan, foods, are eaten. This is consistent with the diet in the Garden of Eden, as indicated by God's first, completely vegan dietary law: And God said: "Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of ...

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Celebrating Tu Bishvat as if Environmental Sustainability Matters

Since Tu Bishvat, the “New Year for Trees,” has increasingly become a “Jewish Earth Day,” why not use Tu Bishvat Seders as, among other things, a time to consider how we can effectively respond to current environmental crises that threaten all life on the planet? The world is rapidly heading toward a climate catastrophe, severe food, water, and energy scarcities, and other environmental disasters. This is a strong consensus of almost all climate scientists and science academies worldwide. The warmest year for the world since temperature records have been kept ...

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Lessons From Trees: A Tu Bishvat Message

Some of my most important lessons in life I learned from Jewish verses about trees. From the following I learned that I should be an environmental activist, working to help preserve the world: In the hour when the Holy one, blessed be He, created the first person, He showed him the trees in the Garden of Eden, and said to him: "See My works, how fine they are; Now all that I have created, I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt and destroy My world, For if you destroy it, there is no one to restore it after you. (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28) F...

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Preserving the Sacred Environment: A Religious Imperative – A Tu Bishvat Message

Many contemporary Jews look upon Tu Bishvat (February 10-11 in 2017) as a Jewish Earth Day, a day for contemplating our ecological heritage - and the multitude of threats it currently faces. An ancient midrash has become all too relevant today: "In the hour when the Holy one, blessed be He, created the first person, He showed him the trees in the Garden of Eden, and said to him: "See My works, how fine they are; Now all that I have created, I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt and destroy My world, For if you destroy it, there is no one to ...

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Why Is This Night Different?: Thoughts on Tu B’Shvat

One of the highlights of the Passover seder is the recitation of the four questions which consider how the night of Passover differs from all the other nights of the year. Similar questions are also appropriate for Tu B’Shvat, which starts on Friday evening, February 10, in 2017, because of the many ways that this holiday differs from Passover and all other nights of the year. While four cups of red wine (or grape juice) are drunk at the Passover seder, the four cups drunk at the Tu B’shvat seder vary in color from white to pink to ruby to red.   While ...

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What people have said about the documentary, “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperilled Planet”

What People Are Saying about "A Sacred Duty," a video that shows how applying Jewish values can help reduce environmental threats and help shift our imperilled planet onto a sustainable path. Please note that the movie will be ten years old in November 2017, and is due for a renewal so that many more people will see it. It can be freely wen at www.ASacredDuty.com, where there is more information about the movie, including several reviews. ========= "We at CLAL believe that if Judaism is going to be taken seriously by American Jews and for that matter by all ...

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Wellsprings of Wisdom: A Virtual Retreat Center

Bear Hole, Bidwell Park, Chico, CA
I am delighted to announce and share my newly redesigned and relaunched website, http://wellspringsofwisdom.com/ It's a place for anyone interested in Jewish spirituality in nature. Wellsprings of Wisdom is a site for your soul, an island of quiet contemplation in a sea of noisy information. It's the rare online place where you can pause to refresh your soul, re-enchant your world, and renew your inner life. At this virtual retreat center, ancient Jewish symbols from nature become gateways to personal growth and action. You are invited to immerse yourself in the ...

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Small Changes Add Up to Make a Big Difference!

After the November election, many of us were left with numerous concerns, including about how the president-elect and his advisors will deal with environmental issues such as climate change. While those concerns are still valid, I realized there are many things I could change about how I live my life that can make a difference for the environment. I made three resolutions: reduce, reuse and recycle. Resolution #1: Reduce. I am going to buy less — especially those things that have a negative impact on the environment, such as plastic tableware when I have company ...

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A Basic Case for Vegetarianism (and Veganism)

There is a widely accepted aspect of modern life that contradicts many Jewish teachings and harms people, communities, and the planet -- the mass production and widespread consumption of meat. Please consider: 1. While Judaism mandates that people should be very careful about preserving their health and their lives, numerous scientific studies have linked animal-based diets directly to heart disease, stroke, many forms of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases. 2. While Judaism forbids tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, inflicting unnecessary pain on animals, most farm ...

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Miraculously Stretching the Oil: a Chanukah Message

The Jewish festival of Chanukah commemorates the miracle of the oil that was enough for only one day, but miraculously lasted for eight days in the liberated Temple in Jerusalem. Hence, this holiday is a good time to consider our own use of fuel and other resources. Like Chanukah’s miraculous extension of scarce resources, vegetarianism also allows the increasingly scarce resources of our contemporary world to go much further. This is no trivial matter, since it is expected that many future conflicts between nations will involve scarcities of oil, water and other ...

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