Spirituality Subscribe

A selection of initiatives, blogs, resources and communities on Jewcology which focus on spirituality.


Blogs

Earth Etude for Elul 15 – Wasting Food

by Scott Lewis, Ph.D. ~When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them, for you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. (Deuteronomy 20:19) The mitzvah of Bal Taschit, do not waste, helps frame Jewish environmental concerns. While most Jewish environmental activists recognize the importance of Bal Taschit for prohibiting wasting energy and polluting the earth, we might easily overlook the commandment’s important connections to Food Waste. Our sages ...

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An Acclaimed Documentary That Can Help Save the World”

Our planet is imperiled as perhaps never before by climate change and other environmental threats. It is urgent that steps be taken immediately to avoid the unprecedented catastrophe toward which the world is rapidly heading. Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), now named Jewish Veg, has produced a major documentary about how Jewish teachings can help address current environmental crises. While this one-hour documentary -- entitled "A SACRED DUTY: Applying Jewish Values To Help Heal the World" -- is especially suitable for synagogues, temples, JCCs, Jewish ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 14 – Time to Rest

by Tali Anisfeld~  Night summoned day again this morning, and the dawn told me to rest. This surprised me. Isn’t it the setting sun – rather than its rising companion – that usually coaxes us into rest?  But then again, maybe she was hinting at something about rest that comes with motion (the reach and stretch of the day), rather than with stillness (the hushed retreat of night). It is time to rest; it is time to be awoken in prayer and to laugh with the tickling grasses. To climb and jump and run and let the sweat of your body mix with the rain of the ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 13 – Displaced Trash

by Nicci Meadow Misplaced anger causes me to displace trash from where I find it to another place where it ought not to be; Then, picturing it clearly, startles me, helping me to see what I too have become, acting out unintentionally or carelessly. Not very Jewish or Buddhist of me. It's time for a change.   Nicci Meadow is a mother, artist-photographer, "do-gooder" and seeker.  www.niccimeadow.com.

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Earth Etude for Elul 12- Returning to Diversity

by Rabbi Michael Cohen~ The opening chapters of Genesis not only include the account of the creation of the earth but over and over tell us of the importance of diversity. All of creation is called "good," reminding us of the value of the multiplicity of the world that we live in. The text also teaches us, by describing everything that is created before humans as "good," that all things have intrinsic value in and of themselves beyond any value that we may place on them. Once humans are created, "very good" is the adjective applied by the text. An anthropocentric ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 11 – The Shemittah Cycle

by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin~ Do you know where this new year falls in the shemittah (seven-year) count? Or when the next shemittah year will be? Even those of us who were deeply engaged in celebrating the last shemittah year may have difficulty remembering if it was 2 or 3 years ago. (It was 3 years ago – 5775, 2014-2015.) Yet shemittah, like Shabbat, is more than a slice of time. It is a presence, always with us. It is a practice, an attitude, a social, economic and spiritual ethic that guides our lives. In the biblical era, this was evident, and the air of the ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 10 – I Can Do Something

by Joan Rachlin~ I recently retired and have since been immersed in climate change related activities. I once heard it said that most working folk are "denatured," so one of my post-retirement goals has been to “renature.” With this kavannah in heart and mind, I have been trying to more actively appreciate the boundless gifts nature offers us daily. Most specifically, I’ve begun to notice, appreciate, and more consistently support those who produce the food that sustains my family and me. Through the physical labor of farmers we are given the gift of nourishm...

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Earth Etude for Elul 9 -Natural Awe and Artistic Representations

by Rabbi Steve Altarescu~ When we stood at Mt. Sinai, the mountain was described as ablaze with fire and the people heard the sound of God from out of the fire but did not see any form or shape. We learn that since we experienced God without a form or shape it would be wrong for us to make a likeness, a resemblance of anything in nature. Why does Moses repeat this prohibition four times? For the Torah there is power to an image, whether it be a sculpture, a painting or any other art form that stands in contrast to feeling the power of God. For me, there is a ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 8 – Where Are We Now?

by Rabbi Dorit Edut~ These narrow, dark  cobblestone streets still echo with the click-click  of  many shoes, sandals, boots…. of the modern tourists, flamenco dancers and local yuppies who now populate  these gentrifying neighborhoods  where  once there stood a Jewish ghetto – Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, Granada… Small tiles with the words” Chai” in Hebrew or the Menorah symbol can be found scattered on the sidewalks. A Magen David is discovered above a balcony window, etched in the stone wall. The synagogues are now museums or churches or convents. Even ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 7 – Our Last Elul?

by Judith Felsen, Ph.D.   ~If this were our last Elul might we see a different world? On the verge of our demise would each spark of nature sent by You remind us of Your light we are? In these days of hidden peace do we know we are Your kin together in the field? In darkest times does not the moon and sun still shine on us? Today may  elements of earth  be  manna, all reminders of divine connection and Your care through deserts now. This Elul may we see You within all shadow and not be blinded ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 6 – Looking to the Sky, Remembering Our Ideals

by Rabbi Natan Margalit, Ph.D. ~Recently, I read an article in the New York Times Magazine that talked about the way that people do or say things, say, supporting a good cause or political opinion, not because they really believe in it, but because they want to signal to their social network that they are virtuous.  Apparently, there is a popular new label for this behavior: “virtue signaling.” The author reports that this term is most often used by people on the right against people on the left (“Virtue Signaling Isn’t the Problem. Not Believing One Another ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 5 – Where Are We Going?

by Thea Iberall, Ph.D. ~A while ago, I started writing a book that contained everything I had learned about love, life, Jewish ethics, and about making peace with the past. And I made up a science fiction world of bad things happening. And one day, my sister Norrie said, “You don’t have to make it up. There’s bad things happening already.” I asked what she meant. She sat me down in front of her computer screen and showed me some charts. How the carbon dioxide is rising and with it the temperature in the air and in the oceans. She showed me how the waters are ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 4 – Saying Farewell with Each Breath, Starting Anew

by Rabbi Judy Kummer~   Towards end of the day, towards summer's end, body and soul prepare for farewells.   Through piney woods I run, gauntleted by trees whose dark limbs reach up to breathe in fresh blue sky. Dim path; the light can't reach down here. Ahead, the river winks at me.   I thread my way out the wooded tunnel's end and can feel the sky lift -- and my mind lifts too. Before me lies still water meandering between wooded banks. Turning, I race the river. Feet pound on hard sand paths, ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 3 – One Natural World

by Rabbi Robin Damsky~ While I do a great deal of writing for In the Gardens – our nonprofit that brings organic edible gardens to greater Chicagoland, donates 80% of our produce to the hungry and teaches mindfulness practice – when thinking about Elul, I had to dig in, no pun intended, for what to say. Because it’s not just about sharing the love of gardening or teaching about sustainable and healthy food. It’s about creation and our future. It’s about living on the earth as an interconnected whole. For me, this is the main message of the High Holy ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 2 – From the Perspective of the 9th of Av, 5777

by Hazzan Shoshana Brown~ Writing on the mourning day of Tisha b’Av, I am inclined to think of this “etude” as rather more of a kinah (lament) for the magnificent temple of our Earth, third planet in our solar system. Not to say that Earth is a churban, a ruin like our ancient Temple in Jerusalem, but to say that like that once beating spiritual heart and ritual nerve-center of the nation of Israel, our planet is both magnificent and utterly vulnerable to the predations of human greed, violence, and recklessness. And yet I have got the analogy turned inside-out ...

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An Israeli Orthodox Rabbi’s Challenge to the Jewish Establishment

The Problem and Future of True Halachah Part One of four parts, by Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo. Excerpts from Jewish Law as Rebellion: A Plea for Religious Authenticity and Halachic Courage. Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo, Urim Publications, Jerusalem, New York, August 2017. {Soon to be published.] The Problem It is time to start thinking big about Halacha. Great opportunities are awaiting us and too much is at stake to let them pass by. For too long, Halacha has been jailed in compartmentalized and awkward boxes. It is time to liberate it. Most religious Jews are not ...

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A Forgotten Mitzvah: Tsa’ar Ba’alei Chaim

While tsa’ar ba’alei chaim (the Torah mandate to avoid causing “sorrow to living creatures”) is a Torah prohibition, most Jews, including many religious Jews, seem to be unaware of it or to not consider it of any great importance. Some examples reinforce this assertion: Upon reading an article about my efforts to get Jewish teachings on animals onto the Jewish agenda, a member of my former modern Orthodox congregation was incredulous. “What? Jews should be concerned about animals?” she exclaimed. 2. Some years ago, I was at a Sukkot gathering at which ...

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Update on the Major Effort to Restore and Transform the Ancient New Year for Animals

In an effort to restore the ancient New Year for Animals and to transform it into a day devoted to increasing awareness of Judaism's teachings on compassion to animals and how far current realities are from these teachings, the message below has been sent to many rabbis and other influential Jews. please help by sharing the message widely. Many thanks. ----------- Dear Rabbi, Please let us know if you are willing to sign the message below that encourages the restoration of the ancient New Year for Animals and its transformation into a day devoted to increasing ...

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An Audacious Initiative to Restore the Ancient New Year for Animals

The conditions under which animals are raised for food today are completely contrary to Jewish teachings about compassion to animals: While Judaism teaches that “God’s compassion is over all His works” (Psalms 145:9), egg laying hens are kept in cages so small that they can’t raise even one wing and they are debeaked without anesthetic to prevent them from harming other birds due to pecking from frustration in their very unnatural conditions. Male chicks fare even worse as they are killed almost immediately after birth, since they can’t lay eggs ...

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Ten Reasons for Restoring and Transforming the Ancient New Year for Animals

A coalition of Jewish groups (list in formation at the end of this article) have supported efforts to restore and transform the ancient and largely forgotten Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana L’Ma’aser BeHeima (New Year's Day for Tithing Animals) into a day devoted to considering how to improve our relationships with animals. The holiday occurs on the first day of the month of Elul and was initially devoted to counting domesticated animals intended for sacrificial offerings (Mishna, Seder Moed, Tractate Rosh Hashana 1:1). Below are ten reasons why renewing this holiday ...

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