Jewcology Blogs


It’s time to go hug a tree!

The month of Nisan has arrived - it's time to go hug a tree! The month of Nisan began the evening of April 1, in the midst of the welcoming blossoms of springtime in Israel. This month also comes in the midst of the "Coronavirus crisis," as we are asked to shut ourselves in our homes instead of going outside and enjoying all that beauty of nature. Birkat Ha'Ilanot (Blessing for the Blossoming Trees), the mitzvah that is observed during the days of Nisan, reminds us that even in our own backyards (or our neighbors’ yard) we can find nature that is full of blessing. ...

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Hanukkah and Nature: The Menorah Psalm

Don’t let anyone tell you Hanukkah is a “minor holiday.” I know, it’s been given a bump because it’s close to Christmas, and it is a Rabbinic holiday, meaning it doesn’t have some of the strictures of Biblical holidays like Passover, Shavuot or Succot, but it is as deep and meaningful as any holiday that you can name. The light of the menorah in Jewish imagination has often been connected with Torah. Light is a universal symbol of wisdom. The light of Torah, the living wisdom that is the center of our Jewish spiritual journey, is represented in the ...

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The Forest, the Tower and the Mountain

On this week of Tu B’Shvat we see that the world of the forest can teach us something about our society.  I remember ecologist Tom Wessels, on one of his “reading the forest” walks, pointing out that in an eco-system there is no advantage to being “too big to fail.” Whether it’s birds, plants, insects or trees, each is more likely to seek a small niche instead of trying to cover every terrain or condition. The forest as a whole is stronger and more resilient when there are so many interwoven, interdependent creatures creating a complex living ...

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A Vegetarian New Year

by Susan Levine ~ The New Year, January 1 of the Gregorian calendar, is the same as Rosh Hashanah for me. I think about things I have done over my lifetime and the most important thing I’ve tried to do is to become a vegetarian. But let me start at the beginning: Both my parents grew up in kosher homes and when they got married, they had a kosher home. But it wasn’t kosher enough for my father’s mother who would visit my parents but wouldn’t touch the food. My mom didn’t see the point of being kosher if her mother-in-law still wouldn’t eat in her ...

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Living the Chanukah Miracle

[article by Dan Brook, PhD & Richard H. Schwartz, PhD] Hope springs eternal. Indeed, it’s always been an integral part of Jewish history, spirituality, and politics. Without hope, there wouldn’t be a Chanukah; without hope, there might not even be a Jewish community. That’s the power of radical hope! Jewish survival is a miracle of hope. Increasing light at the darkest time of the year to celebrate Chanukah and Jewish survival is also a miracle. This year, each year, we work and hope for further miracles. We sincerely hope that Jews will enhance ...

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Ten Reasons Jews Should Consider Becoming a Vegetarian or a Vegan

As president of Jewish Veg, formerly Jewish Vegetarians of North America, and author of three editions of Judaism and Vegetarianism and over 250 related articles online, I very respectfully present the following reasons Jews should very seriously consider eliminating, or at least sharply reducing, your consumption of meat and other animal-based foods:

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My Responses to an Article in Orthodox Judaism-orientated Mishpacha (Family) Magazine That Refutes Climate Threats

I believe, respectfully, that Rabbi Rosenblum has done a great disservice in writing this article and Mishpacha has done a great disservice in publishing it. I hope my responses will result in their reconsidering their positions and join the struggle to avert a climate catastrophe and help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path.

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The Climate Crisis, Our Addictions, and How Judaism Can Help

The other day there was a blackout in our neighborhood. Not a long or serious one. Our block was dark for only about an hour because of some mechanical problem. But for that hour, something interesting happened. The kids all came out of their rooms and even our upstairs neighbor, a young teenager whom we rarely see, said he was home alone and wanted company in the dark. Everyone gathered in our kitchen. Ilana, my wife, was cooking so everyone helped out cutting vegetables by candle light. Naturally, people started talking to each other. Then the lights came on and every...

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My Strategy For Getting Climate Change, Veganism, and Related Issues Onto the Jewish Agenda

===      I urge the strongest, most widespread effort that can possibly be made to get climate threats and the need for shifts toward veganism onto the Jewish agenda. Why? Please consider the following facts (they are backed up by supporting material at the end of this article). There is a very strong scientific consensus, based on overwhelming evidence, that the world is rapidly heading toward an irreversible climate tipping point when climate change will spin out of control, with catastrophic results.  Several scientific studies have shown that animal-based ...

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L’Shanah Tova and a thank you to our Earth Etudes for Elul Contributors

Elul is the month before Rosh Hashanah, a time when we review our lives and think about how we will live the coming year. Many of these earth etudes actually connect our earth with the spirit of Judaism–Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. We would like to thank Rabbi Katy Z. Allen for bringing together these awe-inspiring contributors, whose essays, poems and thoughts help us understand the meaning of our lives and how we can repair our world. And our Earth Etudes can be helpful throughout the year. So you can read them here: Earth Etude for Elul 1: Rabbi ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 29 –Waking up to the Climate Crisis

by Rabbi David Jaffe ~ My guess is that many readers of the Elul Etudes are fully awakened to the climate crisis and read these blogs with the hope of gaining perspective and spiritual resilience to keep facing the crisis without panicking and burning out. This blog post is for a difference audience – those, like me, who intellectually understand the crisis but don’t feel the urgency.  Despite reading articles and watching videos about the famines, flooding and other impacts of rising temperatures on people in the Global South and here in parts of the United ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 28 — Swimming in Circles in Life

by Rabbi Judy Kummer ~ Every August I participate in a 1-mile breast cancer fundraising swim at a pond on Cape Cod. I have done this swim every year since 2007, training each summer day to swim further and faster.  I especially delight in swimming outdoors. Sometimes my practice swims are in daytime, sometimes at “golden hour” as the sun is setting,  and sometimes at dusk, when I can watch the moon rising, cycling inexorably through its phases towards the High Holidays.  What a feast for the senses:  I find myself savoring the sunlight ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 27 — A Vegetarian Journey

by Susan Levine ~ When I think about Elul, I think about things I have done over my lifetime and the most important thing I’ve tried to do is to become a vegetarian. But let me start at the beginning: Both my parents grew up in kosher homes and when they got married, they had a kosher home. But it wasn’t kosher enough for my father’s mother who would visit my parents but wouldn’t touch the food. My mom didn’t see the point of being kosher if her mother-in-law still wouldn’t eat in her home. Instead she went full treif. As a child I pretty much ate ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 26: What do animals feel and think? Who are they?

by Rabbi David Seidenberg ~ That’s too broad a question by many degrees, but the difference between asking “who are they?” and “what are they?” is the gulf between civilizations, between epochs, between a world in which humans dominate and destroy, and a world in which humans collaborate with other species in the great project of the universe--Life. Since Descartes, the idea that the other animals (besides human beings) are not subjects has reigned in science. It became forbidden to say that animals have feelings, consciousness, thinking, despite the fact ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 25*– To the Silent Stones

by Sarah Chandler ~ Do you count your days in footsteps? In strollers? In sunlight? Cement and concrete Below my feet I take a peek at the patterns And the places Where tiny rocks gather Solid, safe, secure What was it was like To move your entire being From a quarry of friends To this square of sidewalk? City stones Bricks, brownstone, marble Are your family now You The eyes of Our neighborhood My commute My shabbat walk Sometimes the trees Insist that their roots Decorate your patterns And Your cracks keep my steps whole Each journey down the ...

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Forbidden Fruit, Rosh HaShanah, and Our Climate Crisis

According to Hasidic traditions, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, from the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, worked in a deeper way than we usually think about it. It’s not just that after the eating of the fruit we humans could distinguish between good and evil. The test of “to eat or not to eat” kind of assumed that we had that ability already. What kind of a test would it have been if we couldn’t distinguish between good and bad? No, the real problem that came from eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was that we might ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 24 –If Not Here, Where

by Maggid David Arfa ~ For Reb Bob in honor of his ordination Hillel says, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when? If not here, where?" Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14+ The High Ledges Audubon Sanctuary, Shelburne, MA Ok, he didn’t say that last part. He didn’t have to. Back in the ancient world it was not so easy to get lost in the global view. Today it is different. The daily news causes international heartache on every page. We witness environmental degradation, rise of authoritarian ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 23 — The Prayer for Rain

by Rabbi Louis Polisson ~The Hebrew month of Elul is well-known as the month of preparation for the Jewish holidays Rosh Ha-Shanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). In Jewish literature, it is often called a month of teshuvah (repentance, self-improvement, and returning to the good parts of ourselves). However, one might also view Elul as a time to prepare for the fall harvest festival of Sukkot (which literally means Booths or Huts), when we eat all of our meals in a temporary dwelling, symbolizing our fragile yet joyous and sacred ...

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