Renewed themes in the commandment of the shmita, in light of the climate crisis
The year 5782 which is about to begin will be a shmita year - a special period in the Hebrew calendar that recurs once every seven years. This year we face a harsh reality - the IPPC report published in early August claims that the climate crisis is already here and directly linked to humanity’s treatment of our natural resources. In recent months, multiple natural disasters occurred around the world, further stressing the urgency of the matter. Add to that the Covid-19 pandemic that has ...
by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen
Such we are commanded each week.
Stop taking from the land!
Such we are commanded each seventh year.
Why bother stopping?
Perhaps to see.
Perhaps to notice.
Perhaps to discover if we care.
Stopping draws us in.
Opens us to new life.
Deepens us to death
Reveals to us G!dness.
Brings us home.
Rabbi Katy Allen is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long, and the ...
by Richard Schwartz
See below for the five op-ed articles related to the Fall Jewish holidays:
Should Jews Become Vegetarians or Vegans at Rosh Hashanah?Rosh Hashanah Message: Is God’s “Very Good” World Now Approaching An Unprecedented Catastrophe?Why Perform a Rite That Kills Chickens as a Way to Seek God’s Compassion?Yom Kippur and Vegetarianism and VeganismSukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah and the connection to Vegetarianism and veganism
1. Should Jews Become ...
by Thea Iberall
Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State
The Amazon Rainforest is the most biodiverse region on Earth and provides shelter to three million species of plants and animals. Billions of trees absorb tons of carbon dioxide every year and produce 20% of earth’s oxygen. It’s been called the Lungs of the Earth.
But I read something most disturbing. The Amazon rainforest is now emitting about a billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. From its role as a carbon sink, the lungs of the Earth have become a carbon source. ...
by Rabbi Michael Birnholz
It's not novel or unique. Judaism is built on riding the energy of oscillations between values and experiences. From every day to holiness or transcendence/ein sof to shechinah/immanence or sadness/tsuris to joy/simcha, we flow from one state of being or perspective, generating energy as we move. One of these oscillations takes us from the big picture to the small detail and back again. We each have illustrations of this very motion, experiencing it in different times and places. In this Elul, in this time of ...
by Rabbi Louis Polisson
(Hebrew translation is after the English)
At the edge of the sea
On the sand, on the stones, on the shells
But where should I look
What am I supposed to see
I want to contemplate
The reflections of the sun in her waves
Illuminate and entice my eyes
But the obligation of the East
Arises in my mind
And draws me
To turn away from the sea
To turn around
Facing the sun
To believe and to witness
The day when the sun and the ...
by Maggid David Arfa
Averot - Transgressions committed under duress, with the awareness that the act is a transgression. Distinguished from those transgressions committed without awareness (chayt) or those committed in willful rebellion (p’sha’eem). --Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi1
Moral Injury- In the complex social arenas of daily living, we make constant trade-offs between what we think is best and what we actually do. The gap that arises in this territory is a form of moral injury that over time can coagulate into hardening of our moral arteries, so to ...
by Rabbi Ariel Wolpe
Midrash Tanhuma teaches that when the Holy One began to create the world, the Holy One did so as a child grows within the mother. Just as an embryo begins as a small cell and then expands in all directions, so too the world was created from a single point—from even shtiya, the foundation or “drinking” stone. This stone is the navel of the earth, nourishing us and connecting us to the Divine Mother.
According to Rabbi Eliezer, this occurred on the twenty-fifth of Elul. Rosh Hashannah is the birthday of humanity—Adam formed from ...
by Rabbi David Seidenberg
As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we are also fast approaching the next Shmita year, when all the land in Israel was supposed to rest, all debts were supposed to be canceled, and all food was to be shared, even with the wild animals. Just like Elul through the High Holidays, the Shmita year itself was a long journey of t’shuvah, returning to God, during which our sense of business-as-usual could fall away, revealing what it means to be in community with each other and with the land. A human world that observed Shmita fully is a world that ...
by Rabbi Steven Rubenstein
~Teshuvah is reflected in the power to change
And the waters that cleanse our souls.
Rabbi Steven Rubenstein recently celebrated his 25th anniversary since his ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion. In that time he served congregations in San Francisco, CA, El Paso, TX, and Beverly, MA. In addition, he has served as Director of Spiritual Care at Shalom Park in Denver, CO and currently is performing a similar role at Jewish Senior Life in Rochester, NY. He is equally as proud to be a member of NAJC, ...
by Joan Rachlin
It has been just over 17 months since my husband suffered a stroke. It wasn’t just our lives that changed that day, though, as March 11, 2020 was also the day that Boston went into lockdown in an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19. We therefore found ourselves living in a bubble within a bubble and rehab services were consequently hard to find. All of the outpatient clinics were closed and home care was limited. In this “timing is everything world,” my husband’s rehab was slowed down because the world had turned upside down.
We drove ...
by Michael Garry
Tikkun olam, which in Hebrew means “repair of the world,” has always been a guiding principle of the Jewish people, one that we teach our children and try to practice in our everyday lives. In the modern era, tikkun olam means that Jews bear responsibility not only for their own moral, spiritual, and material welfare, but also for the welfare of society at large.
It is well known that the welfare of the planet is now threatened by an environmental crisis called climate change, caused by unchecked emissions of carbon dioxide from ...
by Carol Reiman
Scroll turners, wooden handles, trees of life, our thumbs evolved, rolled down from years to screens;Leading us through dry sands, streams, times of manna, now of drought;Fires of the burning bush, now woods flaming by dream homes;Wanderers yearning for place,kinship of community, ability to thrive;Where do we take our strength?When do we listen to the land, to those who warn us of what comes?Are we as sturdy as our hopes,As fragile as our whims,Intemperate in our senses,Inconsistent in our care?Lest our drives consume us,Let us rest in the shadow...
by Rabbi Robin Damsky
“It’s All About the Soil.” So reads the headline for a website discussing regenerative agriculture.
I’m torn between fear and possibility. Evidence of climate change worsens every place we breathe. I read several summaries of the most recent UN report on the climate crisis in which Antonio Guterres declares a “code red for humanity.”
I’ve always believed we have the power to heal our planet. I still do. But the window of opportunity is getting smaller and the actions we must take are more substantive.
by Rabbi Katy Allen
I've been thinking about it a lot.
Intellectually, I know I can't be perfect. Inside me, in hidden spaces, I feel like I'm not supposed to make mistakes. Which would, of course, mean seeking perfection.
Perfection is supposed to belong only to G!d, though I'm not sure I know what that means. Sometimes, when I'm able embrace my humanness, it's incredibly freeing to acknowledge that I don't have to be perfect. But I also realize there's a balance between not trying to be perfect all the time and not trying to never make ...
Victor Hugo famously said, “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.” Well, there is increasing evidence that the time has come to get veganism onto the Jewish agenda and, indeed, onto society’s agenda, in order to avert a climate catastrophe and help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path. Here are some reasons why this is so:
1. Our arguments are irrefutable. The most recent evidence of this is that my article, Why Jews Should Be Vegans,” was the cover story in the August 9 issue of the Jerusalem Report. It can be read at ...
by Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein
“Return again. Return again.
Return to the land of our soul.”
The liturgy sings.
I hear it in my head.
This is the season of returning.
It’s quiet here.
A steaming cup of coffee,
Billowing clouds of whipped cream.
We thought it would be different by now.
Stay at home. Wear a mask. Wash your hands.No guests for Shabbat dinner.
It’s quiet. So very quiet.
Ready to begin my morning,
I choose a book
Ready to read,
by Maxine Lyons
Reflecting on my connection to t’shuvah means returning more mindfully to positive words and actions and performing mitzvot - commandments. T’shuvah also includes recognizing our connection to the earth, and for me, learning what my garden has to teach me. In a short book, Don't Throw in the Trowel, the author quips, "a garden is a sublime lesson in the unity of humans and nature.” A good garden to me is one that is well planned and cared for, and I am grateful to the Earth’s wisdom and resilience to provide the basis for ...
by David Krantz
Among our more under-appreciated traits, we Jews are counters. We count for a prayer quorum, we count the omer, we count the days of the months to know when our holidays are. We might know the days of the week by their names – Sunday, Monday — but in Hebrew they are Yom Rishon, the First Day, and Yom Sheni, the second day. And before borrowing their current names from the Babylonian calendar, the Jewish months were numbered. What we now know as Elul was once the Sixth Month, leading to the Seventh Month that we now call Tishrei.
Counting can ...