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Author Archive | Hannah Elovitz

Earth Day as a secular chag

Thursday, April 8, 2021 | netzach she’b’gevurah    Dear All, It’s Earth Day two weeks from today. This prompts me to think about Earth Day as the secular equivalent of one of the festivals of Jewish life. Doing so helps us to better understand both Earth Day and the Jewish calendar. In a theological sense I’m not a believer. If emunah is translated as faithfulness, then I strive to be a faithful Jew; but if it signifies actual faith, then I am a doubter, to put it mildly. (If I had to describe my theological orientation it would be in a phrase that Rabbi Art Green used many years ago – a spiritual humanist. This was a riff on the notion of a secular humanist – which I’m not, despite my absence of emunah. Art himself, a few years after he introduced this phrase, published Radical Judaism. In a marvelous moment, I was chairing a session, I think at Limmud, where he was speaking. In the Q&A I said to him, “Art, you wrote this great essay on spiritual humanism a few years ago, which had a big impact on me. But now you don’t sound like a spiritual humanist, you […]

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Thoughts on this Tu B’Shvat

Thursday, January 28, 2021 | Tu B’Shvat 5781   Dear All, One of the questions underpinning the entire Jewish environmental movement is the question: to what end? If we want to make a difference in the world, can’t we – shouldn’t we – just support 350.org, or the Sierra Club? And my answer is that we should – and Hazon, over the years, has partnered with both organizations, and many others outside of the Jewish community. But we’re half way through an 8-part series, learning with Rabbi Yedidya Sinclair about masechet ta’anit, and reading ta’anit closely to develop from it a sense of what a contemporary Jewish climate theology might look like. And in this week’s class, I really did have a deep moment of clarity, which I want to share with you, on Tu B’Shvat. Tu B’Shvat, of course, is “the new year for trees.” This year we’re one of the anchor partners for the Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest, and we hope you’ll join us for one or more of the 160+ sessions that are happening from now through Sunday. One can talk – and we have, and we will – about the history of Tu B’Shvat, how […]

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Vayeshev: Entitlement and Creation by Hannah Elovitz

Our story returns to tell us, “Now Jacob was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan” (Gen. 37:1, JPS translation). Jacob’s father and grandfather had only ever been outsiders in the land in which Jacob now shepherds his flocks along with his family. Perhaps it is no wonder that Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, starts to feel a little too comfortable there. The two dreams that Joseph famously dreams, and subsequently decides to share with his 11 brothers, both feature elements of nature bowing down to him: in the first, 11 sheaves of wheat bow down to his; in the second, the sun, moon, and 11 stars bow down to him. Unsurprisingly, his brothers are furious, and so begins the tragic event sequence that later leaves Joseph in Egyptian jail.  At least subconsciously, Joseph expected everyone and everything to bow to his will. This cautionary tale highlights the dangers of land ownership, or ownership of any material possessions. Though we may have monetarily acquired the rights to a piece of land or a car or a sheaf of wheat, they are still ultimately on loan to us. Land is not ours to rule over, but […]

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Food, then and now

Thursday, August 6, 2020 | 16 Av 5780 Dear All, This week’s sidra, Eikev, is the week that introduced into English (via the King James version)  “man does not live by bread alone” and “a land flowing with milk and honey.”  It’s the week that lists the seven species – shivat haminim – that are indigenous to the land of Israel, which Bill Slott points out to me every few years as we ride from Jerusalem to Ashkelon on the first day of the Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride. And it includes the second paragraph of the shm’a, linking our behavior to the climate of the world. Food is a recurring motif. Perhaps that was why Ruby Rivlin, President of Israel, chose this week to spend the day helping Leket pack food for people in need. As Joe Gitler subsequently wrote, President Rivlin wasn’t just doing a photo-op. He’s seriously engaged by the topic and thinking hard – and striving to put the weight of his office – behind new ways to help get food to people who are food insecure. But you don’t have to be President of Israel to make a difference. “Pivot” and “swivel” are words-of-this-year, and they encapsulate […]

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