Topic: Holidays


Uri L’Tzedek’s Food and Justice Haggadah Supplement

In a quest to introduce discussion of food, social justice, and ethical consumption to the Passover Seder, Uri L’Tzedek has created the Food and Justice Haggadah Supplement.  Along with the Uri L’Tzedek team, 26 collaborators contributed essays that make up the supplement, among them Nigel Savage, Hazon’s Executive Director. Uri L’Tzedek is an Orthodox social justice organization whose mission is to fight suffering and oppression. Through their work in community based education, leadership development and action, they aim to create discourse, inspire leaders, and empower the Jewish community towards creating a more just world.  In the Food and Justice Haggadah Supplement, they have created a thought-provoking collection of short reflections on topics including hunger, labor and exploitation, responsibility to the poor, ethical consumption, ethics of eating, and redemption, all of which build from the structure and story of the Seder.    Scattered throughout the supplement are various “ACT” suggestions, featuring easy ways that readers can transform all of these ideas into action. In his contribution, Nigel explains that Passover teaches consciousness, restraint, and the responsibility to share with others, and urges the reader to apply these lessons to all meals during the rest of the year.  He ends by reminding Seder-goers, […]

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Beyond “The Four Worlds”: Creating Meaning in Your Tu B’Shvat Seder

by Nigel Savage January 14, 2011 Next Wednesday night, January 19th, there’ll be a full moon in the sky: the full moon of Shvat. The indigenous Israelites from whom we descend celebrated this as the start of the year for the natural world. Like lots of elements of Jewish tradition, we never forgot it, even as its meaning has changed over time. Skip forward to 5771, aka 2011. Tu B’Shvat’s a great holiday, and there’s every likelihood there will be a record number of Tu B’Shvat seders this year. But here’s a question: what’s all this stuff about the four worlds? (more…)

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Tu B’Shvat: From the 1600s to Today

As the largest Jewish environmental organization in the country, Hazon hopes you will celebrate the holiday of Tu B’Shvat as a Jewish Earth Day and use our website resources to rekindle or deepen your feelings of gratitude for the bounty of the earth and take more steps towards preserving our world. Tu B’Shvat begins sundown January 19th and we encourage you to hold a seder! In the Middle Ages, Tu B’Shvat was celebrated with a feast of fruits in keeping with the Mishnaic description of the holiday as a “New Year.” In the 1600s, the mystic kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria of Tzfat and his disciples instituted a Tu B’Shvat seder in which the fruits and trees of Israel were given symbolic meaning. The main idea was that eating ten specific fruits and drinking four cups of wine in a specific order while reciting the appropriate blessings would bring human beings, and the world, closer to spiritual perfection. The mystical kabbalistic Tu B’Shvat seder has been revived and is now celebrated by many Jews, religious and secular. Special haggadot have been written for this purpose, including our own. (more…)

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Compare and Contrast

Dear All, This year, Hazon’s New York Jewish Environmental Bike Ride ends late Monday afternoon, and just two days later, Rosh Hashanah begins. The Hazon 10th Anniversary NY Ride will end at Riverside Park at 79th Street on Monday, September 6th at 3 PM with a group ride up Riverside Drive to the The JCC in Manhattan at 76th and Amsterdam. In addition to dancing and singing at the JCC, the Adamah Fellows will have a farm stand inside of the JCC with fresh produce, pickles and dairy products. The closing ceremony will start at 4 PM on the roof of the JCC. The NY Ride is one of Hazon’s largest fundraisers for the year, allowing us to continue our important work. Please consider sponsoring a Rider this year in celebration of Hazon’s 10th anniversary. The close conjunction in time prompted me to think about them in relation to each other… This year they’re about the same length in time. They’re both marathons, of sorts. They both involve pushing ourselves: even if you ride a bike – or go to shul on Shabbat – you don’t normally ride 120+ miles in two days, or spend 10+ hours in shul. (And […]

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Isaiah Berlin, Shavuot and the Rides

San Francisco, CA Monday 17th May 2010 48th day of the omer, 5770 Dear All, There is a notion in Jewish tradition of “hiddur mitzvah” – beautifying the mitzvah. It means something like “going above and beyond.”  Hiddur mitzvah is the beautiful table cloth for Shabbat, the flowers, the fine china; also the freshest produce from your farmer’s market or your CSA, and the time spent cooking from first principles, rather than just buying something pre-cooked. The omer is a sort of rorschach process, in which we see in each day some reflection of our own life in the sefirot, and vice versa Hiddur mitzvah in relation to counting the omer means not merely counting – actually saying the bracha and counting each day, on the evening of the omer – but, coming back to it through the day; having a real sense of each day of the omer as distinct from each other day, and being conscious of it, and reflecting on it.  (I’d add that there is a relationship, in some sense, with the evolution of the first 49 years of your life; each is distinct and, just as the omer culminates in Shavuot, I’d argue that the first 49 years of one’s life […]

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Shmita & the Unified Religious Personality

Hazon, together with the Jewish Farm School, invite you to be a part of the Shmita Project, whose purpose is to consider the role of Shmita, the Sabbatical year, in our lives. Shmita Project encourages people to do that in two ways: through using the laws and values of Shmita as the conceptual framework for creating a more sustainable Jewish community and a more sustainable world. Second, to encourage practical application of Shmita laws among individuals and communities. In honor of this week’s Torah portion which discusses the laws of Shmita, I would like to explore some of the themes behind the laws. There are three things which the Torah calls “Shabbat Shabbaton.” The first is Shabbat itself, the second is Yom Kippur, and the third is Shmittah. These three concepts: Shabbat, Yom Kippur and Shmittah, can be seen as pathways to the unification of the spiritual/religious personality. On an ordinary weekday it is all too easy to maintain the distance between our spiritual life and what we might mistakenly consider our ‘secular life.’ We are caught up in the decidedly non-spiritual routine of the workplace, the highway, and the shopping mall. On Shabbat however, we are granted a sanctuary […]

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Chanukah Miracles and Climate Change

By Daniel Bloom, Hazon Program Associate Traditionally on Chanukah we celebrate the curious episode of a jug of oil, enough for one day, miraculously burning for eight days. The rabbis debated the exact nature of the miracle. Amongst the many possibilities, one opinion suggests that the oil was divided into eighths, each of which burned for an entire day. Another opinion claims that after filling the menorah on each of the first seven nights, the jug remained full. It is apt that we will be thinking about burning oil when the world’s leaders meet in the coming days for the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The Conference represents the best opportunity so far for the community of nations to tackle the issue of climate change on a global scale and discuss concrete plans and targets for the reduction of greenhouse emissions. Nonetheless, there is reason to be skeptical. First, we may assume that the leaders of the world’s nations lack the political will to commit to serious change, and second, that even if leaders were to make a commitment, a top-down nation-state driven campaign would have little impact in changing global emission patterns. These two claims are undoubtedly interrelated. […]

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Save the Earth! Save Us! Joy and Desperation on Sukkot

Dr. Mirele B. Goldsmith, Hazon board member Sukkot is my favorite holiday.  I love spending time outdoors in the sukkah. And I love the joyful emphasis on thanksgiving and celebration.  But the message of Sukkot is more complicated than it appears.  Sukkot encourages us to appreciate and enjoy the bounty of nature, while at the same time it reminds us that life is fragile.  Just like the sukkah, which will topple in a strong wind, we are vulnerable to the unpredictable forces of nature. The particular aspect of nature that we focus on during Sukkot is water.  In the Land of Israel our ancestors were keenly aware of their dependence on rain.  So while Sukkot is a celebration of the past year’s harvest, it is also a time to pray for the rain that will insure the harvest in the year to come.  Each day during Sukkot we wave the lulav, a bouquet of plants associated with varied water sources, and call out to the heavens to save us with life-giving rain. By the final day of Sukkot our mood has changed.  Cries of joy have become cries of desperation.  By tradition this is the final day of the high […]

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Tisha B’Av, Copenhagen and Climate Change

Rabbi Yedidya (Julian) Sinclair, Director of Education, Jewish Climate Initiative, and Hazon Rabbinical Scholar Recently I was asked an interesting question by an Israel environmental leader. “I was a bit surprised and somewhat dismayed,” he began, “to find out that the date chosen for the Copenhagen Planning Seminar was also Tisha B’Av.” A bit of background for the uninitiated: 1.         The Copenhagen Summit in December is a gathering of world leaders that aims to bash out a successor agreement to the Kyoto protocol that will limit CO2 emissions going forward. It is widely seen as a critical moment in the global effort to address climate change. 2.         The particular Seminar spoken about here is a gathering of Israeli environmental NGO’s that will propose an Israeli position for the Copenhagen Summit. Israel has not so far taken an official line on global warming. That is probably about to change. The new environment minister, Gilad Erdan, is one of the very few in recent years not to see the appointment as a consolation prize for not receiving a “real” ministerial job.” Erdan gets it. He understands that the environment really matters. The Tisha B’Av seminar includes a meeting with him. 3.         Tisha B’Av […]

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The World Turned Upside Down

(A slightly different take on Tom Friedman, the meltdown, quantitative easing, the Age of Awareness, Jewish history, Purim, Pesach, Zipcar and birkat hachamah.) Dear All, Tom Friedman’s piece in the New York Times this week (The Inflection Is Near?) provides a clear summation of how most environmentalists understand our current financial crisis, and if you haven’t yet read it I recommend it – You can read the article here. My one sentence precis: we’ve been overconsuming the world, and our behaviors are no more sustainable, in aggregate, than Bernie Madoff’s investment strategy. I want to argue that he’s right, but that we’re not properly following what should be the policy implications of what he argues; and, further, that Jewish history provides a particularly cautionary note on some of where we now might be headed. (more…)

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Second Thoughts on the New Millennium

We entered the new millennium as planned, hosting a shabbat dinner in Jerusalem. We went to synagogue – in black tie – and afterwards had eighteen friends for a more-lavish-than-usual but nevertheless recognizable Friday night dinner. We made kiddush over the wine (champagne, in this case) and the traditional blessing over the bread. We had a great dinner, looked back, looked forwards, played one or two games, sang songs. At midnight we began the traditional bensching, the grace after meals, to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, and included a prayer for peace in the future. All in all it was a great evening. The following morning the house was devastated. We had plates and debris everywhere; streamers and balloons, leftover pudding, candlesticks, washing-up stacked in heaps. We had wine glasses and champagne flutes and little shot glasses from those important impromptu l’chaims. By contrast with how beautiful it had looked when we first returned from synagogue, it indeed seemed like terrorists had wandered in during the night and done their worst. (more…)

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The Health Benefits of Fasting

By Will Carroll Originally posted on Serendip There has been much contention in the scientific field about whether or not fasting is beneficial to one’s health. Fasting is an integral part of many of the major religions including Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Many are dubious as to whether the physiological effects are as beneficial as the spiritual promoted by these religions. There is a significant community of alternative healers who believe that fasting can do wonders for the human body. This paper will look at the arguments presented by these healers in an attempt to raise awareness of the possible physiological benefits that may result from fasting. Fasting technically commences within the first twelve to twenty-four hours of the fast. A fast does not chemically begin until the carbohydrate stores in the body begin to be used as an energy source. The fast will continue as long as fat and carbohydrate stores are used for energy, as opposed to protein stores. Once protein stores begin to be depleted for energy (resulting in loss of muscle mass) a person is technically starving. (1) (more…)

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Tu B’Shvat 2007

Friday, February 3, 2007 / 14 Shevat 5767 Dear All, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just issued a report which is front page news in nearly every paper in the world today. The Guardian’s summary is typical: The report predicts a rise of between 18 cm and 58 cm in sea levels by the end of this century, a figure that could increase by as much as 20cm if the recent melting of polar ice sheets continues. “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level,” the summary said. (more…)

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New strategies for an ancient tradition

At the emotional high point of one of the central prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we say “teshuva, tefilla and tzedakah avert the evil decree.” Ahead of the prayer marathons of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I wanted to write something about tefilla, prayer, the second of these three things. It is in many ways the least accessible of the three. Teshuva – returning to our best selves – segues easily into a contemporary neo-therapeutic perspective. We may struggle to improve ourselves, but the desirability of doing so seems clear. (more…)

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