Topic: Spirituality


Jewish Gifts to Interfaith Climate Change Work

by Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav used to say: “Friends do not despair! When a difficult time has come upon us, joy must fill the air! We must not lose our faith in living, we must not despair. When a difficult time is upon us, joy must fill the air!” When I was a child, singing this song in synagogue gave me great hope. I hear it now as a call to keep joy and hope alive amidst this huge challenge facing humanity. We must not lose our faith in living, we must not despair. Though a difficult time is indeed upon us, joy can fill the air! I want to highlight three major gifts that Judaism brings to the table of interfaith climate change work. Experience with paradigm shifts. The connection between the environment and human actions. The Jewish cycle of time, specifically of the cycle of rest & renewal. Paradigm shifts: When the Second Temple was destroyed by Rome in 70 C.E., the Jewish community suffered cataclysmic violence and the loss of a way of life. In the chaos, a man named Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was smuggled out of burning Jerusalem in a coffin. […]

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Life Lessons Learned from the Shmita Year

by Akiva Gersh It’s fair to say that Shmita inspired me to become religious.  After learning about it and other environmentally-related laws and values of the Torah towards the end of my college years, my perception of Judaism was radically and forever changed.  The lifeless and irrelevant form of the Jewish tradition I inherited in my youth was being replaced by one that was proving to be vibrant, meaningful, and very, very relevant.  As a spiritual seeker and social activist, Judaism had what to say about many of the things I was passionate about and cared for.  Especially when it came to the Earth. Fast-forward twenty years and my home has transported across the world to the land of Israel where ancient Jewish environmental and agricultural laws have once again become part of the national consciousness of the Jewish people back in their land.  Laws that technically only apply to this very small patch of our planet’s surface are being practiced by millions, affecting the way they grow, purchase and eat food.  And now for the second time in the ten years since I’ve moved to this land, I am taking part in the unique opportunity and challenge that is […]

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Because Sometimes it Rains on Your Sukkah

by Sarah Chandler Geshem Be’ito (Acceptance of Rain in Its Time) The following essay will be published in the forthcoming book of teachings “Good Noticing” published by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. The rhythms of the Jewish calendar may not coincide with your particular climate. At times, our traditional rituals may range from the impractical to the impossible. For example, in the Northern Hemisphere, calling upon light in the darkness of Chanukah in Kislev/December always resonates, but singing about blossoming trees in Shevat/January may not make sense. How can we stay true to our tradition when the weather doesn’t cooperate? And as mindfulness practitioners, how might we elevate the news of undesirable weather? Those of us who live in the Northeastern United States are usually blessed with bountiful precipitation year-round. Furthermore, our religion is no longer based on the careful balance between following God’s laws and receiving in return enough rain for our crops to survive. The Reform movement even removed the second paragraph of the Shema from prayer books to make the bold statement: we are modern Jews—we do not believe that we can influence God to change the weather by keeping the commandments of our tradition. Recent evidence […]

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Gathering Men for Transformation and Fellowship: The Jewish Men’s Retreat

The Jewish Men’s Retreat, or JMR for short, isn’t a kiddush club or a poker night among pals drinking bourbon and smoking cigars (although there is whiskey and there are cigars after Shabbat for those who partake). The JMR is a grassroots, multi-generational lay-led gathering which, over the last two decades, has evolved a structure for helping Jewish men pay attention to the unique aspects of their gender identity and spiritual expression. The twenty-second retreat of the JMR will be taking place this October 25th-27th at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut. Over seventy men from all walks of life and streams of Jewish observance and non-observance are registered to attend this year, a third of which are new-comers. According to long-time participant Allen Spivack, “the reason most new people come is because someone tells them about it. We don’t really talk about the normal things, sports, cars, my mortgage, my colonoscopy, we talk about different stuff. Men come for fellowship and it’s beautiful.” Spivack, a carpenter and social-worker, has brought both of his sons to previous JMR retreats and believes they would be different men had they not had come. Allen’s son, Lev, explains, “I feel […]

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Jewish Intentional Communities Conference

We’re delighted to announce that the Pearlstone Center, Hazon, and the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center are launching a Jewish Intentional Communities Initiative. Together we share a vision that over the next 3-10 years,  new Jewish intentional communities will bloom across the country—from urban kibbutzim to rural moshavim, suburban co-ops, and more—and that these dynamic and vibrant new Jewish communities will become inspiring catalysts in an ongoing renaissance in American Jewish life. (more…)

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tefilah retreat

Tefillah Retreat — A weekend of Jewish spiritual practice in the Rockies

A weekend for young Jewish adults in the Colorado mountains filled with Fun * Depth * Prayer * Yoga * Hiking * Singing * Drumming * Eating * JOY November 9-11, 2012 Visit www.tefilahretreat.org for sample schedule, presenter bios, registration, and more! Space is limited. Registration is $90 with scholarships available. Contact the organizers at tefilahretreat@gmail.com This is an entirely volunteer-run project, subsidized with generous support from a Limmud learning-inspired grant, an initiative of Rose Community Foundation.

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A Guide to Jewish Practice: Everyday Living

Rabbi David Teutsch is Director of the Levin-Lieber Program in Jewish Ethics and the Louis & Myra Wiener Professor of Contemporary Jewish Civilization at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, where he previously served as President for a decade.   An avid bicyclist, he participated in the 2007 Hazon Israel ride, did a 2300 mile solo ride across the United States in summer 2008, and has done the New York Hazon ride for the last several years. He is also a well-known lecturer, consultant and trainer, and is a past president of the Society of Jewish Ethics and of the Academic Coalition for Jewish Bioethics.  A past member of the Conference of Presidents, he has served on the boards of over a dozen other organizations, including schools, synagogues, and magazines.   An honors graduate of Harvard University ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, he earned his Ph.D. at the Wharton School, where his dissertation dealt with organizational ethics. Hazon is honored to include Rabbi Dr. Teutsch among it’s board of directors. In 2011 he published the first volume (devoted to everyday living) of A Guide to Jewish Practice, which takes a values-based approach to both ethical and ritual matters. In January 2012, it was honored […]

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Rejuvenating Ourselves and Our Planet

Jewcology is a diverse platform for Jewish environmental activists to learn from each other in order to educate Jewish communities about our responsibility to protect the environment. Hazon is excited to share these resources with you! We promote the interrelatedness of shabbat as a time to reflect on environmental and sustainable ideas through many of our programs and resources. Our Food Guide has kosher sustainable meat options, Greening Your Shabbat Table, Sustainable Kiddush, and all of our Food Programs help you to draw connections between Jewish tradition and contemporary food issues. By Rabbi Yonatan Neril In modern society, we are running, speaking, and thinking at an exceptional rate, and oftentimes we continue all week long without slowing down.  Constantly doing, always mobile accessible, habitually multi-tasking. If being too busy is a malady of modern man, slowing down on Shabbat may be a key remedy. The Torah teaches, “These are the things that the Divine commanded to make. Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have sanctity, a day of complete rest to G-d…”  Achieving sanctity and complete rest is the stated goal of Shabbat. Yet how can this happen? (more…)

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Sustainability in the Land of Israel

Jewcology is a diverse platform for Jewish environmental activists to learn from each other in order to educate Jewish communities about our responsibility to protect the environment. Hazon is excited to share these resources with you! We work to create a healthier and more sustainable Israel through our Israel Ride, our Sustainable Food Tour, and Siach (conversation). Learn more about sustainability in the land of Israel using this resource from Jewcology: By Rabbi Yonatan Neril Abraham and Sarah came to Israel over 3700 years ago.  Since then, significant populations of Jews have spent over 1600 years living in the Land of Israel.  For much of this time, Jews have been involved in growing crops, tending fruit trees, and shepherding animals, activities critical to providing food to sustain those living in Israel. Yet they also presented challenges to environmental sustainability in the Land. How did Jews manage to live in the Land for so long? While the Torah teaches that Divine Providence (in response to the people following the commandments) played the fundamental role, the Oral Tradition as redacted in the Mishna also provides insights. (more…)

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B’naiture – Wilderness Torah’s B’nai Mitzvah Mentorship Program – Starts Fall, 2011

Make your child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah the adventure of a lifetime with Wilderness Torah’s B’nai Mitzvah Nature Mentorship! B’naiture takes your child on a journey through nature to experience the transition from childhood into adolescence. Through immersion camping trips and bi-monthly gatherings, B’naiture weaves nature skills, personal challenge, and non-parental mentorship together with Jewish teachings and story to craft an empowering coming-of-age process. Separate male and female cohorts honor the unique journeys they take at this time. A parallel parent group explores how to best support your children at this critical time. B’naiture supplements traditional B’nai Mitzvah education or serves the independent family journey. Learn More about Wilderness Torah’s B’naiture. Join Wilderness Torah for an introductory evening to learn about B’Naiture Meet The Mentors Wednesday July, 20th, 7pm Jewish Community Center of the East Bay

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Finding a Spiritual Home

By Rabbi Ezra Weinberg, New York Ride Co-Chair To all you seekers of spiritual community out there, I have one piece of advice. Do not limit your search to only traditional religious institutions. Do support your local synagogue, but also be aware that spiritual community comes in many forms. The Hazon community has become one of my spiritual homes. For me, the term “spirituality” refers to when the different pieces of one’s life start to tell a coherent story that inspires action. The backbone of spiritual experience occurs when seemingly disconnected parts of my life begin to feel interconnected—what I like to call the “connecting of the dots;” when coincidence becomes impossible to ignore. This is only one limited explanation for a widely used elusive concept, but this “connecting of the dots” experience happens to define my relationship with the Hazon community, including how I first got involved. (more…)

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From Waste to Wonder: Steps to a Spiritual Ecology of Living

By Natan Margalit, Published in Tikkun July/Aug 2004 There are no words which, in themselves, are useless. There are no actions which, in themselves, are useless. But one can make useless both actions and words by saying or doing them uselessly. -Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz The Waste Culture Not long ago, as I was composting the rinds and peels collecting in my kitchen, my mind wandered to the words of a mystic rabbi who claimed that whenever any event happened in the world, it surely has a reason for existing—that it is up to us to find the spark of holiness even in our greatest mistakes. Those things that we’d like to hide from, tuck away, and forget, he said, must be held up to the light, because there is something in them, some energy which could hold the key to our happiness and fulfillment, that is calling to be redeemed. We live in a waste culture. Gangsters “waste” their rivals; partiers who drink too much alcohol get “wasted.” A recent book by Kevin Bales identifies the shocking reality of the contemporary slave trade as the story of “disposable people.” Another book, Wasted Lives, by sociologist Zygmunt Bauman (reviewed in […]

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Cosmic Consciousness, Man, and the Worm: Ecology and Spirituality in Jewish Tradition

By: Rabbi David Sears Ecology is a highly practical branch of science. Nothing could be more “down to earth” than preservation of the planet. Yet there is a facet of ecological awareness that is often overlooked. This is its spiritual dimension. When we act as self-absorbed individuals, with little regard for anyone or anything that exists outside ourselves, we immediately fall into moral and spiritual error. As the Yiddish saying goes, “A blind horse heads straight for the pit!” Thus, countless laws in the Torah adjure us to open our eyes, and act responsibly and compassionately toward the world around us. Among other ecological mandates, it promulgates the laws of bal tashchis (neither to destroy wantonly, nor waste resources unnecessarily); the prohibitions of cutting down fruit trees, or trees surrounding an enemy city in wartime; the laws of covering excrement, and removing debris from public places, etc. In doing so, the Torah indicates that although we may feel at odds with nature, having to struggle to survive, in truth the world comprises a potentially harmonious whole in which each element is precious. Rav Avraham Yitzhak Kook (1865-1935), Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of pre-state Israel and a leading 20th century thinker, expresses […]

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