On Tu Bishvat we celebrated trees and a season of new growth. I've been doing lots of thinking about trees, as I frequently do, and the role they play in providing oxygen for the planet. At the Union of Reform Judaism, we provide oxygen to our communities by creating compassionate spaces for our participants to grow and thrive. We can respond to current and future challenges by fostering resilience that reflect our Jewish values.
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As I thought about what would be involved if we did our own Tu BiShvat seder, it seemed interesting and fun. Tasting lots of fruits? Marking a time to appreciate, mindfully and respectfully, trees and the earth? Drinking wines and grape juices? Yes, please.
New Year's Day and the traditional resolutions that accompany it invite us to take stock of our lives. Are we living our lives to the fullest? Can we imagine a future in which the commitments we make for ourselves (e.g., healthier habits around eating and exercise) actually come true? What will it take this year to really change?
From Covid and climate change to the erosion of democratic norms and the decline of a shared sense of truth (and the list could go on), two things are clear. First, are we living in an age that tests our ability to sustain hope. Second, if despair dominates hope, we will be unable to meet the challenges that beset us.
There are a lot of creative ways to make Hanukkah meaningful when we pause to ask ourselves a few good questions before automatically going into shopping mode.
The increasingly violent actions of certain young Jewish settlers in the West Bank against Palestinians - and against their olive trees, sheep herds, vehicles, homes, water supplies, and against their persons - have deeply troubled me, as just one awful symptom of our occupation. Last spring, in the ongoing, non-violent attempts to deter the frequent harassment by their Jewish settler neighbors, I went out twice to accompany Palestinian shepherds as they grazed their flocks.
Limiting the time we are on our devices and setting an intention about what we do there are small steps that can alter our relationship to the digital world. By committing to these changes in our day-to-day lives, we can more readily guide our kids to do the same.
Mussar represents what I have come to call “the Jewish Road to Character,” a Jewish path of study and spiritual practice focused on building the soul traits or the virtues that are at the core of our being.
During the 2020 uprising for Black lives, Yehudah was the lead organizer of the 40 Days of Teshuvah action that created a space of mourning the destruction of Black communities and crying out to the Heavens for spiritual co-conspiratorship in the fight for racial justice.