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.
“Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children”
The upcoming holiday of Tu BiShvat -- the birthday of the trees - brings back a memory of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In the museum is an enormous cross-section of a giant sequoia tree. Standing before it is a sublime experience. The cross-section overwhelms you with its sheer size, inspiring questions about the size of the tree it was cut from.
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.
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.
Sukkot is known in Hebrew as Z’man Simchateinu – the time of our joy. It’s the happiest festival on the Jewish calendar, labeled as such because it represents a time for coming together to enjoy family, nature, and a bountiful harvest.
Decorate your Sukkot table with Ethiopian, North African, and Sephardi breads full of fall colors and tantalizing spice mixes and broaden our palates to the customs of worldwide Jewish communities. Laden with seasonal honey, pumpkin, or orange, they don’t need braiding, and they make perfect gifts.
It’s a long-standing custom for Jews to wish one another a “sweet new year” on Rosh Hashanah; to hope that this coming year will be one filled with joy, fulfillment, and an abundance of blessings. However, Judaism isn’t a path focused simply on wishing for good things; if our goal is to make each year “sweeter” than the last, we must work to make it happen.
This Elul, what comes to mind as I think about my own growth and what empowers me towards religious action is the work of Northeastern University’s Community Fridge.