Archive for May, 2008

We were proud to be featured in the special Green Issue of the Magazine that came out on April 20th. The whole issue is worth looking at as a survey of cutting edge stuff going on in the field of climate change. (See link at the bottom.) Here’s the piece:

For years, Rabbi Julian Sinclair led a double life. He kept his two identities — as a yeshiva-trained Jewish scholar and a self-described economist and policy wonk schooled at Oxford and Harvard — apart.

But the increasing portents of climate change convinced Sinclair that a religious response to what he calls “the biggest big-picture policy challenge we face today” is precisely what the world needs now.

“The environmental movement has been overwhelmingly secular for 40 years and has achieved amazing things,” he says, “but it hasn’t yet figured out how to move people on amassive scale because it isn’t telling the right story.’ Sinclair says he believes that the “doom-laden apocalyptic narrative” favored by the mainstream environmental movement can paralyze rather than motivate necessary lifestyle adjustments. Conversely, he says religion — which has been “in the behavioral-change business for 3,000 years”— offers a distinct message of hope and boasts an impressive track record ofmoral persuasion: “There have been watershed moments when religion has barged into public life, blown away the windbaggery of politics-as-usual and declared with irresistible force, ‘This must change now!’ ”

Following the lead ofthe popular “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign from the Evangelical Environmental Network and Jewish sustainability organizations like Hazon(“Vision”), Sinclair helped found the Jewish Climate Initiative. He is also the author of the forthcoming book “The Green God,” in which he consults the world’s spiritual traditions for teachings about how humans can confront climate change.

Regarding his own religion, Sinclair says Judaism regularly expresses spirituality through “mundane deeds that awaken deeper consciousness.” “If going to the bathroom can be a religiously meaningful act (there’s a blessing said after doing so),then switching to C.F.L. light bulbs can be, too,” he says. Still, the economist in him urges first things first: “Shifts in consciousness can take decades that we don’t have. Trade in the S.U.V. — then let’s talk about the sacredness of the earth.” LEAH KOENIG New York Times Published: April 20, 2008http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/magazine/20Live-a-t.html?_r=2&pagewanted=3&sq=urban%20farming&st=nyt&scp=1&oref=slogin

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By David Seidenberg, in honor of Lag Ba’Omer- adapted from Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s Tisha B’av liturgy. According to one interpretation, the flood brought upon by Noah’s generation began today, the 17th of Iyyar, the day before Lag Ba’Omer.

Between the Fires

On this day, the 17th of Iyyar, the day when the Flood began,

this day when we prepare to kindle fires for Lag B’Omer,

we share a unique burden.

We are the first generation to understand

what the Floods could mean:

The Flood of Noah, when the Water of Life undid Life

and the Flood of Malachi, the Flood of Fire.

We are the generation standing

between the fires:

Behind us the flame and smoke

that rose from Auschwitz, from Hiroshima.

Before us the nightmare of a

Flood of Fire and Water,

from the burning of the Amazon and the melting of the Antarctic,

“the day that comes burning like an oven,”

a day when our flames could consume so much of the earth.

It is our task to make from fire not an all-consuming blaze

but a light in which we can see each other fully.

All of us different, All of us bearing

One Spark.

Let us light the fires of Lag B’Omer to see more clearly

that the earth and all who live as part of it

are not for burning.

Let us light our fires to see more clearly

the rainbow in the many-hued faces

Of all life.

Blessed is the One within the many.

Blessed are the many who embody the One.

“Here! I am sending you

Elijah the Prophet

Before the coming

of the great and terrible day

of YAHH, the Breath of Life.

And he shall turn the heart

Of fathers for children

And the heart of children

for their fathers.

Lest I come and

strike the earth


Here we stand

before the great and terrible day –

Let us turn the hearts

of parents to their children

and the hearts of children to their parents

so that this day of smiting

does not fall upon us or our children.

“And then the Sun of Righteousness will shine forth

and heal with her wings.”

Ken Y’hi Ratzon, So May It Be.


This prayer could be read as one begins to set up or light a Lag B’omer bonfire. It would be a good idea to act as one prays and make sure you’ve set up a carbon offset for the fire. There is still time for creatnig a new a liturgy for Rainbow Day , which is June 1, the anniversary of the day the flood ended and Noah’s family and the animals left the ark. We’ll see what comes.

May I ask you, as part of using or thinking about this kavannah for

Lag B’Omer, to commit to one new thing you can do to lessen your

“carbon footprint”, perhaps even something you can start doing by

Rainbow Day. And can I ask you to *record* whatever you commit to on

the “signwave” page of StoptheFlood,


B’shalom uv’yira,

David Seidenberg

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By Yannai Kranzler

Environmental sensitivity has a trap: Actions too often become a “Fight Against.” I stop acting “in order to”, but rather, “to beware of”- whether that “Beware of” is carbon emissions, pollution, pesticides or the like.

Not that caution is a bad place from where to act- crises like climate change give us the urgency that (hopefully) makes us change. But that urgency should not only encourage us to ward off disasters, but to re-examine our experience in this world and discover what it is we are missing that brought about these crises in the first place.

Let’s take eating local foods as an example:

I can buy local in order to avoid carbon demands of importing or to avoid supporting agribusiness, mono-crops and the obliteration of Nature’s great defense mechanism, biodiversity. No doubt about it, when a family accepts the challenge of buying local, they are taking a front lines position against global climate and food crises.

But eating shouldn’t only be a fight. Eating is an opportunity to celebrate a relationship with a Natural world that sustains us. As Jews, part of our mission as a People is to uncover the Holiness that lays buried in everyday activities just like eating. Buying local is one way to engage in consumption as a more nourishing experience, both physically and spiritually:

1- Local foods usually taste better, are fresher and healthier. They haven’t sat for days in hot, stuffy trucks, and haven’t been engineered to do so.

2- Eating becomes a means for us to connect with our community and our land:

My wife and I live next to Jerusalem’s open market. We love seeing the market reflect Israel’s seasonal patterns. Right now it’s Israel’s watermelon season. Soon will come mangoes. The messiest (and my most favorite) season, pomegranate season, will come again in the wintertime. Living according to Israel’s seasonal produce cycle has given us a whole new way to manifest the bond we have with our homeland.

3- Buying local means supporting community.

Imagine bringing your children to the farm where your dinner is grown, meeting the farmer, asking him questions, learning about where your food comes from and how its raised. Imagine the excitement around the dinner table when the food you eat reflects the hard work of someone you know. (If you’re really local with your food, growing your own veggies/raising your own meat, then I envy the pride you must have, deriving such direct benefit from the work of your own hands.).

When it comes down to it, that’s the sort of environmental sensitivity we are here to develop: the ability first to notice, then to appreciate, then to connect.

When my eating reflects this kind of sensitivity, I can close my eyes in concentration as I feed my body- thankful that my land knows how to satiate me, thankful for the taste of something fresh, thankful to the farmer that grew my food, even thankful to an animal that gave its life to be my dinner.

Tradition tells us that vegetation did not grow in the Garden of Eden until Adam came along to pray. It is truly amazing how much the flourishing of this world depends on our appreciating it.

So don’t fall into the doomsday trap. Have fun finding what grows locally near you. Enjoy eating as an experience in sensitivity and relationship with the world. Enjoy appreciating land and community. Raise your glass of locally grown wine or even your locally brewed beer, and celebrate that our world knows just what to provide us and when- drink up: L’Chaim! – “To Life.”

Do you know of any great local farmers here in Israel? What about in your area? Any “buying local” tips for the rest of us? Send a comment and let us know!

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