Me and My Shmita

ReleaseWhen I first learned how some Jewish social justice and environmental activists are re-imagining the Sabbatical Year, my mind and heart started racing with the beauty of this ancient teaching. In teachings about the Sabbatical Year, God’s concern for land overlaps and is entwined with God’s concern for animals, which overlaps and is entwined with God’s concern for people. Here, there is no dichotomy between social justice issues and environmental issues; no “jobs vs. the environment” mantra that I hear so often in political and activist discourse here in the U.S. Land and animal and human are connected to each other, and to God. Beautiful!  Continue reading

A People-First Approach to Climate Justice: Thinking Jewishly about Change

battery-park-tunnel-floodedIf you are among the despairing would-be climate activists of the world — overwhelmed by the scope of the problem, frustrated by lack of political will, horrified by the ever-more-dire predictions of climate scientists, and simultaneously consumed with both the urgency and the hopelessness of the situation — you are not alone.

As understanding grows that climate change is happening in the here and now — good-bye, Antarctic ice sheet — and that it poses a military threat and endangers corporate bottom lines, even people in corporate boardrooms and executive offices are beginning to pay attention. Our planet’s climate is changing because of things we humans have done, and I stand — and sometimes hide under my covers — right there with you, terrified.  Continue reading

A Journey Stey-by-Step: Counting the Walk

sinaiWe are walking now. Together, in the wilderness, walking. It’s hot, and dry. Sometimes there’s no water, or the water we find has a bitter taste. We haven’t always known where our next meal will come from. Some people wish we’d never left Egypt, and there’s a lot of complaining. Some days are really hard.

In these days in-between Pesach and Shavuot, between the Jewish festivals of liberation and revelation, we walk—and we count. Beginning on the second night of Pesach, we count each day between escape from Egypt and the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai. This practice is called “counting the Omer.” Each night we say a blessing, thanking God for the commandment to count the Omer. Then we count the day: “Today is ten days, which is one week and three days of the Omer.” We do this for 49 days, until the festival of Shavuot.

This year, I really appreciate the counting.  Continue reading

Meaning vs. Hope

[During January, State of Formation entered into a collaboration with The Interfaith Observer to address the subject of meaning making. Eight contributors from various faith and ethical traditions were asked to describe what makes meaning within their practices and/or tradition.]

The forecast for name-your-environmental-crisis-here often looks bleak. People who follow environmental issues know it, and sustained justice work can be a challenge. When I meet with religious groups about things like pervasive toxic chemicals, environmental justice, or global warming, someone invariably asks, “Where do we find hope?”  Continue reading

A Choosing Judaism Holiday Dilemma: What Do We Do with Santa?

santa-chanukiah“But Mom, we can’t celebrate Hanukkah—because then Santa won’t come, right?”

This was the question from my clearly worried 7-year old last December as we prepared to celebrate our first Hanukkah. And just like that, all of the confusing family issues surrounding my conversion to Judaism were distilled into one simple, innocent wondering. In that moment, standing there in the kitchen with my youngest son, there was really only one answer: “No, sweetie… Santa loves Hanukkah!”  Continue reading

Interfaith Tips: Telling Our Stories

conversationGoing to the park, to work, to the grocery store or pretty much anywhere today is venturing out into a religiously pluralistic setting. In all of those places, there are bound to be people who profess different religious beliefs than you do, or who profess no beliefs at all. In many of these settings, we keep quiet about our religious views so as not to offend or distance ourselves from others. I wonder, though, if this leaves us saying nothing real at all, and sometimes increases the distance between us rather than bringing us together in actual relationship.  Continue reading