Sukkot is a harvest festival that allows us to experience and reflect upon our vulnerability and fragility in the world. All of the practices of this holiday–celebrating fall harvest foods, inviting community and strangers to one’s sukkah and living in an impermanent dwelling for a week–can be examined through the lens of how we are addressing and will deal with the impacts of climate change crisis.
The planet has already warmed one degree Celsius and is on track to go up 1.5 degrees within 10 years. (see these National Geographic articles, photos and interactives). This holiday, as we think about whom we would invite into our sukkah, is an opportunity to think about the refugees who have been displaced because of climate change. The numbers will only increase (estimated at possibly 10 million people with a two degree temperature increase) as sea levels rise, freshwater dries up, and habitable lands turn to into deserts. As countries erect physical and legal barriers to stop migrants, these small-minded nationalist-fueled actions will be subsumed by the global responsibility to fulfill the need to help displaced people as more of our planet becomes uninhabitable. Most recently, Bahamians fleeing after hurricane Dorian obliterated several islands, were denied entrance into the US. And, some climate refugees are within our own borders, such as those impacted by the recent severe floods in the Midwest, tropical storms in the south and now year-round California wildfires.
It’s dire but we can be inspired by the Talmudic teaching bal taschit (do not destroy). Our responsibility as God’s partners to protect creation began in the Garden of Eden. And, there’s so much we can do in our homes, communities and government:
1. Fight back against the fossil fuel industry with 350.org
2. Transition to a plant-forward diet
3. Green your synagogue through Hazon
4. Advocate for laws to stop climate change with the Jewish Earth Alliance
5. Support refugees worldwide with IsraAid
6. Make easy changes in your home and daily routine
Despite this very real and serious crisis, Judaism offers us daily opportunities to celebrate life, especially during holidays. I relish having Sukkot meals with dishes made with fruits and vegetables grown on local farms. The dishes of Sukkot are often stuffed to symbolize the abundant seasonal harvest. My recipe for kabocha squash stuffed with coconut black rice and roasted pears and apples is a great centerpiece dish that is hearty and has a range of delectable flavors and textures.
1 medium kabocha squash
3 medium-large apples (I used Gala)
2 Asian pears
2 other pears (I used Barlett)
2 cups black rice (or more, depending on the size of your kabocha squash)
1 can coconut milk
ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
optional: 1-2 tbsp date or maple syrup
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Rinse the kabocha squash, cut holes with a knife for ventilation and drizzle olive oil on the outside. Place on baking sheet.
- Slice the pears and apples into lengthwise slim 1/4 inch pieces and place on baking sheet. Drizzle with a little bit of olive to reduce sticking and sprinkle heavily with cinnamon. Drizzle a small amount of vanilla and a few small pinches of cardamom and nutmeg, and a large pinch of salt. Tip: put the Asian pears on a separate sheet because they are harder and will take longer to bake.
- Place squash and fruit in oven to bake. The squash will take approximately 40 minutes, depending on its size. It is done when you can put a knife through it. The fruit will take about 15 minutes until bubbling and soft (though more for the Asian pears which will not become super soft like the other fruit). Remove the fruit from the oven and let cool (if they are sticking, scrape them, while warm, from the parchment paper.
- While baking, place black rice with one can coconut milk and the rest water (2:1 water to rice ratio) and cook until done. Once done and cooled, mix with most of fruit slices, reserving some of the Asian pears. Taste–some additional salt or spices might be needed.
- Once the squash is ready, let fully cool on the counter. Cut open the top and scoop out the seeds (you can save these for later and toast them).
- Fill the inside of the kabocha with the rice mixture. Place the extra fruit slices (the Asian pears hold their shape best) and arrange on the outside of the squash.
- Drizzle with pomegranate molasses on the rice mixture, squash and fruit (optional to also use date or maple syrup to reduce the tanginess of the pomegranate molasses). The squash will naturally start to collapse as you begin to scoop servings from the inside (and it might break a bit while baking).
PS: Click here for my other Sukkot recipes, including roasted perennials, stuffed zucchini and stuffed spaghetti squash (left photo)