Torah, Food, and Climate Change

Navdanya farm, India

This weekend begins the “Earth Week” starting with the March for Science and culminating next weekend with the People’s Climate March. Both will be held in Washington, DC, with satellite marches across the nation and around the globe.  We are living in a perilous time: we’ve already exceed the greenhouse gas emissions goal of 350 ppm, each year tops the previous one as “the hottest on record” and efforts are underway to gut the Environmental Protection Agency. The effects of climate change, including drought, floods and increased temperatures wreak havoc on crops, threatening our food supplies.  We can make a significant reduction in our climate emissions through our food choices (9% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US come from agriculture). Torah teaches us that we are God’s partner in protecting creation, bal taschit (do not destroy/waste) is a central teaching, and our calendar follows the agricultural cycle. “The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to till it and tend it” (Genesis 2:15). The following tips to reduce one’s carbon emissions through food choices can be easily be done at home, schools, and shuls (and details about Jewish involvement in the People’s Climate Shabbat/March and other resources).

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Shevat: Fruit Tree Jams

Shevat Jams: bottom-apple, left-kumquat orange, right-fig

Shevat Jams: bottom-apple, left-kumquat orange, right-fig

The month of Shevat begins in a few days. The holiday of Tu B’shevat is a New Year celebration for trees. It’s definitely the locavore and environmental holiday of the Jewish calendar that marks the age of trees for tithing. It is customary to eat a new fruits and/or one of the seven species of Israel: barley, wheat, grapes, pomegrantes, olives, figs and date (or date syrup) on the holiday. Inspired by a Kabbalistic tradition, it has become commonplace to celebrate the holiday with a seder–guests enjoy an array of tree grown nuts and fruits as well as discussions about environmental issues we face today. While enjoying fruits this month, consider planting a tree or donating to a tree fund.  the US. Also, check out Fallen Fruit, which maps and harvests fruits in public urban spaces.

I prepared three jams with fruits purchased from the farmers market at the Tel Aviv port and from trees in my neighborhood. Unlike most jam recipes that call for large quantities of sugar, these recipes are fairly low in sugar. Enjoy with fresh, warm bread. Continue reading

Chanukah Round Up

FullSizeRender(228)(1)Chanukah Sameach! I hope you enjoy 8 nights of lighting candles, munching on latkes, spinning dreidels, and more. I want to share with you some new and old Chanukah posts:

8 Easy Tips for an Environmentally Friendly Hanukkah (Haaretz)

Latkes and Chanukah for London’s Borough Market

8 Infused Olive Oils (Jewish Journal)

8 Ways to Make Your Chanukah More Sustainable

Oily, Salty Salad for the Month of Kislev

Soup for Tevet

Shoftim: Pursuing Justice for the Environment

FullSizeRender(175)(1)In this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, Moses demands of the Jewish people,  צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדֹּף, Justice, justice shall you pursue” (16:20).

It also includes the following. “When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them, for you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down.” (20:19)

This injunction to protect fruit trees is a foundation of bal tashchit (do not destroy) and  “is the halakhic basis of an ethic of environmental responsibility,” writes Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Chabad.org explains that bal tashchit, “underscores the Divine imperative for us to take matters concerning the preservation of our environment very seriously.”

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