Greening Shavuot

Welcome back to my Blog.  I am sharing a beautiful piece by a member of my shul, Arwen Kutner.  As we enter into the summer, I hope to come back to regular posting…

Shavuot is coming up this week and with it comes the reading of the book of Ruth. A central question about the story is how it is possible for Ruth to become Jewish when she is actually a Moabite. Moabites are very clearly forbidden from converting into Judaism. The answer comes when we look at why Moabites can’t become Jews because the Torah says that they they did not meet you with bread and water along the way ( Dvarim 23:5) In other words, they chose behaviors that were contrary to the trait of chesed or lovingkindness.

We find that Ruth was able to convert, despite her lineage, because throughout her entire story we see that she constantly chooses to exhibit behaviors that demonstrate chesed. Because of what she does she transcends the label of being a Moabite.

This brings up the question of when someone is identified by what they are vs. by what they do.

Labels serve the purpose of pigeonholing people. When we label someone, we limit what that person is capable of accomplishing. When we label ourselves, all the more so we limit our potential.

Recently I heard someone in my workplace say to a colleague, “You know we really don’t need to waste so much paper.”

The response was, “What are you, an environmentalist?”

With that simple labeling comment, the second person was able to end the converation. She had labeled the first person and, by doing so, could proceed without having to reflect on the choice she personally was making to use more paper than she needed and to dispose of it appropriately.

We are globally at a point of crisis in which we must all look at our personal behaviors and their impact on the planet. So many people with so much power to buy, create, consume and dispose of limited resources in limited space must coordinate in order to prevent overcrowding or heating ourselves out of existence. But many people neglect this self-reflection with the perspective that, “I’m not a crunchy environmentalist. It just isn’t my thing. This isn’t relevant to me.” But the truth is, it truly is relevant to each and everyone one of us as Jews and as citizens of the world.

If you want to cook, you just have to choose to do it. You don’t have to be a chef. To do the right thing, to look closely at our obvious impact on the world around us, we don’t have to be anything other than responsible. With that I encourage you, regardless of whether you consider yourself an environmentalist, to take part in the upcoming shul greening committee meeting (Sunday evening, May 27th at 8:30 at the shul – we will be joined by Rabbi Fox’s father Dr. Herbert Fox, an environmental expert!). If you, as a reader, are not part of our shul, please consider these comments in relation to your own personal choices.

Chag sameach.


4 Responses to Greening Shavuot

  1. elyse says:

    what a beautiful, concise delivery! An authentic example of how we have daily opportunities to make a difference. Thank you for drawing a contemporary reality from antiquity! Very encouraging
    chag sameach…elyse

  2. David Marks says:

    Kudos to Arwen for composing such a great message and for Rabbi Jeff for posting it on the blog. It demonstrates a valid perspective on how Jews need to participate in environmental efforts.

    Below are the agenda details regarding the Green Shuls Committee meeting on Sunday, May 27th at 8:30 PM.


    I. Welcome and Overview: David Marks, Chair, Green Shuls Committee

    II. Rabbi Jeffery Fox: Introduction – Jewish Environmentalism

    III. Discussion with Guest Expert: Dr. Herbert Fox

    Agenda items as follows:

    1. Recycling at Kesher and at Home:
    A discussion on what we are currently doing at Kesher for recycling and how we can expand our efforts both at shul and at home. Please visit See attached for more info.

    2. Kesher Product Purchasing and Supplies:
    We will discuss ideas for locating suppliers and items that need to be addressed such as: Kiddush tableware, bathroom paper products, office supplies, etc. There are many ways in which we can impact current purchasing at Kesher.

    3. Kesher Energy Efficiency:
    In our current building and in our future space, energy efficiency should be a priority. We have already begun implementing changes in our lighting, but still may need changes in heating and A/C, windows and more. Solar panels may also be a possibility for the new building.

    4. Global Warming and How Kesher Can Make an Impact:
    As we now know, Global Warming is a reality that the world has recently acknowledged. We, as Jews and as Hashem’s chosen stewards of the environment, need to take action to protect the future of the planet and future generations. The risks are too high to ignore. Kesher has an opportunity to make an impact both at shul and in our community.

    5. Enlisting the Full Membership to Take Action:
    We will discuss ideas for educating and helping members of Kesher understand the issues and the importance of taking action as Jews and as a community. This is ultimately the most difficult task of those discussed today, but one that will have the most impact in the end. Event planning is a crucial adjunct to this topic.

    6. Small GSC Groups:
    Finally we will be breaking into small sub-task groups to work on all of the issues discussed above and revisit each at our next meeting for progress reports. Your help is much appreciated. Thank you for your participation.

  3. Drew Kaplan says:

    Welcome back to the blog!

  4. global warming is becoming such a obvious problem that someone somewhere other than Al Gore needs to step up to help drive the bus!

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