The other day I was at Trader Joes trying to decide whether it was better to buy organic green beans flown in from Mexico or local beans grown conventionally with pesticides. Should I buy cloth napkins or disposable napkins made from recycled paper?  Is it worse to fill up landfills with soiled paper or use water and electricity to clean cloth napkins? Do I choose chicken raised on a farm in Snohomish even if it’s not hormone-free?  Or order the wild salmon fresh-caught but transported from Alaska? How does the US Farm Bill effect hunger worldwide?

The ORacle, February 2012 Issue

The upcoming holiday of Tu B’shvat offers us an opportunity to immerse ourselves in these issues. Tu B’shvat began as a minor agriculture holiday to honor the beginning of the spring planting season. Today, we celebrate it as a Jewish Earth Day: giving thanks for the abundance of the Eternal’s creation and acknowledging our responsibility to care for the earth. Ecclesiastes reminds us, “One generation goes, another comes, but the earth remains the same forever.”

Please join us February 7th for a community dinner and Tu B’shvat Seder. Together we will enjoy the seven species of Israel, “a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey” (Deuteronomy 8:8). As we join together over delicious food and song, we reflect on our relationship with nature in its physical and spiritual forms. But our celebration is also a call to action, asking us to examine our ecological footprint and make positive changes. As a sacred kehillah, community, we will learn and discuss Judaism’s call for personal responsibility, ethical food choices and sustainable living.

A few resources to get us started:

Education: Try Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, the Grist Favorite Food Books of 2010, or Hazon’s The Jew and the Carrot blog:  

Make the Commitment: URJ’s Just Table, Green Table Biennial Initiative asks each of us to take action, one step at a time. Try cutting down on the amount of red meat you consume or making more environmentally conscience food choices when grocery shopping.

At Temple Beth Or: Be more conscious about using the compost bin after oneg or commit to carpooling to services or Religious School more often.

How can we make the lessons of Tu B’shvat–our responsibility to care for the earth and honor the foods of the season—personally relevant? Join us for singing, noshing, and meaningful discussion as we honor our faith, bodies, and our earth.

Im Brachot, With Blessings,

Rabbi Jessica Kessler Marshall