Earth Day and Passover:
Earth Day and Passover are the same day this year. This allows us to consider the relationship between two holidays. Passover is an ancient religious festival described in the Torah and practiced by Jews for thousands of years. Earth Day is a celebration started in 1970 as concern for the environment rose to new levels. One connects to sacred history, the other calls for a new relationship with our planet.
According to Rabbi Irving Greenberg in his book, The Jewish Way, Passover is not only a commemoration of a past event. It marks a morally significant moment in human history. “The overwhelming majority of earth’s human beings have always lived in poverty and suffering…Statistically speaking, hauman life is of little value…Power, rather than justice seems always to rule.” But Judaism asserts that this is not always the case. Some day history will be perfected and “much of what passes for the norm of human existence is really a deviation from the ultimate reality.” We know this because of the Exodus, the liberation of Israelite slaves. This event, says Greenberg, is more than a minor historical anomaly. It is a paradigm and inspiration for human liberation. It shows that humans are meant to be free and that God is concerned with humanity. While this redemptive experience did not immediately stop all oppression and evil in the world, it created an alternative reality of how life can and should be. It creates a “dream of perfection and thereby creates the tension that must exist until reality is redeemed.” Earth Day does the same thing for the environment by creating a tension which drives our efforts towards sustainability.
Find out more about the environmental implications of Passover:
- Preparing for Passover: Readings for the Seder Table by Stuart Tahl
- Breaking Free From the Fossil-Fuel Pharaoh by David Krantz
- Healthy, Sustainable, Passover Resources from Jewcology
Earth Day is April 22nd. Every day is an opportunity to appreciate our connection to the Earth. We should always strive to minimize our impact on the earth, but Earth Day provides us an important marker with which to share our values and take stock.
Judaism provides us with a lot of traditional holidays in which to appreciate our connection as Adam (humankind) to Adamah (Earth). Earth Day is also a time to consider Jewish environmental values by celebrating the human connection to the natural world and placing a powerful emphasis on protecting and preserving it.
Earth Day is also a call to actualize the Jewish principle of social justice in everyday life through environmental action. The Torah stresses the importance of pursuing justice (Deuteronomy 16:20) and includes a detailed program to ensure the equitable distribution of resources (Exodus 22:24-26; Leviticus 25:36-37; Deuteronomy 23:20-1, 24:6, 10-13, 17). Humanity’s failure to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the toxic byproducts of modern life, and the inequitable distribution of food and technology resources, all these crises disproportionately impact the most vulnerable.
We have brought together a variety of different resources to help you celebrate Earth Day. Too often in our busy modern lives, we lack time to reflect. Earth Day was created just for that purpose. It is a moment to consider the broader foundations of our lifestyle, to spend time with family, and to evaluate how we can be better stewards of the earth.
Earth Day and Judaism:
Explore the Connections between Judaism and Environmentalism:
- Why Earth Day is a Jewish Holiday by Robert Rabinovich
- Ten Jewish Teaching on Judaism and Environmentalism by Rabbi Lawrence Troster
- Earth Day Resources from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
- Earth Day and the Ethical Obligation to Protect the Earth by Candace Nachman of Canfei Nesharim
- Read about an interfaith coalition, that used Earth Week to lobby for climate action in Washington. COEJL’s Mirele Goldsmith was there, presenting the Jewish voice.
Think about changes you can make in your own life:
- Did you know that every time you turn on the lights, you could be using renewable power? Most utilities have green power programs. To find green power providers in your state, click here.
- Conserve electricity and make your home more energy efficient.
- Have you thought about getting an energy audit for your house? These are usually free! Find an auditor here.
- Educate yourself about energy issues from a Jewish perspective.
- Reuse: Use reusable items rather than disposables. Bring water bottles, shopping bags, mugs, utensils, plates to work with you. More green tips from COEJL can be found here.
- Consult the EPA’s guide to celebrating Earth day here.
- Send your favorite green tips to info at coejl.org. We will post the best of them on our website.
- Join the COEJL mailing list.
- Are you a member of synagogue or other Jewish organization? Convince your organization to join the Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign! Leadership of participating organization have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint fourteen percent by 2014, the next sabbatical year. Read the declaration here.
- Join the Jewish Energy Network. COEJL is bringing together Jewish grassroots leaders who are motivated to promote renewable energy. For more information write to info at coejl.org