By Rabbi Jamie Korngold
My husband once asked me what I wanted for my birthday.
“Less,” I said.
“Less?” he asked. “How do I get you less?”
After I explained it to him, he hired a babysitter and we spent a day clearing out our cabinets and closets. We gave away the china we never use, filled boxes with books we no longer needed, and stuffed bag after bag with clothing to give away. There is something about an uncluttered shelf or an un-crammed closet that fills me with peace. It was the best birthday present ever.
Sometimes I feel that the abundance in my life — the stuff on my shelves and in my closets, the never ending line of e-mails in my inbox, the plethora of events on my calendar — threatens to engulf me.
Perhaps this is why Rosh Chodesh, the celebration of the new moon, receives my vote for the holiday most deserving of making a comeback in prominence. For two weeks of the month the moon waxes, becoming larger and larger until finally it reaches its fullness. Our society has no shortage of teachings telling us to be like the full moon. We must do more, achieve more, own more and consume more — we get the message loud and clear. But Rosh Chodesh celebrates the emptiness of the new moon. During Rosh Chodesh, the nothingness in the dark sky neither overwhelms us with its brightness nor demands that we notice it. The new moon makes no demands upon our thoughts or vision, but in its quiet absence it enables us to see the stars.
Rosh Chodesh is the holiday of less. With the moon’s darkness, Rosh Chodesh reminds us to conserve energy — to turn off lights when we don’t need them — and to consume less. Rosh Chodesh reminds us that only when we take a break from consuming can we see the stars.
This Rosh Chodesh, I invite you to embrace the less. Install light bulbs such as compact fluorescents that consume less energy. Use fans instead of air conditioning when it’s hot and wear sweaters instead of turning up the thermostat when it’s cold. Give away those jeans that really are not ever going to fit again. Recycle those old water bottles that have potentially harmful BPA in them. Take a break from the computer and all of the other energy draining electronic devices that consume our lives. Make space not for more things and more electrical gadgets but for your eyes to rest on the peace of emptiness. Who knows what stars you might see!
Rabbi Jamie Korngold is the founder, executive director, senior rabbi and lead guide of Adventure Rabbi, a Colorado based Jewish adventure program. She is the author of numerous books, including The God Upgrade: Finding Your 21st-Century Spirituality in Judaism’s 5,000-Year-Old Tradition and God in the Wilderness. Korngold has been featured in USA Today, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and on Good Morning America, CBS, CNN and NPR. A graduate of Cornell University’s natural resources program, she received her ordination from Hebrew Union College.
The Jewish Energy Guide presents a comprehensive Jewish approach to the challenges of energy security and climate change and offers a blueprint for the Jewish community to achieve a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by September of 2014, which is the next Shmittah, or sabbatical, year in the Jewish calendar.
The Jewish Energy Guide is part of COEJL’s Jewish Energy Network, a collaborative effort with Jewcology’s Year of Action to engage Jews in energy action and advocacy. The Guide was created in partnership with the Green Zionist Alliance.