Acknowledging that moral and religious meaning pervade the smallest details of everyday life; praise and gratitude for the blessings of nature and human community; and respect for the order of creation — for millennia, these have been keynotes of Jewish worship and the yearly cycle of Jewish holidays (many of which have agricultural roots). Today, many congregations and families sound those notes in ways that resonate with present-day environmental concerns and give new significance to age-old liturgies, prayers and observances.
Among the Jewish holidays most often celebrated with reference to contemporary environmental concerns is Tu B’Shvat, the “New Year for the Trees” — at the time of year when the sap begins to rise in the trees in Israel. Sometimes called the “Jewish Earth Day,” it has become for many a time to lift up environmental concerns in the congregation and community.
However, the ecological dimensions of a whole range of Jewish holidays can be brought out in creative ways. Hanukkah can be a time for highlighting issues of energy awareness; Sukkoth, for reflecting on food and agriculture; Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah can be a time for ecological repentance and renewal; Passover, for recalling Earth’s need for liberation from environmental oppression.
A variety of resources for such holiday observances is available on COEJL's website and in its Program Bank, as well as from ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.