Toward Shabbat: Beshalah

When my husband Jeremy first mentioned the idea of using cloth diapers for our daughter, I laughed. After quite a few back and forths, a reality check, and lots of research, we decided to try it. (You read that correctly, for now our five-month-old is wearing cloth diapers!)

Just yesterday we celebrated Tu Bishvat, the birthday of the trees, and a holiday that, in many Jewish communities today, including our own, has opened the door for us to focus on our commitment to environmental justice. It has become a day when we, as individuals and as a community, reflect on the ways in which we can work on reducing our carbon footprints and help fight climate change. However, Tu Bishvat is not the only time in our Jewish calendar that reminds us that we are responsible for our natural world. Every week, on Shabbat, we have the opportunity to renew our relationship as partners in creation. Each Friday night, we are reminded of our commitment to creation as we raise our kiddush cups and chant,

וְשַׁבַּת קָדְשׁוֹ בְּאַהֲבָה וּבְרָצוֹן הִנְחִילָנוּ זִכָּרוֹן לְמַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית

and in love and favor [God] gave us God’s holy Shabbat as an inheritance, — as a remembrance of the act of creation.

In “Kiddush,” the sanctification of the day, Shabbat is defined as a remembrance of the act of creation. Shabbat provides us with a designated time to slide back into the natural rhythms of the world and to appreciate all of creation. It is a weekly wake-up call for us to open our eyes to the ways in which we have been reckless with our natural resources, thoughtless in how we grow our food, and negligent in protecting the homes of other living creatures on Earth.

Rabbi Art Green, theologian and rector of the Hebrew College Rabbinical School where I was ordained, teaches about our responsibility to the environment:

We should express it in a stronger commitment to Shabbat as our weekly witnessing of Creation, embracing Shabbat as a celebration of existence and a time of raising our awareness of God’s presence throughout the created world, attesting to the need to treat all of nature and its resources with care and reverence. This renewed Shabbat should engage us in working to preserve Creation during the week as well, taking on roles of leadership in all the many efforts to  conserve and protect the environment in both the private and public spheres.

 

Shabbat is not only a day when we enjoy delicious challah, pray together, and nourish our souls, it is a day when we connect to the Divine as the creator of everything in our world. It is a time when each of us pasues and asks how would I live my life differently if I really lived a life that reflected the words of our daily prayer, “  מְלֹ֥א כָל־הָאָ֖רֶץ כְּבוֹדֽוֹ — The entire world is filled with God’s glory”? As my teacher Rabbi Green stated, it is not only about a commitment to creation on Shabbat, but our commitment must inspire us to act during the week.As we enter Shabbat in just a few hours, this week, I invite each of us to take on the challenge of reframing Shabbat as a time to commit ourselves to our natural world. To ask ourselves what we can do to ensure that the next generation will live on a planet that is even more beautiful and respected than the one we live in today. And then, to act upon it during the days of the week, both in the privacy of our homes and in the streets of our cities.

Do I think our use of cloth diapers alone will reverse climate change and save the planet? Absolutely not. But I do believe that, if each one of us is willing to do the dirty work, we can, and will, change our world for the better.

Shabbat Shalom!
becca weintraub

Written By Rebecca Weintraub

Rabbi Rebecca Weintraub completed her studies at the Hebrew College Rabbinical School in Boston, where she was ordained in June 2020. She joined B'nai Jeshurun's spiritual leadership as assistant r...