Culture, Justice, Religion

sustainable sukkot

I really should be studying for my nutrition exam right now, but I’m too inspired by the connections in my life to put off sharing this with others. In my agriculture science and policy class we just begin studying “water” as it relates to soils and other issues in agriculture. I must admit, it’s been a little hard, as someone who has never spent a day working on a farm (2 hours in a compost garden in Oaxaca notwithstanding) to conceptualize, let alone memorize, many of the detailed scientific characteristics and irrigation strategies I am learning about.
After class I helped a few other students put together a pre-fab Sukkah outside of my school building. It was a lot more down-to-earth than other sukkah-building I’ve done, becuase there were really just a few of us, scattered from my school (the nutrition school) and the medical school across the street, and even one staff member; you could tell how genuinely touched each of was that it was really coming together, and we’d really have a little sukkah to spend time in throughout the coming week, in planned programs (as of yet unplanned, but still…) and quiet individual moments, eating, studying, shivering…
While looking for resources to prompt a lunchtime discussion in the Sukkah next week about connections between Judaism, food and agriculture, I also just read about a [relatively] new organization called Canfei Nesharim to encourage environmental awareness and conservation in the Orthodox community, an organization which has put together a number of resources and activities around the upcoming holidays, and also specifically to celebrate Simchat Beit Ha-shoeva, the “Water-Drawing Ceremony,” about which I previously knew nothing.
Subsequently I saw that a college friend of mine now works for COEJL, and stumbled upon this wonderful d’rash for Sukkot by the illustrious Frances Kreimer’s mom…
I think when my friends and I sit around and bitch and moan about how spending time with the Jewish community is frustrating because of all the–what someone I recently met termed them–“Princeton i-banker types,” we tend to feel like we are alone in this frustration and are on the constant path of existential crisis.. So it’s nice to read that Mordechai Kaplan
“agonized over his rabbinic role serving wealthy capitalist Jews in a synagogue in New York City, when his heart was with the workers.”
Wow. Rabbi Fuchs-Kreimer just keeps hitting on all the insightful points in this piece, tying together both the social justice and “socially-conscious living/back-to-nature” being reclaimed by young Jews these days. She also writes, of Kaplan:
In a relatively rare mood of contentment, after a morning of teaching sermon-writing followed by a brisk two mile walk home, he wrote: “The lunch I found at home was the ideal one for the appetite I had worked up on [my] walk, oatmeal…asparagus tips on toast in an ocean of cream sauce and a cup of coffee with the dried crumbs of chocolate cake…I gave the world three hours of homiletics and the world gave me back a nourishing lunch. I can never cease marveling at the miracle of the exchange of goods and services… It is for this marvel of marvels that I thank God whenever I say grace [after meals], and I say it quite often with cap on or without a cap.”
mmm….too bad it’s not asparagus season right now. I think now I can get to studying with a clean conscience and stop agonizing over the fact that I missed participating in my program’s local food week… know, it was Yom Kippur and then I suddenly had to catch up on work….I think this coming week should be the real local food week…I can’t imagine a better way to honor the earth, and all those who tire to conserve it, improve it and bring us tasty, nutritious foods, then to celebrate them and think about the ways Judaism provides me with these perfect opportunities to integrate my studies into my life. Here’s to Mordechai Kaplan! Maybe his blessed memory can give me the strength and inspiration to concoct a Simchat Beit Ha-Shoeva ceremony in the sukkah of a Boston medical school near you next week! After all, according to Canfei Nesharim, the Mishnah (Sukkah 51a) says that anyone who has not participated in it has not known true joy.
cross-posted on The Great Work Begins

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