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Renewable Resources
My Point of View, October, 2008
© Rabbi Jack Moline

Our transition to electronic means of distributing the bulletin is among the latest attempts to make the synagogue more environmentally responsible. Thanks to a number of initiatives, many of them inspired by the Richer family, we have been reducing our waste and consumption without reducing our effectiveness. Technology has made better lights, faster communication and recycling more accessible and affordable, and I expect that trend will continue.

Some things, however, will always be low-tech. The festival of Sukkot demands that we celebrate the slow-growing bounty of the earth. The four species we wave come to be harvested in their own sweet time. The s’khakh (covering) for the Sukkah is likewise made of plants that are cut down from live plants and trees for the specific purpose of the holiday. The fruits and vegetables we enjoy have ripened over the long summer months, nourished by the sun and the rain and the soil. Whatever assistance we give to those natural processes, they are still dependent on time and old-fashioned ways. And they have built-in mechanisms for renewability: seeds.

Some hand-made things are low tech also. Though we have the ability to reproduce a Torah scroll using computers and printers and faux-parchment, the deliberate and sanctified process of handwriting each letter with a quill and home-made ink on specially prepared skins makes the difference between “just another book” and the Holy Book.

The memories that a sukkah creates have a permanence that the structure does not. By investing your time in erecting and decorating a booth for the holiday, you will create a life-long remembrance that will take root and bear sweet fruits for years to come. The memories, like the harvested fruit, are self-renewing, each year when Sukkot rolls around.

Likewise, there is a permanence to participating in the writing of a Torah scroll. The work of your hand in inscribing a letter creates an essential part of a book that will be read and cherished for generations. Take the opportunity to participate in our Torah project, Eileh HaDevarim, and plant a seed that is self-renewing, each year when that verse is read publicly and proudly.

Within the message of Sukkot – our reliance on nature – and the message of the Torah – our responsibility to care for this world – are the mandates to conserve our natural resources and preserve the cleanliness and beauty of our environment. You will hear that echo when we proclaim eitz chayyim hi, “[Torah] is a tree of life” and chadesh yameinu k’kedem, “renew our days as of old.”

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