Sukkot, the seven-day Jewish holiday dedicated to celebrating the harvest, has begun; and we are commanded to dwell in sukkot (temporary booths or huts). We have never built a sukkah at our house (we have an extremely small yard, which is next to an extremely steep ravine); however, over the years, we have enjoyed many joyous Sukkot moments in friends’ sukkot and our synagogue sukkah.
When the weather is just right, it can really feel magical to be in a sukkah, sharing a meal and enjoying the company of others. One requirement of sukkot is that the roof covering (called the s’khakh) be constructed of materials that grew from the ground and also allow a view of the sky. This, coupled with the natural materials used throughout the sukkah, makes it feel like you’re being embraced by nature.
With modern life being what it is, this is not a feeling many of us, myself included, experience regularly. Frankly, if I didn’t have a dog, I would hardly be outside at all. I love being outside, especially going for nature walks; but with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, sadly, it’s not a priority. One common and alarming consequence of being disconnected from nature is that we don’t work as hard to protect it. Or, worse yet, we think that our actions, which seem so small, will not have any effect on the environment.
In addition to celebrating the harvest and commemorating the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years (and living in sukkot) after their exodus from Egypt, Sukkot should also be a time that we reconnect with nature and supercharge our commitment to the environment, finding new ways to be good to the earth.
Personally, because I have recycled and used reusable shopping bags for many years, I have often smugly thought I was doing a lot. When I went to my ten-year high school reunion many years ago, however, I talked to a classmate that helped found an ecovillage (https://www.dancingrabbit.org/), which is still thriving today. That was the first time I truly understood the incredible range of efforts we can take toward sustainability. And although I knew that living in an ecovillage would probably not be part of my life journey, I also knew that I needed to step up my green game. I have done this to some degree, but even today, there is so much more I could do. I suspect that there is so much more all of us can do.
As you dwell in the sukkah this week, make a commitment to step up your green game. Whatever you’re doing (and it’s wonderful if you’re already making efforts), you can do more. We all can do more. We all must do more. There are endless ways we can make this happen, and here are three suggestions to get you (or keep you) moving in the right direction.
(1) Have Bal Tashchit be part of your personal motto
Bal Tashchit (meaning “do not destroy”) is part of Jewish law. We are commanded to avoid wasteful consumption. Be more mindful of your consumption, and in particular, how much trash you accumulate. I follow a few “zero waste” enthusiasts on Instagram, many whom have their minimal trash collected in amazingly small containers, and it inspires me to rethink the waste in my home and how we can have less of it.
Click here for an in-depth overview of Bal Tashchit.
(2) Eat more vegetarian meals
Eating vegetarian (or even mostly vegetarian, or even sometimes vegetarian) helps the earth in far-reaching ways. I have been a pescatarian since I was twelve years old, but I mostly eat vegetarian; and I am proud of the positive impact this has on the environment.
Click here for a Time article about how vegetarianism could save the planet.
(3) Set up a recurring donation to an environmental organization
Sierra Club. Natural Resources Defense Council. The Nature Conservancy. There are so many great organizations that are fighting the good green fight. And more donations mean a bigger fight.
Chag Sameach, and may you have a meaningful Sukkot that includes a renewed commitment to doing your part to protect the only planet we have.