In my secret mental list of stuff to pack if we had to run, after some medicine, but before my wonderful cast iron pan, is a rolling pin. This is a long, well worn, wooden cylinder my grandmother gave me when she decided she’d had enough of baking. I wish I could bake like her, but at least I have her rolling pin, so perhaps one day. When I pick it up, the rolling pin is the p’shat (the initial level of reading Torah), but when I go beyond the pictures, tastes and smells it conjures in me, I arrive at the d’rash (commentary) of inherited rolling pins.
The d’rash is about celebrating connections over acquisitions and about spending time with our family and friends rather than money on hoarding. If I went deeper, this humble wooden rolling pin could symbolize for me the whole Torah of defining what is important and sustaining in my life. Which brings us to Earth Day (April 22), and to the evolving Jewish tradition of celebrating Earth Day Shabbat on the same week.
In case you were wondering, it is surprisingly easy to make the connection because celebrating Creation, consecrating rest, and calling for freedom from slavery (to things, to people, to greed) are the core stories of Shabbat. In essence, every Shabbat is an Earth Day celebration, if only we bring the right intention to it, but this Shabbat we can be intentional about articulating all this together with the rest of the world.
This week when we celebrate at Temple Beth Ora, I’ll ask people to share one item they were given or have inherited. These objects are dear to us because they hold memories of belonging and connect us to times when “disposable” wasn’t celebrated. Once the worth of a thing rested in its durability and your ability to pass it on to your grandchildren. Today, we buy sh’mates (rags), gift sh’mates, and applaud quantity over quality. We can do this because grossly underpaid workers and slaves (a shout out here to our ancestors in Mitzrayim!) around the world are doing our work for us. Have we forgotten that being human is belonging to a tribe and recognising that we are but one element within Creation?
Fulfilling the mitzvah of Shabbat provides opportunities to celebrate, in the most joyful way, our commitment to our Judaism and to our responsibility to care for our planet. Make every Shabbat and this Earth Shabbat in particular a time to appreciate all the gorgeous, lush, awe-inspiring places and traditions we have inherited from our ancestors, grandparents, and parents. And let us also make Earth Shabbat a celebration of our commitment to pass on this wonderful legacy and planet to the generations who will follow us.
Chag Adamah Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!
(Written for The Alberta Jewish News, 2021)