While Earth Day (April 22) isn’t technically a Jewish holiday, there is definitely a Jewish value to celebrating! Follow these steps with your kids to mark Earth Day through a Jewish lens and learn Jewish values along the way.
Bal Tashchit (“Do Not Destroy”)
Bal tashchit is a value articulated in Deuteronomy where we are prohibited from cutting down fruit trees during a time of war. It shows us that even when we’re desperate, we’re not permitted to destroy the earth for our own gain. Take a walk around your neighborhood or local park and pick up 10 pieces of trash to help prevent waste from destroying our beautiful landscapes.
L’Dor Va’Dor (“From Generation to Generation”)
(Photo: iStock/Andrey Danilovich)
L’dor va’dor is a phrase found in Psalms and the siddur (prayer book). Judaism is always concerned with passing on traditions and making ideas relevant for a new generation. While walking around looking for trash, kids and parents can ask each other about their favorite places in nature: What’s the coolest/most beautiful thing you’ve seen in nature? What’s one cool nature fact you know? (Maybe you even learned it from “Frozen 2“!)
Shomrei Adamah (“Guardians of the Earth”)
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden are called “guardians of the earth.” A guardian is someone who watches over us, and in order to do that well, we have to know who and what we’re watching out for. Take a look at some of the newly blossoming trees or plants outside and see if you can identify their names, distinguishing characteristics and even their needs (like how much water or sunlight they require and what temperatures they prefer).
Gratitude is a cornerstone of religious life. In fact, the rabbis of the Talmud (a collection of rabbinic laws and conversations) say that we should say 100 blessings a day! Judaism has blessings for just about everything, including blessings over beautiful things in nature. Take a moment to “smell the roses” (literally!) and appreciate a beautiful tree or flower while expressing gratitude for the wonders in nature:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, shekacha lo beolamo.
We praise You, Adonai, Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, that such [beautiful things] as these are in Your world.
And we all say: Amen!
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Rabbi Myra Meskin is the community director at the Boston-Area Jewish Education Program (BJEP), an independent learning community where Brandeis student teachers lead experiential learning and cultivate the experience of radical amazement for students in K-7th grade on Sunday mornings on the Brandeis campus. Ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University, Myra also has a master’s in experiential Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary and spent a year in Jerusalem studying in the Pardes Experiential Educators Program. Myra has served as the assistant director of BCI, a four-week immersive summer program for Jewish young adults, and as a spiritual counselor at Beit T’Shuvah, a residential addiction treatment center. Myra also works as a regional Jewish educator for Moishe House.