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Parashat Kedoshim: Plant for the next generation – as God did!

There is so much to learn from a beautiful midrash on a verse in this week’s Torah reading, Parashat Kedoshim: “When you [the Children of Israel] shall enter the Land [of Canaan], and you shall plant every food-bearing tree…” (Lev. 19:23):

The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Israel: “Even though you will find the Land filled with every good thing, you must not say, ‘we shall dwell there and not plant saplings.’ Rather, be careful to plant saplings! This accords with the verse, “When you shall enter the Land, and you shall plant every food-bearing tree…”. Just as you entered the Land and found saplings planted by others, so too must you plant for your descendants.

Since trees take many years to bear fruit, this midrash continues by noting that some individuals might deflect this overarching collective duty to plant by claiming, “I am old and tomorrow I shall die, so why should I exert myself for others?” The midrash answers by noting that Hashem does not tell a person the time of his death, in part so that he will remain motivated to engage in productive activity throughout his life, for his potential benefit and/or that of his descendants. It then tells a story of an old man who planted with precisely this thought in mind and become rich in a surprising way from the resulting fruit – as well as the story of the man’s neighbors, who didn’t. The midrash then concludes:

Therefore, a person must never desist from planting. Rather: just as he found trees planted [in the world by others], so must he plant – and even more so. This is true even for an elderly person. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Israel, “Learn from Me!”, regarding Whom the Torah states, “And God-Hashem planted a garden in Eden.”

There is so much to learn from this beautiful midrash. By planting trees and moving Earth closer to an Eden-like reality, every person emulates God. Each generation must plant for each subsequent generation, leaving behind even more fruit trees than its predecessor bequeathed it. We must engage vigorously in long-term constructive activities without excuses, regardless of whether we will live long enough to benefit personally from them – and God will bless us for doing so.

— Rabbi Barry Kornblau

Welcome to our new Chief Content Officer

In light of increasing demand for its unique blend of traditional Torah and science materials from Jewish day schools as well as the increasing prominence and urgency of climate change and other environmental issues throughout the world, the prominent Orthodox Jewish group, Canfei Nesharim: Sustainable Living Inspired by Torah, has hired Rabbi Barry Kornblau as its Chief Content Officer.

A musmach of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) of Yeshiva University, Kornblau served for a dozen years as a senior member of the rabbinic staff of the Rabbinical Council of America. He has been a member of the Rabbinic Advisory Board of Canfei Nesharim for more than a decade and has spoken and written on its behalf for years, mostly recently at a conference of scientists and religious leaders at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. He also serves as rabbi of Young Israel of Hollis Hills – Windsor Park in Queens, New York. A graduate of Yale, he was a fixed income computer programming analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. before entering the rabbinate.

Canfei Nesharim’s founder and President, Ora Sheinson, said that, “We are heartened by Orthodox Jews’ increasing interest in the traditional Jewish approach to stewardship for Hashem’s Creation. But to significantly expand our reach, we need more vigorously to broadcast the depth and breadth of the Torah laws and values which drive the Torah’s distinctive approach to environmental issues. Having worked with Rabbi Kornblau for more than a decade, we know that he will advance our work powerfully.”

Indeed, Sheinson’s approach dovetails with the recommendations of Yale’s Program on Climate Change Communication: “Dispassionate statements by climate scientists, couched in cautious, neutral language and supported by charts, figures and statistics, may resonate less than admonitions from religious leaders to respond to the ethical and moral implications of a changing climate.” The critical importance of addressing communities in terms that resonate with their members is true for other environmental issues, as well.

For his part, Kornblau is excited to get started. “In addition to continuing Canfei Nesharim’s current work, we plan to expand and refashion the Torah and science offerings on our website,” he said. “We will carefully trace how traditional halachic and hashkafic norms interact with contemporary scientific and environmental concerns, even as we address questions that committed Jews often have regarding environmental issues.”

He also looks forward to publishing in various venues, and to speaking to local communities and in other venues.

For further information, please contact him (kornblau@canfeinesharim.org) or Ms. Sheinson (ora@canfeinesharim.org) directly.

Apologies for Unrelated Content

#GIVINGTUESDAY IS HERE!

We hope your Thanksgiving- in whatever way you and you family celebrated – was joyous and meaningful.

The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of gratitude by the pilgrims for the fact that they succeeded in learning how to grow food in the new land and because of that had enough food to survive the winter. It was a celebration around the bounty of the earth and a deep appreciation of what the earth gave them. Over 300 years later, we still have just as much (and maybe more) to appreciate in connection with the earth and land that Hashem gave us stewardship over and on which we live.

Today is GivingTuesday. If this day is new to you, GivingTuesday is a movement that began a few years ago by people who were tired of seeing the huge consumeristic angle that Thanksgiving weekend had become. So they started GivingTuesday. After a long weekend of consumerism and buying things (complete with Black Friday and Cyber Monday), Giving Tuesday gives us the opportunity to step into a different space and give back to the world by donating to projects and organizations that we feel are doing important work.

With Thanksgiving and gratitude for the bounty that Hashem and the earth gives us fresh in our mind, we hope that you continue to value our work of bringing environmental consciousness to the Orthodox Jewish Community. In that spirit, we ask that if you are considering making a donation today that you donate to us to help us continue our important work.

You can contribute now by mailing a check to 3221 Shelburne Road, Apt. A, Baltimore, MD 21208, or via the internet on our website by clicking HERE.

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Ora Sheinson
Board President

Canfei Nesharim Curriculum Development Grant Proposal

Make a Nes Gadol Haya Po by helping us raise the first $10K to bring the light of Sustainable Living Inspired by Torah into the lives of our children.

HELP us educate our teachers to EMPOWER our students with an understanding of an authentic Torah approach to modern environmental science. PARTNER with us and FUND our pilot program to develop curriculum modules and teacher training for Yeshiva Day school educators.

For more details on the program click CN Curriculum Development Grant.