Rosh Hashanah is a time of repentance, reflection and returning, or Teshuva in Hebrew. Returning to our roots, returning to our values and returning to the Earth that sustains us.
In the Torah, G-d grants humanity dominion over the Earth and all that dwells within it. However, as it is said, with great power comes great responsibility. We have an obligation toward the Earth. It is ours to cherish and protect as well as utilize for our own needs.
On Rosh Hashanah, we vow to trade old habits for new ones as we enter the sacred days of awe. What better way to celebrate the anniversary of the creation of the world than by embracing a more ecological mindset? If you want your High Holidays to be low impact on the Earth, here are a few simple ways to have a more sustainable new year.
1) Walk or carpool to services:
Save some fossil fuels for later. If you live close to synagogue, consider walking, if not find some friends or family to share a ride with. True story: When my mother went into labor with my sister, it was Rosh Hashanah, and my father would not drive on a holiday. My grandma drove my mother to the hospital while my father walked the entire way! That’s one way of lowering your carbon footprint!
2) Eat locally:
It doesn’t take much of an effort to assemble a meal from locally-sourced food and wine. Pay a visit to a farmer’s market for local organic produce. If you want to send a new year’s treat to someone, check out the local shops listed under “gift baskets” at Local First Arizona (localfirstaz.com). As we enter these holy days of awe it is timely to recall the words of the Talmud, “When the holy temple was in existence, the altar atoned for Israel; today, a person’s table atones for him.”
3) Drink locally:
Arizona has two major wine regions in the northern and southern parts of the state. In the north, the Verde Valley Wine Trail (vvwinetrail.com) takes visitors through the cities of Cottonwood, Jerome, Sedona, Clarkdale and Cornville. To the south is the Sonoita AVA (American Viticulture Area), the only federally recognized wine growing region in the state. For wineries and event information in this area, visit sonoitawineguild.com.
4) Pick your own apples and eat local honey:
Another great way to connect with the Earth is to go apple picking. In Willcox in Southern Arizona, Apple Annie’s Orchard has several varieties of crispy, delicious, tree-ripened apples. They also have weekend events throughout the year, check their calendar for dates at appleannies.com. Closer to the Valley, Date Creek Ranch in Wickenburg offers mostly Golden Delicious apples for the picking, visit datecreekranch.com to check their apple-picking schedule. To sweeten your hand-picked apples even more, add honey. Crockett Honey Co., Inc. is certified kosher and has been making honey in the Valley since 1945. Stop by their facility in Tempe or visit crocketthoney.com for ordering information.
5) Community Supported Agriculture and farmers’ markets:
CSA is a great way to support local farmers and food producers. Farmers offer shares of the expected harvest to subscribers who receive periodic shares of produce, along with eggs, dairy and other foods. Local Harvest has a website (localharvest.org) with information on CSAs, farms and farmers markets throughout Arizona.
6) Commit to sustainability year-round:
Make a commitment to be gentler on the Earth all year long. The city of Phoenix has adopted eight 2050 Environmental Sustainability goals that can be viewed at phoenix.gov/sustainability. In Tucson, visit sustainabletucson.org for information on sustainability plans, resources, events and more.
7) Make your voice heard:
Resolve in the coming year to contact your elected representatives regarding environmental issues that concern you and your community.
8) Be mindful of social justice and remember the needy:
Participate in your synagogue’s food drive, volunteer with nonprofit organizations or donate to Jewish Family & Children’s Services.
9) Take a walk:
It doesn’t have to be long, the holidays are a hectic time after all. A short stroll can be just the ticket. Walks are a great way to work up an appetite and to contemplate the meaning of the holiday and our resolutions for the coming year.
Tashlich is a custom where you symbolically cast away your sins, by throwing bits of bread into a body of water. Take the time to pick up any litter near your chosen pond or lake. If you have children, enlist them in the effort as well. Like the song says, teach your children well.