AHAVAT HAADAMAH/LOVE OF THE EARTH
Being a rabbi is a second career for me. I received a master’s degree in Environmental Policy to prepare myself for making positive change for the earth. Ironically, I found myself working for an environmental consulting firm in 2003 where I did everything except encourage environment-friendly practices. This pivotal moment prompted me to become a full-time Jewish professional. And, ironically, it’s now, in my role as Rabbi and Director of a Jewish summer camp, where I can preach and teach the imperative of Ahavat HaAdamah (loving the earth).
We chose Ahavat HaAdamah as this year’s theme because it is also a shmitah, or sabbatical, year. We read in numerous places in the Torah that once every seven years we are commanded to let the land rest. The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks commented that we let the land rest, in part, so that we do not pursue “short term gain over long-term desolation.” I believe Sacks’s message about planning for long-term success is an important one for us to contemplate this kayitz (summer).
There are several ways we teach the cultivation of patience and sustainability at camp. First, we have a recycling program to separate paper, plastic, and aluminum; it takes time and effort to do this correctly. Second, we will designate a “shmitah” plot in our garden so that campers can compare what it truly means to leave a plot of land to rest. The shmitah plot won’t be as exciting as the sections with gorgeous flowers, herbs, or vegetables, but it will teach us that to let things grow we sometimes need to let them be.
More than anything, we want to build independence and confidence. We want our campers to take ownership and responsibility over their belongings instead of relying on staff to do this for them. We want them to learn their daily schedules and their way around camp. We want to encourage campers who are nervous about some of our program areas, such as swim or climbing, to try and reach new heights, even if it is only a little bit each day. These things all take patience and encouragement, but we believe they are worth the investment.
Loving the earth is not always easy – it takes time and effort. Sometimes it also takes money, intentionality and thought. We hope you will be our partners this summer by making a family commitment to do something different to love the earth just a little bit more, even if it means sacrificing some short-term reward for a long-term goal. It is not easy, but together we can build a better, more sustainable world, together.