Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:
The story: The haftorah for this week’s parsha (Torah portion), Balak, includes the following lines: ““God has told you, human, what is good, and what Adonai requires of you: Only to do justice, and to love goodness, and to walk modestly with your God. Then will your name achieve wisdom.”
One rabbinic interpretation of this lovely passage is that public celebrations – like weddings or bnei mitzvah – should be humble and modest, not filled with pomp and excess.
The takeaway: Unfortunately, today’s weddings, bnei mitzvah and other life cycle events can leave unexpected burdens on the environment and workers. As this week’s dvar tzedek author, Sarah Mulhern, writes, tThe environmental impact—from unsustainably grown flowers to international shipping of gifts—of large events can be dramatic.” Meanwhile, kitchen staff at wedding halls might be paid unfairly, huge amounts of food tend to get wasted at parties, and the gold in a wedding ring or silver in a new kiddush cup may have been mined or sourced unsustainably. This parsha reminds us that we have a higher standard of modesty to answer to when planning our celebrations.
The “to-do”: Know someone having a bar or bat mitzvah, wedding or other big ol’ party? Encourage them to keep sustainability and social justice in mind while planning their simcha. And be sure to keep an eye out for AJWS’s forthcoming “Just Celebrations” guides which will provide resources and information to help families “align the many spending decisions that go into planning a lifecycle celebration with Jewish values such as the fair treatment of workers, protecting the environment and decreasing waste and excess consumption.”
Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website. And for more great texts, commentary and Jewish learning resources on social justice, check out the On 1 Foot database.