I had a wonderful meeting last week with Judith Huebner, our Temple President, about how this first year as a “post-pulpit rabbi emeritus” has been going and what might happen going forward. As you may have noticed, I have been very involved with specific ‘projects” like the High Holidays, certain services during the year, funerals, weddings and life cycle events, and a wonderful group of candidates journeying into Judaism (which I much prefer to “conversion”). And I have been offering Friday messages about once a month, down from the weekly messages of years past.


Ah, the writing. Judith tells me that many of you have commented about how these Friday messages connect you to the Temple and how you kind of wish there was more. The truth is that I have loved the writing, because it also connects me to the Temple and to my own learning. So, I was asked if I would write some extra writing starting next summer… or maybe even starting now. We aren’t sure exactly what “more” means, but I’m excited to give it a go. And thank you.


So. A colleague mentioned to me that Tu B’Shevat, our “Jewish Arbor Day” will start this coming Wednesday evening, and it brought a smile to my face. And that smile caught me by surprise, because there really hasn’t been a lot to smile about, whether it’s our intense preoccupation with the morally ambiguous quagmire that is Israel and the Middle East, or the jaw-dropping political disaster south of our 49th parallel,  or the weather madness that is sweeping all around the world, or any other huge issue on your personal playlist.


I smiled, almost in relief as I thought of Tu B’Shevat because it helped me refocus on maybe the single biggest issue facing us no matter where we live — bigger even than acts of terror or the moral ambiguities of war and politics. Tu B’Shevat, originally a New Year for trees, is now about our environment — a Jewish holiday that reminds of those first six days of creation, the divine gifts that created not only us humans but also the natural world in which we were placed.


Those other big issues, so present in our lives, are dwarfed by this biggest question of all:

Are we committed to destroy or save the world in which we live? What have we been doing, and what will we do as individuals, as families, as a community, as a province, as a nation, as part of the world community to answer that question? Will we be creators or destroyers, will we be bystanders or active participants? Will we vote for our personal agendas and pocketbooks  or will we look ahead to the future, and vote for the people who are committed to the world that our children and grandchildren will need? And in response to this biggest question of all, are we prepared to accept that there is pain in changing our ways but even greater pain if we do nothing?


Personally, I vote for healthy life in a healthy world. It may be the only issue that matters, and it starts now.


Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Allan Finkel