Monday, February 9, 2009

Reminder of Blessings

On Sunday afternoon (yesterday), our backyard neighbors had a huge fire. (Everyone got out safely, thank God.) I could see flames shooting out of their back porch door and the fire fighters had to climb onto the roof to chop holes to ventilate. I watched the force of the water from the hoses break through their upstairs windows. And my driveway, separated from their yard with a tall fence, was close enough that when I went to my car I felt the misty cool spray from the hoses.

I'm not close or friendly with these neighbors. In fact, they are terribly noisy in the summertime, playing music at an unbelievably high volume (and most of us have called the police at least once) and they smoke in their backyard which, of course, abuts mine, and when the wind blows just right, the smoke finds its way into my own house through the open windows.

But until today, I never realized quite how close together our houses are. And it didn't stop me from feeling what I'm sure must be their total anguish at the loss of their home and all their possessions.

It also made me hug my children tighter, look more closely at my blessings, and bake a batch of cookies for the hard-working fire fighters who made sure that my nearby house was safe. 

Today is the Jewish holiday of Tu B'Shevat. A full moon shined down last night on the wreckage of their home and on the peaceful quiet of mine.

It's a pretty incredible holiday, when you think about it, especially for those of us who live in what seems like the frozen tundra of the Midwest. Just when we're all really getting sick and tired of the cold and the snow and the ice...we are reminded that yes, in some places, spring is poking up. And yes, even here, where it seems that spring will never come again, we know it will. Planting a tree (planting anything!) is quite a leap of faith, an opportunity to put the seed or the seedling in the ground and believe that growth will come. Tu B'Shevat reminds us to continue to have hope and to continue to believe that what we plant now will bear fruit in the future. It reminds us to truly have faith.

For my neighbors (who aren't Jewish, but that's okay), I hope that the fullness of the moon will remind them that the moon waxes and wanes, always coming around again. They will rebuild and recoup and recover...
(Taken from inside my upstairs bedroom window)

Watching out the window since the sirens woke them up from their naps
Like any good blogger, I took pictures of the experience....(go see Tracy's cool new site!)

Going back to Tu B'Shevat...
It doesn't seem to totally fit, but it's what I was planning to do anyway so here goes:
One of my favorite stories from the Talmud:
Honi sees an old man planting a carob tree at the side of the road. "What are you doing?" he asks the old man. "Don't you know that the carob tree takes 70 years to bear fruit?" The old man is undeterred by Honi's comment. "Of course I know," he says to Honi. "I'm not planting this tree for me. I'm planting it for my children and grandchildren. Just as trees were planted here in the world for me to enjoy, it is my responsibilty to plant for my future generations." (completely paraphrased from Babylonian Talmud, Taanit 23)

Perhaps we are not the ones planting the trees by the side of the road. But we are the ones making sure that we protect and preserve our earth for our future generations - our children, grand-children and great-grandchildren. What kind of world will we leave them? The future is entirely in our hands.

In honor of Tu B'Shevat (or Tu B'Shwatt as some are dubbing it this year), I am giving away some stuff to help you go green in your life.

  • 2 Target Re-usable Bags (in handy zip up pouches, I love these and you can never have too many of these puppies)
  • a re-usable coffee cozy, handmade by yours truly (see picture)
  • my favorite water bottle, a Thermos Intak BPA-Free Bottle (with a cool flip-top cover, possibly my favorite part)
  • and maybe some other fun surprises thrown in!!!

Here's how to win:
  1. Comment on this post with your favorite go-green activity or product, or how you celebrate Tu B'Shevat. Entries open until Wednesday, February 11th. (closing at 9pm)
  2. Make sure I know how to get in touch with you (email, blog or twitter work fine)
  3. Earn one extra entry by tweeting about it. Come back here and leave me another comment to let me know you did it.
Last year's Tu B'Shevat Posts:
Go Vegetarian and be green?
For the Love of the Trees
Waste Not...
Facts About Trees
Tu B'Shevat Haiku


Robin said...

So far we've gotten one pansy for Tu B'Shvat, but I suspect more flowers or seedlings will be coming home today.

My best green activity for Tu B'Shvat? I sent my kid to school today with a bunch of 2 liter soda bottles so they could be used in some kind of school Tu B'Shvat project (no idea what). Less mess in my house, no need to cart them down the block to the receptacle, and they get repurposed instead of recycled - win win win.

PS When are you coming over? Are we trying to schedule a meetup?

Robin said...

PS How very scary about the fire, and how lucky that no one was hurt and your own home is safe. My heart goes out to your neighbors. I can't even imagine...

Sara said...

As you know, I'm not Jewish, so this holiday is new to me. What a wonderful holiday to celebrate in February, especially in the Midwest! If it counts, I planted bulbs yesterday that I forgot to plant in the fall. Do you think they'll grow?

If you find out anything your neighbors could need that I could send from far away, please don't hesitate to ask.

And, which part of Target has the reusable bags? Are you talking about shopping bags or bags for the kiddos? I'm sick of using up plastic bags that end up all over the place and never break down.

Renee Nefe said...

Planting something today seems like a good fact I woke up this morning thinking about my carrot garden.

I'm so thankful that your house was safe and I will be praying for the family who lost their home. I know that they'll be okay.

my "Green" living things are I have managed to collect about 10 reusable shopping bags over the years and I use them quite a bit almost every time I go shopping. I need to put them in the car so I can use them at other stores too. I have made a plastic bag storage sleeve so that I can reuse my plastic bags too...really helpful for Girl Scout cookie deliveries! I also went and bought some bar maid towels for use in my kitchen to reduce my need for paper towels. I now use the cloth for even the messiest jobs and toss them into the wash instead of grabbing a paper towel that's heading for the trash!

Sharon Delman said...

Going green? We recycle everything we can. The light bulbs in the house have all been changed to the twisty, florescent variety.

Next up? We should start composting and plant a garden! Perfect for Tu B'Shavat.

iMother2.0 said...

'It also made me hug my children tighter' I know what you mean by that...I hate moments that make that happen, but love that it happens.

Unknown said...

I recycle and this year I have started using reusable bags when I go to the store-- I have so many of those and I typically would just throw the plastic or paper bags away. I don't want to be wasteful and I have so many of the canvas bags that it just makes more sense. Nowadays I see more and more people doing that and it feels like we are really accomplishing something.

I am so glad the firefighters were able to control the fire and while I hate it for your neighbors at least you all were spared!


Anonymous said...

Goodness, I just can't imagine the loss after a fire. I know that family is the most important but I spend so much time and love in my house that I would feel like it really was a part of my life gone. Hmm. Hope they find peace soon.

My fave is also my BPA free insulated water bottle. Could always use another though! And my toothbrush made from recycled plastic. Can you imagine how many toothbrushes get thrown away every day?

Jendeis said...

I'm so glad that everyone got out of the house ok.

The best (and easiest) thing we did to go green was to lower our thermostat. We've kept that thing nowhere higher than 68 all winter!

Harry said...

ט"ו בשבת זה לא רק חג אלה גם הזדמנות לדבר אל הבעוית טבע כאן בארץ. השבע הזות ממש חשוב לדבר על זה כי מחר זה חג הדמוקרטיה כאןץ..בחירות

יעלה העבודה

RivkA with a capital A said...

Go Green:

When my kids were little, we used to collect all the recyclable bottles after outdoor events. Any money that was collected from deposits was used to buy toys/treats for the kids. Now they are too "old" and are embarrassed to collect the used bottles, but when they were little, they loved it!

An added benefit: by the time we had collected all the bottles, there was no traffic leaving the parking lots! (saving on gas and unnecessary exhaust from the car)

RivkA with a capital A said...

Go Green:

When my kids were little, we used to collect all the recyclable bottles after outdoor events. Any money that was collected from deposits was used to buy toys/treats for the kids. Now they are too "old" and are embarrassed to collect the used bottles, but when they were little, they loved it!

An added benefit: by the time we had collected all the bottles, there was no traffic leaving the parking lots! (saving on gas and unnecessary exhaust from the car)

RivkA with a capital A said...

Oh, something else we do to Go Green:

When we shower, we block the drain. Then we (read: I) use the water to:
a. wash big things (like laundry bins, buckets, or other big things that gather dust/dirt)
b. water plants
c. wash clothes by hand

Another meshugannah mommy said...

My favorite Tu B'Shevat activity is to plant paresly seeds in Dixie cups. The kids tend to the seedlings - and we have fresh parsley in time for our Passover seder plate!

Leigh Ann said...

New to your blog, I thought I was the only rabbi Ima blogging out there. Very refreshing to find you. :)

Going green: Of course we use the reusable shopping bags and compact flourescents, but my favorite tip is reusable cleaning cloths and sponges. I save a ton of money and trees without using all those paper towels. I'll tweet too...

Hope you enjoyed Tu B'shvat with those gorgeous (ka''h) kids. :)

Anonymous said...

Great story and pictures.

I try to make most things from scratch to avoid the need to buy packaged foods. This at least reduces the amount of packaging we buy and it's healthier. :)

Rony and Talia said...

Does the fact that I collect all of my aluminum cans count? Except I don't know where to recycle them (Israel is so very green), so I literally have 5 large trash bags full of aluminum cans.

If I were in the US, I could totally buy a new Mac on the money I'd make off of it. :-)