Growing up, the only thing that Lag Ba’Omer signified was a time for bonfires. In the New York suburbs the closet we got was barbeques, which for me meant an opportunity to eat watermelon. Barbeques were never particularly exciting to me, and when I got older and became a vegetarian, they held even less appeal. Furthermore, the holiday of Lag Ba’Omer also never fully made sense to me. Why were bonfires the hallmark of a celebration for ending of the plague killing Rabbi Akiva’s students?
After spending this past summer working on an organic farm I became enamored with composting. It is a way of giving old food new life and it’s the great equalizer of all food – whether delicious or not, healthful or not, expensive or not, or organic or not, it all decomposes and becomes part of the same soil.
Sukkot has traditionally been one of the easiest Jewish holidays to relate to current environmental concerns. The ritual of voluntarily “living” or eating meals in temporary, intentionally fragile huts reminds us of the cycles of the earth by placing us in physical contact with the elements. Putting up and decorating a sukkah to make it comfortable and cozy enables us to evaluate what and how much we really need to live with or consume. As another way of connecting with the environment and our ancestors we also engage with and say blessings over four plant species delineated in the Torah, the lulav and etrog. These messages seem applicable and forward-thinking; they bring our observance of ancient laws into the present.