Light Bulbs

You know the joke: “How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light bulb? None –it’s Ok; I’ll sit in the dark.”
Actually there’s a whole genre of Jewish light bulb jokes. Pretty soon, there were lots and lots of others being told. For instance:

How many Orthodox Jews does it take to change a light bulb? “None! We’ll never change!”
How many Conservative Jews does it take to replace a light bulb? Two: One to turn it to the right, one to turn it to the left, one to turn it to the right, one to turn it to the left….

You might ask: What do light bulbs have to do with Judaism? If Judaism is a way of life, is there a kosher way to change a light bulb?

Scientists tell us we are heading for a serious environmental global disaster. Judaism is deeply concerned with how we treat our natural world. Consider, for instance, the well known statement in Kohelet Rabbah: “When God created the first human being, God led him around the Garden of Eden and said: ‘Look at my works! See how beautiful they are and how excellent! For your sake, I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy my world, for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.’”

As we look at the rise in green house emissions, the number of toxic chemicals in our environment and the diminution in the number of species in our planet, the words of the sages sound frighteningly prescient. As Jewish people, we have a responsibility to take care of the material
blessings of this world. The Bible and Jewish literature draw heavily on the natural world to inspire a deep sense of wonder and faith in God.

Environmentalism is a Jewish issue. Today there are Jewishly-aware and Jewishly-committed environmental activists who are pursuing these issues and trying to help the Jewish community recognize that it’s not enough to be moral and observant: We need to take care of our planet as well.

One Jewish organization has sponsored a campaign to encourage people to change their incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient, cost-effective compact fluorescent lights bulbs this coming year. These fluorescent bulbs use 75% less energy than standard light bulbs. This means
less production of greenhouse gases, air pollution and toxic waste. They say that if every US household replaced just one bulb in their home with a compact fluorescent light bulb, it would have the same impact as removing one million cars from the road!

Sukkot is a great time to think about environmental issues. This holiday reminds us how little we really need to enjoy life, and that our wants are much greater than our needs. The Torah commands us to rejoice in our festival. And yet all it takes is a roof over our head, the presence of family and friends to be able to enjoy life.

We need to think about other ways through which we can make a difference in our environment.

So yes, even light bulbs can be Kosher.

Each of us makes a difference. If each of us makes a commitment to do only one more thing, we can make a difference in our world. If each of us changes one bulb, uses one less piece of paper, walks up a set of stairs rather than taking the elevator, we will change the environment.
And as we gather in the Sukkah, let us consider what it would be like to live in a world where we could not enjoy the blessings of the outdoors.

How many Jewish people does it take to replace a light bulb? It only takes one.

Rabbi Scolnic

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