December 14, 2006
A Festival of Lights—lite
Here's a hint: Sing this song by Deborah Kornfield to the tune of "I Have a Little Dreidel":
I have a brand new lightbulb,
It's a miracle you see;
It lights the room completely,
Using half the energy.
Oh compact fluorescent lightbulb.
I really have to kvell;
It's just so energy efficient.
And it saves you gelt as well.
The question is, in fact, the name of a campaign launched by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL). Humorous title and cute lyrics aside, COEJL is on a serious mission to heighten ecoconsciousness in a Jewish context, and this initiative focuses on -- you guessed it -- energy-efficient lightbulbs.
COEJL's Web site describes its three-pronged approach of "engaging the Jewish community in awareness, advocacy and concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy conservation and sustainable legislation," in order to "change how American Jewry responds to ... daunting environmental problems."
This all sounds good, but why, you may be wondering, is this a Jewish issue? God said this to Adam: "See My works, how good and praiseworthy they are? And all that I have created, I made for you. [But] be mindful that you do not spoil and destroy My world -- for if you spoil it, there is no one after you to repair it" (Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 7:13).
And, COEJL argues, Jewish values such as tikkun olam and tzedek should be extended to include not just people but other animals and plants.
OK, you've conceded. It is Jewish. But is this really about Chanukah?
Well, what about the Festival of Lights? About making resources last longer than we thought they could? Like for eight nights, perhaps?
High-efficiency lightbulbs actually last eight times longer than regular lightbulbs. Imagine that. And speaking of the number eight, see COEJL's list of eight actions in eight days as a simple and concrete way to bring some ecoconsciousness into your Chanukah holiday practice.
So, you might be left wondering, just how many Jews does it take to change a lightbulb? As many as possible. As of the writing of this article, more than 20,000 energy-efficient lightbulbs have been sold through COEJL, saving 8,250 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
So, as you nosh on your latkes this Chanukah, be a modern-day Maccabee -- take action against global warming and environmental degradation.
Rachel Kantrowitz is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.