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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » What Parashat Vayeishev Teaches Us About Going Green

What Parashat Vayeishev Teaches Us About Going Green

By Cantor Ross Wolman
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Cantor Ross Wolman of BJBE shares a teaching and information about their successes in the Certification Program. He also provides information on the Energy Shield.

What Parashat Vayeishev Teaches Us About Going Green

BJBE and other area synagogues gather together for an environmentally themed Shabbaton


In this week’s parashah, Vayeishev, we read the story of Tamar’s struggle in the house of Judah (Genesis 38). Tamar marries Judah’s eldest son and he dies. Through the biblical law of levirate marriage, she is obligated to marry his younger brother so that his name may continue. When that brother dies, Tamar must marry another younger brother but Judah is reluctant to send her to him as two of his sons have died while married to her.

Time passes, Judah’s wife dies, and Tamar takes cunning action. She hears Judah is away from home and she dresses seductively as a prostitute, disguising her identity. Judah lays with Tamar and she becomes pregnant. He gives her his seal and cord (like an ID) as collateral until she receives payment.

When Judah learns Tamar has become pregnant he becomes furious with her for breaking the oath to marry his third son. When confronted, Tamar shows Judah’s seal and cord. He admits to being the father and declares that Tamar is more righteous than he since he would not give her to his third son.

Tamar gives birth to twin boys, one of whom is an ancestor of King David. Without Tamar’s guile, she would not be part of the foretold messiah’s lineage and Judah would not have learned a valuable lesson.

Learn more about Parashat Vayeishev here.

Perhaps we too can change by acknowledging our own personal role in the plight of our planet. While Judah was fearful Tamar might have been the cause of death of his third son, we fear for the loss of time and resources. Little acts, however, have a significant impact in the long run. It may take some effort to set up smart power strips to eliminate energy vampires or ensure all home appliances are energy star certified. Even remembering to turn off all of the lights means a trek through the house at times.

GreenFaith is an interfaith organization that invites faith communities to green their houses of worship and positively affect the lives of their members. Together, GreenFaith and the URJ have partnered in an incredible program to help congregations improve their energy efficiency through thoughtful examination of facilities use and education to improve practice within each family.

Congregation Bnai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, Illinois completed GreenFaith certification in May 2014. As part of our certification, we conducted an energy audit and made several remarkable discoveries. In the end, we chose to delamp many of our public spaces and we changed all of the light bulbs in our Sacred Hall to LED bulbs. There were many benefits but chief among them was financial. The initial investment was $5,000 and we will be saving around $10,000/year for many years to come.

If the two-year GreenFaith certification process is a bit too large a project for your community, GreenFaith also has an Energy Shield program that might be right for you. Perhaps you could also save some green while being green.

Learn more about the program here.


Cantor Ross Wolman has served Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim (BJBE) in Deerfield, IL since July 2011. Along with his passion for music, he has a strong love for film, the outdoors, education, Israel and the Hebrew language. Cantor Wolman lives in Chicago with his wife, Malka, and their children, Bina, Aviv, and Eliyahu.


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