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What Rabbis Can Learn From The Pope

Earlier this week, I was scrolling through headlines, when I came across the following article: “Pope Top Adviser Blasts US Climate Skeptics.”   I am not sure I agree with his reasoning for criticizing those who deny that humans are having an impact on climate and on the environment in general, but I do agree with his using a position of moral authority to discuss the issue.    This statement followed a conference held at the Vatican in early May, bringing together religious leaders to discuss climate change, where a different Cardinal stated that  “a crime against the natural world is a sin,” and “to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation … are sins.”

Although these statements might seem somewhat harsh in tone, they are needed to shed light on gravity of these issues and to challenge our political leaders to take action.  In last month’s post I stated that my hope was for a more civil discourse to emerge in connection with addressing environmental issues and for everyone to work together in addressing these complex problems.  However, maintaining civility does not mean that our religious leaders should back away from their role in sparking both introspection and conversation among followers.  Rabbis across the world who view our role as Jews to be stewards of the earth should be speaking about important environmental issues, including climate climate change, with the same passion as the religious leaders from the Vatican. Congregants should be challenged from the pulpit to take action, both personally and on behalf of their community.  Similar to so many other issues over the past century where society seems paralyzed and ill equipped to take on a major challenge, it is usually our religious leaders who can provide the antidote, not only in the form of encouragement, but also in presenting such actions as an obligation.

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