I was having a good deal of trouble figuring out what I wanted write about this month on Jewcology. As I was searching for a topic I thought about doing a search for Jewish environmental poetry. The first passage that came up in my search was the following:
Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 3:1-8
For everything there is a time and a season for every experience under the heavens:
A time to birth and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot the planted;
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to breach and a time to build;
A time to cry and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance;
A time to throw stones and a time for gathering stones,
A time to embrace and a time to be far from an embrace;
A time to search and a time to let go,
A time to guard and a time discard;
A time to rip and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak;
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time to fight and a time to make peace.
This passage spoke to me for many reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that everybody is familiar with this passage because of Pete Seeger’s adaptation of it, and the Byrd’s cover of it making it into an international hit. I realized upon reading it that I had never really taken the time to read through the verse line by line and to meditate on each lines meaning.
As I began to do just that I had to pause after reading the second line. This past month I lost my grandmother, who was the last living parent of either my father or mother. At the same time, only two weeks later, my cousin and his wife gave birth to a beautiful boy. Although this cycle happens every day all over the world, it is not something I think about too much because it is outside the scope of my daily experience. I then moved on to each of the next lines and realized that each line can be read independently or as one long sentence.
I believe the environmental movement should mirror the structure and message of this passage. We must be strategic in the battles we choose to fight, and manner in which we speak to those we are attempting to convince. It is also important for us to take the time to appreciate the very environment we are attempting to protect. I think that each line in the verse can also be taken as a command. You can read “there is a time plant” as a suggestion, or as a command. The same can be said for each of the other lines. Reading each line as a command may change the way we think about both our strategy in taking on issues and the balance we strike between our advocacy and personal lives. We must at times speak up, but we also must take the time to be silent and allow others to take the lead (and also take the time to be silent with our own thoughts in order to think through our actions). We must at times fight hard, and even hate those who are taking positions that are so contrary to the concept of stewardship. However, there is also a time to put our differences aside with those we view as opposition , to let go, in order to make constructive progress. Most importantly we must take the time to laugh, love, and dance in order to sustain us through the uphill battle that we consistently face in our advocacy.