Earth Etude for 11 Elul
Maintaining the Climate
by Lois Rosenthal
“If you go by my statutes and keep My commands and do them, I shall give you rains in their season and the land will give its yield…” Lev 26:4
The ancient Israelites trusted G-d to maintain the seasons in a fixed and repeatable way. They had worked out their lunar/solar calendar and holidays based on planting/harvesting seasons. Droughts were certainly a constant worry, but timing of planting and harvest was consistent enough year after year to be considered fixed by G-d.
Suppose they had begun to experience progressively earlier onset of Spring, increasingly extreme weather, changes in animal behavior and other phenomena we now know to be caused by global warming? Surely they would have seen this as a punishment from G-d for sins they would struggle to identify.
We moderns know what “sins” have caused the destabilization of our climate – overuse of fossil fuels, a stiffnecked refusal to believe our scientists, worship of the god of profit. We don’t need to invoke punishment from an angry G-d; the more modern parenting term “natural consequences” will serve. We are witnessing the consequences of sins of the human community, begun most likely out of ignorance; still with us out of arrogance.
What kind of atonement can possibly have an effect on global warming and accelerating climate change? If every Jew in the whole world minimized their carbon footprint would this have any effect at all? There are so many questions; the problem seems so huge as to dwarf any individual’s ability to help. We must do what we can – certainly work to elect government officials who understand global warming and pledge to seek solutions. We can meditate on this enormous problem during the High Holidays to figure out what can be done. The Earth is in dire need of help.
Lois Rosenthal is a member of Temple Tifereth Israel in Winthrop. In addition to participating in Shabbat services, she works with Hebrew School students and prepares students for Bat/Bar Mitzvah. Previously, she was an academic in the sciences.