Earth Etude for Elul 17: Ode to Water

by Rabbi Laurie Gold

~ Walt Whitman’s beautiful poem, “The Voice of the Rain”, has always moved me. I hope you appreciate it, too.

And who are thou? said I to the soft-falling shower,
Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea,
Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form’d,
altogether changed and yet the same,
I descend to have the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin,
and make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfillment, wandering,
Reck’d or unreck’d, duly with love returns.)

Throughout our long history, rain has been important to the Jewish people. We have recognized that we need water to live. We also know that animals, plants and trees need water to survive. There has been, in most parts of the world, a shortage of usable water. Therefore, it is not surprising that we created prayers for both rain and dew. Sadly, water scarcity has increased over time, due to the effects of global warming and man-made pollution.

Merlin Hearn writes that most of us take water for granted. Most of us don’t know, or we choose to not remember, that there is a shortage of water. Because of this, we don’t do enough to lessen the problem.

It is actually pretty easy to do our part in solving the problem of water pollution. I recall that I learned one trick from Rabbi Katy Allen many years ago. She wrote that when we brush our teeth, there is no need to keep the faucet running the entire time. I had never thought about that before. I can’t imagine how many gallons of water I have saved by following Rabbi Allen’s simple advice.

Merlin Hearn offers some additional advice:

  1. We can urge our elected officials to enforce existing clean water acts and create additional laws.
  2. We can stop using pesticides, which infiltrate and harm nearby waterways.
  3. We can drive our cars less often. This can be accomplished by using public transportation, consolidating trips to stores, carpooling, walking and bike-riding.
  4. We can start to use green personal care and household products.
  5. We can stop littering and start using fewer plastic products.

It is not always easy to change our behavior, even when we know that it is in the best interest of our community and planet. Yet, this shouldn’t be an excuse for us not to at least try to do our share to reduce or eliminate water pollution. Let us join hands and do our best.

Rabbi Laurie Gold resides in Queens, New York. When she is not working, Laurie enjoys spending time with her relatives and friends, and swimming, bicycling, running, reading, and going to the theater.      


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