Changing our perspective on climate change

September 28, 2018 by Rabbi Chaim Ingram
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Dear Rabbi:  I am very hazy as to the Jewish perspective on human-induced climate change. The rabbis I have asked seem to cloud the issue and one told me the topic is too hot to handle. (No puns intended, of course!) In desperation I turn to you! What’s your take on it all? Should religious Jews be doing more about it? Yours, Confused.

Rabbi Chaim Ingram

Dear Confused…answers Rabbi Chaim Ingram

I shall attempt to allay your confusion.

You ask “should religious Jews be doing more?”   Yes indeed!  But not just in the way you mean!

But more on that later.

Someone once asked me “rabbi, do you believe in climate change?” I replied to him that I believe in G-D!

I was only partly being facetious.  Climate change has become the number-one religion for left-wing secularists complete with doctrines and dogmas.  As far back as 1993, then UK Secretary of State for the Environment, John Selwyn Gummer (now Lord Deben) was speaking of the “seven deadly environmental sins”.  By which he meant: sins against the (godless?) environment, not sins against G-D.

But bring G-D into the picture and everything changes!

On the verse from Kohelet – “See G-D’s work for who can straighten what He has made crooked” (7:13) – the Midrash makes what is probably the most seminal comment in all Torah literature on man’s duty to protect the environment

When the Holy One blessed be He created Adam,

He took him and led him around all the trees of Gan Eden

and said to him: “See My works, how beautiful and commendable they are!

All that I have created was for your sake!

Be careful not to corrupt and destroy My universe

for if you corrupt it there is no-one to repair it after you!

It is fascinating that although the Midrash clearly identifies Man as the corrupter and the destroyer, the Biblical verse on which it is based speaks of G-D having ultimately sealed the destruction.  Indeed, on the verse “G-D is your shadow …” (Psalms 121:5), Rabbi Israel Salanter (1809-1883) remarks that G-D acts with us the way we act with Him.  If we remain in harmony with His aims and desires, He will do the same for us. If we destroy, disrepair and undermine, G-D will, as it were, buttress the damage.

However, Rabbi David Altschuler (18thcentury), better known by his commentary Metsudat David, gives us hope.  On the aforementioned verse from Kohelet, he writes: …For sure, the Holy One can straighten what He made crooked because of the moral failings of the generation if …the people improve their ways!” 

So while I support the effort to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions (I do my bit by not driving!), reduce waste, recycle consistently, conserve energy and generally prevent pollution, I am not prepared to make a religion of it.  Thank G-D I have a religion!  It teaches me that G-D controls the universe and that He acts according to man’s deeds in this world, both on a physical and a spiritual level.  That means He is at least equally – surely much more – concerned with the toxic poison we spew out from our mouths daily in the form of lashon ha-ra (destructive speech in all its forms) than the carbon dioxide we emit.

Conversely, He regards with favour the good that comes out of our mouths.  Particularly does He respond to man’s entreaties.  And when it comes to weather-related matters, there is no time like the present season of Succot to entreat!

The Mishna teaches (Rosh haShana 1:2) that on Succot the world is judged for water, i.e. rainfall.  And the Talmud (Succa 37b) elaborates regarding the waving of the arba’a minim (four species) on Succot:  One extends them outward and inward (in all four directions which in Hebrew are called rukhot, winds) to ward off harmful winds and waves them up and down to ward off damaging rains

The Talmud is telling us that the weather-patterns of the world over the ensuing twelve months literally lie in our hands! By silently meditating prayerfully and with intensity when shaking our lulavim, particularly on Hoshana Raba (believed to be the final judgement-day of the year for the destiny of the world), we Jews may be helping to reduce or prevent entirely the incidence of hurricanes, tornados, flood-rains, droughts, tsunamis and the sort of extreme weather conditions that have given the theories of global warming and climate-change their credibility.

Shall we try it and see? After all, it’s so much easier than giving up that second car!

Comments

2 Responses to “Changing our perspective on climate change”
  1. ben gershon says:

    “Rabbi G-D bother-er” is out of touch .living in his genizah with the old manuscripts.

    if he went out and talked to some tree hugging greenies.maybe the science might get thru to the muddled rabbi

    ben

  2. Liat Kirby says:

    We shall need to do more than pray and meditate to make a difference to the damage being done. We’ll also need to act, and force governments to act, in concrete ways that will assist repair.

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