Ma’asei Avot Siman L’Banim – Our Climate Inaction Emboldens Our Children

September 25, 2019 by Rabbi Nicole K. Roberts
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The children are protesting.

Rabbi Nicole Roberts

They are frustrated, angry, disappointed, and scared. Adults aren’t doing enough, they say, to heal the climate in time, before the damage is irreversible, and our children and children’s children pay the consequences. Ma’asei avot siman l’banim, our sages said. “The actions of the parents are a signal for the children.” Our inaction has prompted them to act.

Good on them.

“On Rosh Hashanah,” we teach our little ones, “we celebrate the birthday of the world.” Hayom harat olam—“Today the earth came into being,” we sing cheerfully, genuinely celebrating this planet we call home. How appropriate, then, given how much we cherish this gift, that the melody is surrounded by the sounding of the Shofar, awakening us from our “slumber”—our sluggishness to act—and summoning us to change our ways before the close of the “Day of Judgement,” the point of no return. Time is running out.

On Yom Kippur, we atone for sins we’ve committed against God (bein adam laMakom) and those we’ve committed against each other (bein adam la’chaveiro). For the former, the Day of Atonement atones, but for the latter, the Day of Atonement does not atone, and we must ask forgiveness from those we’ve harmed. How will today’s policymakers ask forgiveness of future generations? Or of the species that have gone extinct? Or of the Great Barrier Reef?

“The day is fearsome and full of dread. Who shall perish by fire and who by water? Who by hunger and who by thirst? Who shall be secure and who shall be driven?” May the actions of our children be a signal for us all that nothing is irreversible… yet.

Rabbi Nicole K. Roberts is the Senior Rabbi at the North Shore Temple Emanuel, Chatswood NSW


One Response to “Ma’asei Avot Siman L’Banim – Our Climate Inaction Emboldens Our Children”
  1. Lynda Hynes says:

    Children are frustrated, angry, disappointed and scared because their teachers and others have told them that their greedy ancestors [white men, of course] have all but destroyed planet Earth and ALL life, including them, will die. They are now suffering anxiety, depression and terror – over a political plot for power. We have all been lied to, but our children are suffering the most: exploited and abused to promote the destruction of democracy and civil rights. This article made me very angry.

    Centuries of temperature records, reports and studies are available on Real Climate Science: and there are many more REAL climate scientists who speak the truth. There is no “consensus” in science: 97% may agree that there is climate change, because the climate changes constantly, but only a very small percentage believe that human activity is the main cause. And it has been proven conclusively that CO2 has no effect on temperature.

    Our children are being taught to blame, hate and fear, instead of accepting responsibility, understanding and searching for solutions.

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