Pirke Avot 2:13--“Rabban Yochanan] said to his students, ‘Go out and see what is a good way to which a person should cleave.’ R. Eliezer said, ‘a good eye.’ R. Yehoshua said, ‘a good friend.’ R. Yossi said, ‘a good neighbor.’ R. Shimon said, ‘one who considers consequences.’ R. Elazar said, ‘a good heart.’ He said to them, ‘I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arach over your words, for included in his words are your words.'”

September 15, 2017

24 Elul 5777

Shabbat Nitzavim/Vayelech Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30

Dear Friends,

            “The Cassini mission first launched in 1997 and finally reached Saturn in 2004. After 13 years of science and amazing images of the ringed planet and its many moons, we say goodbye.”  I admit I am a bit of a science nerd and love reading about space exploration.  Voyager 1 and 2, the Gemini and Apollo missions, our belief and will to put a person on Mars just fascinate me.  I remember sitting on the floor in the auditorium of Somerset Elementary and watching Shepherd and Glenn blast off into space.  We used to watch every lift off with the voice of Walter Cronkite bringing us the drama.  I was at overnight camp—Kamp Kewanee in LaPlume, PA on July 20, 1969 getting to stay up late and watching a very grainy picture of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon.  Though humans are busy and living on the International Space Station, deep space is left to the scientists and spacecraft.  We trust the science and information coming back to us from millions of miles away.  We are learning so much about our solar system that can’t be learned from a telescope aimed at Saturn or Jupiter or beyond. So why, I wonder, do so many have such severe doubts on the science of climate change wreaking havoc on our planet.  Why don’t we believe the scientists looking at our planet?

            I saw a great post on Facebook yesterday.  There is a chimpanzee holding its arm out with this statement over it, “Florida has had 119 hurricanes since 1850, but the last one was due to climate change.”  (This is someone mocking climate science.)  The response in the post was this, Sigh. For the millionth time, climate change doesn't cause hurricanes. It does, however create the conditions for tropical storms to be fueled into one that wouldn't have become a hurricane, caused regular hurricanes to grow larger, and more importantly, will extend into colder latitudes than previously, with a longer season. Got it now? And with the higher seas, storm surges will be more destructive.”  Climate scientists aren’t claiming new weather phenomenon, but that our storms and droughts and crazy weather will just get worse, more dangerous, and, I venture to say, more unpredictable.

            Hurricanes in south Texas are nothing new.  Even destructive ones are nothing new.  50” of rain—now that is something we haven’t experienced before.  Hurricanes in Florida are nothing new, but with sea levels rising and warming, the power of a hurricane like Irma caused millions to flee.  Florida’s east coast dodged a bullet, but not the islands or the Keys or parts of the west coast.  This storm was massive.

            We are getting ready to enter into our holiest season of the year.  Beginning with Selichot prayers on Saturday night, then Erev Rosh HaShanah next Wednesday evening, we will pray, think, contemplate, supplicate, petition, thank, and praise God.  We hope to emerge from these holy days at the end of September 30th, feeling better about ourselves and more in tune with the people and world around us.  I hope we can also find ways to effect change in our lives to help save our planet.  No one person can do it, but every person can do something whether it is recycling, leaving a smaller carbon footprint, connecting with cleaner energy, and more. 

            In a month, we will start reading the Torah from the beginning.  In that first chapter of Genesis we read the beautiful creation story.  We see this miraculous order in nature unfold with each passing day.  Human beings are created on the sixth day and commanded to take care of this earth—to have dominion over it.  We are not told to rape the land or spoil the earth or pollute the skies.  The earth is put into our charge.  I have to admit, we have not done a good job and it will take decades if not centuries to reduce the damage we’ve done, but we can do it.  If we can send a spaceship into interstellar space or crash a bus size space ship into Saturn with incredible precision, then we can fix our broken eco-system and leave this inheritance to those yet to come.

            When you light your Shabbat candles this evening, light one for the possibilities of tomorrow if we can engage and fix our problems today.  Light the other candle for all those who boldly lead us to places we never thought we could go shedding a light on who we are today.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova--a sweet and happy New Year to all,

Rabbi Jon Adland