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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


July 14, 2017  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Clearing the air

By RABBI DAVID WEIZMAN Congregation Beth Shalom, Clearwater

I passed someone else on the road the other day. Their car was going very slowly compared to the others. I thought there might be something wrong with the car. A little girl’s face was plastered up against the window in the back seat. We used to try to scare the other drivers like that when I was a kid. It looked like her mother was driving, or maybe it was her grandmother, pulling the steering wheel towards her so that she could see over the dashboard. There was a real cigarette in between her lips, and all of the windows were rolled all the way up. They were probably trying to keep all the air conditioning inside.

Now I can’t even remember when they decided that second-hand smoke might have a negative effect on you. We used to be able to smoke on the airplane and in the restaurant. Now they make you walk off the school property if you need a smoke. I had a friend who smoked two packs a day, but stopped the very day they made him go outside, and he was the chief editor of Webster’s Dictionary. Now we are living in the window of the vape, before the FDA comes out with a ruling, clouds will be seen rising from human beings in the airport terminals, except in Newark, which is in a state of deep breathing.

Last month, while some of us were up in the Appalachian Mountains, breathing that air, one prominent country of the 196 nations who participated in the signing of the Paris agreement on Climate Action, April 22, Earth Day, 2016, announced its withdrawal. In response, more than 1,200 universities, investors, corporate leaders, mayors and governors in the US have declared their commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gases. More than a dozen states have brokered their own deals with Mexico and Canada already to comply with the Paris Agreement. And to date, 153 nations have ratified the agreement. The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Since 2009, there has been a growing consensus among the scientific community that carbon and methane emissions are contributing to global warming, a term which was banned for awhile because it was not politically correct. But since China signed on, climate change is now an acceptable synonym. Of course, if you asked Manny the Mammoth, he would tell you that we are simply at the end of an Ice Age, and that anything the humans are doing is minuscule in the course of the earth’s history.

Among the humans, the Jewish people have one of the longest recorded histories, beginning with the written Torah. In the beginning, God places the human being in the Garden of Eden, l’shomrah u’l’ovdah, to protect it and to cultivate it. The commentators explain that the Torah says, l’shomrah first, to teach us that we have to guard the land to be able to effectively utilize it. The story of eating from the forbidden fruit, which follows, is a metaphor for human exploitation of the natural resources. We have been on a long journey down that path away from the garden, but we have finally realized the direction back.

Remember Choni, the Circle Maker? It took him his whole life to realize that people plant carob trees for their grandchildren. So we Floridians have a certain sensitivity to beachfront property that our offspring might inherit. Everyone of you who live out there can see how the tide comes up every day, to a certain point, and then the water recedes. In the beginning, God separated the waters from the dry land. We remind ourselves of that every morning in birchot ha’shachar, the Blessings Upon Arising. Isn’t it amazing that the waves break upon the shore, that they don’t keep coming up to engulf our homes. So we express our gratitude by saying, Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who rules the universe, rokah ha’aretz al ha’mayim, who stomped His foot down on the land and declared to the water, “Go no farther!”

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned on a rotating basis by the board. The views expressed in the column are those of the rabbi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jewish Press or the Board of Rabbis.

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