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April 6, 2018  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

We have been entrusted to take care of the Earth

By Rabbi Lyn Goldstein Congregation B’nai Emmunah

It’s spring. I love dolphin cruises and watching parent birds feeding their babies in the mangrove islands. I love to ask my students to count as many shades of green as they can. I love to look at the blue skies. I even love to watch alligators floating in ponds.

There are so many miracles in nature, so many ways that animals (humans too) have grown and changed to protect the different species. The adaptations existing in the animal kingdom are amazing. Take the time to breathe deeply and enjoy what God has created.

Did you know that elephants’ ears come in two sizes – smaller and larger? It has to do with how they’ve adapted to their environment. Large-eared elephants live in hot climates. Their ears fan themselves and radiate the heat from their bodies. Smaller-eared elephants live in cooler climates and need the warmth.

Why are big cats’ eyes in front of their heads, and zebra’s eyes on the sides of their heads? Big cats focus on chasing pray in front of them. Ungulates (hoofed mammals) stand head to toe, side-by-side, each able to see 180 degrees. Two together can see 360 degrees, staying aware of threats from hungry carnivores!

Polar bears appear to have white hair. Actually it is thin tubes that are warmed by the bear’s black skin and keep the bears warm, as does heavy fur and four inch blubber. The tubes appear white in the sun, camouflaging the bears. Small ears keep heat in.

This truly is an incredible world gifted by God. But it has been said that people won’t love what they don’t know and won’t protect what they don’t love. Tragically, over 50,000 species a year become extinct. The twin threats of human habitat-destruction/degradation and global climate change are devastating our natural world. The last male northern white rhino on the planet died March 20 – just a few weeks ago. Only two females remain. The western black rhino was declared extinct four years ago. Ami Vitale, National Geographic photographer, wrote: “Today, we are witnessing the extinction of a species that had survived for millions of years but could not survive mankind.”

Many believe polar bears will soon follow. Warming climate and loss of icy habitat have taken a terrible toll. Bears cannot find enough food and have great difficulty finding dens.

And our Florida manatees? They need both cooler and warmer waters. The climate is disrupting these cycles. As storms grow bigger, manatee habitats are washed away. Where could they go?

On the critically endangered list: South China tigers; Amur leopards; Bornean orangutans; Eastern and Western lowland gorillas; Mountain and Cross River gorillas; Sumatrian orangutans, rhinos and tigers; Java Rhinos; Vaquita porpoises.

Twenty-five to 33 percent of our planet’s species could be extinct in 50 years.

What can we do? It has been said that people will not love what they do not know and will not protect what they don’t love. It’s quite simple. Go outside. Enjoy the spring. Revel in it. Watch it. Appreciate the smells, sounds, colors. Stand in awe. Now… imagine if your children or grandchildren never saw the coral reefs due to bleaching and dying from acidification and warming climate? What if the manatees were gone?

“We Americans, in most states at least, have not yet experienced a bearless, eagle-less, cat- less, wolf-less woods.” (Aldo Leopold, d.1949) Do you want your children to see a live gorilla? Is this the legacy we leave our children?

Genesis exhorts us to become the earth’s stewards. The Coalition on Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) needs our participation in its sacred work. Please contact them to find out how you can help. Contact COEJL,, COEJL on Facebook. We will make a difference.

Torah begins with: “In the beginning...” Yet, Rashi says: “In a beginning. “In the beginning,” focuses our attention on one, single beginning. “In a beginning,” implies there were many beginnings. Rashi teaches that in the beginning God created and destroyed many worlds, until God finally created this world. God saw that it was good, and said to Adam and Eve: “This is the last world I will create. I place it in your hands. Hold it in trust. Take care of it. If you don’t, no one will come after you to do so.”

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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