Leap of Faith: EcoShabbat

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Leap of Faith: EcoShabbat

What would The Earth say about COP27?

Adam in the Garden of Eden
Adam in the Garden of Eden

The first verse of the Torah, Genesis 1:1, introduces The Earth as the place where everything else that matters is going to happen. All life, love, joy, care, satisfaction and beauty is dependent on the proper functioning of The Earth.

The first mitzvah, Commandment, addressed to Adam, the first human being, is in Hebrew p’ru u’r’vu (increase and multiply and fill the earth – Genesis 1:28).

This is the mitzvah, the Jewish duty, to develop, to grow, to build for the future. Those words, though, are only the first half of the verse. The verse continues v’civshuhah u’r’du (dominate and rule over the earth).

This is a tough verse to interpret. Does it mean that we can be irresponsible in the way that human kind uses the earth for our immediate benefit, or does it mean that we need to have a God-like eternal perspective, a sustaining perspective, on how the earth develops?

The direction of Jewish teaching has taken the latter path. If we are given the earth on which and by which to live, then we must do so in a sustainable manner, so that it can be given on from generation to generation.

A midrash pictures God showing Adam around the Garden of Eden and saying, “Look at My works! See how beautiful they are — how excellent! For your sake, I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” (Kohelet Rabbah 7:13)

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres painted a bleak picture of how Adam is treating The Earth in 2022. Speaking at COP27, the annual attempt by nations and NGOs to inspire the changes that will preserve The Earth, he said, “Emissions of greenhouse gasses still continue to grow. We are on a highway to climate hell but our foot is still on the accelerator.”

If The Earth could be asked to respond to COP27, surely it would be pleased that such a gathering does take place every year so that the message of caring for The Earth remains heard, but also it would be devastated that so little action takes place as a result.

Adam is each one of us as well as humanity as a collective. To fulfil the first mitzvah of the Torah we need to make major and permanent changes in the way we behave towards the earth, individually, communally, nationally and internationally.

Last weekend saw EcoShabbat take place, organised by EcoSynagogue to coincide with COP27. It saw communities of all denominations and all over the UK taking part and putting their focus on the climate emergency.

It reminded us that to be a Jew is to care for The Earth if we are to care to our people, our families and ourselves.



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