The Bible Says What? ‘There is a plague on all our houses’

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The Bible Says What? ‘There is a plague on all our houses’

Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein takes a controversial topic from Jewish texts and looks at a Liberal response

Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)
Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)

“They ate up all the grasses of the field and all the fruit of the trees.”

Of the 10 plagues in our Torah, the eighth (of locusts) is a turning point. It reminds me of a proposed poster announcing the climate conference COP26 in Glasgow, featuring a man surrounded by locusts. Incredibly, it was rejected by airport and railway authorities as too frightening. Could it be more frightening than other images of disaster brought by climate change that we see increasingly – floods, drought and typhoons? The biblical plague of locusts beset a change in reaction, at least among Pharaoh’s advisers, if not Pharaoh himself.

Why is it that the warning signs of polluted rivers, infestations of frogs and insects, hailstorms and even human disease did not have any impact, but a swarm of locusts did? Clearly it was because the Egyptians somehow recovered from the earlier plagues and life went back to a sort of normal, but after a plague of locusts it’s not that easy. A swarm of locusts devours all growth – the buds on the plants as well as the leaves, the fruit and the grain, the stems and branches. Nothing remains – and the crop for several years following also disappears, meaning famine for years to come.

Pharaoh still plays for time. He’s all talk and no action. It needed two even more frightening plagues, crucially affecting him personally, to bring him to his senses.

It is three months since COP26. Many promises were made to start nullifying the effects of climate change. Will our leaders take the right action? Will we, in our personal lives, change our ways?

Time will tell, but time for the future of normal life on our planet is running out.

  •  Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein is president of Liberal Judaism
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