Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day Five: Hod b’Chesed

by Rabbi Judy Weiss

Hod: loyalty based in gratitude and humility

Talmudic Midrash: Megillah 10b The ministering angels wanted to chant their hymns of praise and rejoice when Israel finished crossing the sea, but the Holy One said “The work of my hands is being drowned in the sea, and shall you chant hymns?

Question: To save Israel, God split the sea and then allowed it to crash down again drowning the Pharaoh and his troops. Why would God be sad? If God could foresee that buried plant and animal remains could turn into fossil fuels, be mined and drilled and heat the planet, why didn’t God prevent it? Can our use of fossil fuels make God pleased and regretful at the same time?

Climate Change: the oceans protect us We can be grateful that the oceans have protected us by absorbing much of the carbon dioxide we emitted. However, the ability of the oceans to absorb CO2 is going to decrease as the waters warm, leading to faster increases in atmospheric CO2 and faster warming, and an acceleration in sea level rise. Do you know which areas of the US will be affected by rising seas?

Check this map of US cities that will be sorely affected by rising seas.

Here is an international map of cities to suffer:

Question: If you live inland, do humility and loyalty keep you from rejoicing that rising sea levels won’t hurt you?

Action: Most people read newspapers and blogs that agree with their general outlook. However, it is an act of humility to read a publication with an outlook different from yours, and consider how its viewpoint might be justifiable. Whatever type of newspaper you usually read (liberal, conservative, local, or big city), read a different type. Try to get into the mindset of that new paper, its editor and readers. Write a letter to the editor about climate change every day until you are published.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Day Four: Netzach b’Chesed


Netzach: endurance and decisiveness generating loyalty


Midrash: Mekhilta de Rabbi Yishmael
(translation by David Stern, JPS publication, 1993, pp 155-156)

When the Israelites stood at the sea, one said: “I do not want to go down to the sea first,” and the other also said: “I do not want to go down to the sea first,” as it is said (Hosea 12:1): “Ephraim compasseth Me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit.”  While they were standing there deliberating, Nahshon ben Amminadab jumped up first and went down to the sea and fell into the waves. Of him (Nahshon) it is said: “Save me, O God; for the waters are come in even unto the soul (neck); I am sunk in deep mire and where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters, and the flood overwhelmth me.” (Psalm 69:2-3)

Question: What makes Nahshon a leader in this story? How does the midrash teach he was willing to take risks? Why do you think he was able to act decisively?  What enabled him to endure until the waters receded and Israel could pass through?

Climate Change: long term CO
2 impacts
The carbon dioxide we emit today endures in the atmosphere between 50 to 200 years, and thus contributes to global warming for a long time, even after we stop emitting. Other atmospheric greenhouse gases last a shorter time but are more powerful at warming the planet. However, climate change action focuses on carbon dioxide because the sheer volume of CO
2 emitted is enormous compared to the volume of other gases emitted.

What does the long endurance of CO
2 in the atmosphere have to do with oceans?

CO2stays in the atmosphere until it is absorbed by the oceans or used by trees as they grow. The amount of CO
2 that is “sunk” in tree growth is only temporary (until the tree decays or is burned). The CO2 absorbed by the ocean fills the upper layers of the ocean but it takes a long time for it to be permanently “sunk” in ocean beds.
Because of the long lasting nature of CO
2 emissions, they will cause more warming than we see now,  working like delayed action capsules. Some projections estimate that by 2050 atmospheric CO2 will reach 600 ppm and by 2100 it will hit 950 ppm, even though scientists warn that 350 ppm is probably the safest upper limit for atmospheric CO2.
Action: Senator Whitehouse has made weekly speeches on climate change for a year. Listen to his 1/7/14 speech dealing with harm to the Oceans, 

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and also watch his fiftieth weekly speech marking one year of making speeches on climate change from the floor of the Senate. 
Send Senator Whitehouse a thank you note for his decisive and enduring actions to save the world. Send a copy to your Senators asking them to work with him to make decisive climate action happen.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day Three: Tiferet b’Chesed


by Rabbi Judy Weiss

Tiferet: compassion, beauty, and balance to achieve loyalty
According to early interpreters of the Bible, the splitting of the Red Sea involved more than one miracle.

Midrash: Legends of the Jews 3:22
"The dividing of the sea was but the first of ten miracles connected with the passage of the Israelites through it. The others were that the waters united in a vault above their heads; twelve paths opened up, one for each of the tribes; the water became as transparent as glass, and each tribe could see the others; the soil underfoot was dry, but it changed to clay when the Egyptians  stepped upon it … Through the brackish water flowed a stream of soft water, at which the Israelites could slake their thirst . .. The sea yielded the Israelites whatever their hearts desired. If a child cried as it lay in the arms of its mother, she needed but to stretch out her hand and pluck an apple or some other fruit and quiet it."

Question: How did midrashic interpreters imagine God ensured that Israel had plenty of strength to cross over? What things did God do to make the trip beautiful?  or aethestically pleasing? or to show compassion?

Climate Change: protection from the Oceans
Today, oceans not only provide us with food, but they also protect us. As the planet warms due to greenhouse gases, the oceans absorbed about 93% of the heat. The steady rise in sea level reflects the on-going warming of the planet. If someone tells you that global warming stopped 15 years ago, or says there has been a hiatus in warming, tell them they misunderstand. Just because air temperatures over land don’t follow a consistently increasing path does not mean global temperatures aren’t still increasing. Most of the increase is seen in ocean temperatures. In effect, the oceans have been working a miracle for us, protecting us from rapid warming over land.

See this video: No slowdown in global warming 


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Actions:  In order to pass climate change legislation, Congress needs a balance of leadership concerned about climate from both Republicans and Democrats. People in Red states have compassion for the environment  and cherish the beauty of the planet too. In fact a recent survey indicates they trust the EPA to protect the environment more than they trust Congress.

Try calling or email friends and relatives who live in Red states. Talk to them about what you have learned. Answer their questions. Ask them to join a local climate change group and schedule a meeting with their Members of Congress to discuss sea level rise. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day Two: Gevurah b’Chesed



by Rabbi Judy Weiss

Gevurah: strength and courage in service of loyalty

Midrash: Genesis Rabbah 5:6
At the beginning of creating the world, God decreed ‘Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together into one place.’ Whatever God brought to pass, is so humans will fear God (Ecclesiastes 3:14). Compare this to a country that rebelled against its king. The king sent a strong army and encircled them, so the inhabitants might see it and fear him. Why did God gather the waters of the sea together as a heap (Psalm 33:7)? In order that all the inhabitants of the world may stand in awe of God (Psalm 33:8).
Question: Why do you think the midrash describes the creation of the waters in terms of fear?  Is there anything scary about the oceans to you? How do you channel fear into productive behavior?
Climate: Modern day fearsomeness of the oceans
With global warming, sea levels are rising. Historically, the main reasons they have been rising is that warming waters expand as they warm. The second reason they are rising is the melting of glaciers and ice sheets like those on  Greenland and Antarctica.  Over the last few years, the contribution to sea level rise from the ice sheets has grown.
Watch this video: Projected Sea Level Rise
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According to the recent IPCC report, sea level rise by 2100 could be approximately 3 feet. However, 2/3 of the climate scientists who contributed to that report felt the estimate of 3 feet was too conservative. Some scientists warn that if the Greenland ice sheet melts, it will contribute approximately 21 feet (7 meters) to sea levels, and if Antarctica melts, it will contribute about 57 meters or 170 feet.
Watch a second video: Impacts of Sea Level Rise
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Action: Watch the film “Chasing Ice” with friends and family. Schedule a meeting with your U.S. Representative or Senator, and discuss your fears of 3 feet, 21 feet and 170 feet sea level rises.

    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    Day One: Chesed b’Chesed





    by Rabbi Judy Weiss
    Chesed b'chesed: the purest form of loyalty

    The beginning of the Omer period is marked by mourning customs, born from innate human anxiety about springtime grain production: will food production provide enough to sustain us or will weather aberrations ruin our crops?
    Midrash: Exodus Rabbah 21:6
    When Israel stood at the edge of the Red Sea terrified by the approaching Egyptians, God commanded Moses to lift up his rod and split the sea so Israel could cross. The sea refused. What did God do? Placed God’s right hand upon Moses’ right hand. When the sea saw God’s hand on Moses’ hand, it could delay no longer, but fled … Thus Exodus 21:6 says: “and the waters were divided.”
    Notice the verse does not say the water was divided, but the waters were divided. This teaches that all the waters that were in all the fountains and wells, and every other place were divided.
    Question: Regarding God’s hand on Moses, explain it as a sign of loyalty. If God was annoyed with Moses in Exodus 14:15 when God said “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to go”, where did the annoyance go? What does the division of all the waters symbolize to you?
    Climate Change: Modern Day Food Anxiety
    Climate scientists raise food issues as a serious concern. One billion people today obtain their only protein from the oceans. Much of our CO2 emissions land in the oceans causing them to become more acidic. The change in acidity prevents some sea creatures from forming properly. For fish and other sea life, ocean acidification prevents their eggs from surviving, and diminishes their ability to sense predators.
    Oceans also absorbed more than 90% of the additional heat caused by CO2 emissions.  In warmer water fish need more oxygen to remain active, so fish size is expected to decline.Both warming and acidification mean coral reefs will decline. Reefs provide habitats for ocean fish that feed humanity. With human population expected to hit 9 billion by 2050, loss of oceanic food production can put extra pressure on our production of grains from agriculture.
    Click this picture to watch the video, Increasing Ocean Acidification:
    image
    Question: Is God annoyed with us that we have sullied the planet? Are you annoyed?
    Action: Transform annoyance over emissions and climate change into actions based on the purest loyalty and love for the planet, oceans, and humanity. What reality-based (non-magical) action would you take if God’s hand were on yours? Since God isn’t visibly at your side, join a local group working on climate change. Working with others will feel like God’s power.

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Counting the Omer 5774

    We are counting down the days to Passover, to our journey out of slavery and into freedom. And then, on the second night of Passover, we will begin counting in a serious way, we will begin counting the Omer. 

    With the Counting of the Omer count seven weeks of seven days - 49 days - from crossing into freedom to receiving the Torah, from redemption to revelation, from Passover to Shavuot, from the  Sea of Reeds to the Mountain of Sinai, from the depths of despair to the heights of joy, from physical enslavement to spiritual freedom, from the barley harvest offering to the wheat harvest offering, from the food of animals offering to the food of humans offering. We count 49 days. 

    In Jewish mystical tradition, each of these seven weeks is equated to one of seven Divine Attributes. During each week, we also travel through these seven attributes day by day. In this way, each day represents a combination of two attributes, and throughout the 49 days we experience every possible combination of the attributes, 49 different combinations, so very many ways of considering the sacred, and our connection to it.

    This year, seven of the writers of our Earth Etudes for Elul have each agreed to write seven Omer reflections for Ma'yan Tikvah. We are grateful for the immense thought and effort that each of these writers has put into their work. As always, they have woven some aspect of the natural world into their writings. And also, as always, you will see great variety from week to week - we begin with hard-hitting science, and then the week after switch to poetry. You will read political views, thoughts on personal growth, ideas on how to get closer to the Earth and closer to G!d, as each of the writers expresses her or his innermost feelings and pulls you into her or his personal world. I invite you to journey with us, and to see where our writers' reflections will lead us. 


    The first week of Omer reflections begin on Tuesday evening, April 15. They have been written by Rabbi Judy Weiss, and in addition to the Divine Attribute of Chesed, which is the focus of the week, she also focuses on the oceans and climate change. Rabbi Judy Weiss lives in Brookline, MA, with her husband Alan. She teaches Tanakh, and volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

    Passover is almost here. We are counting the days. 

    I wish you a joyous sense of leaving behind all that binds you and an entrance into an expansive sense of freedom. 

    Chag Sameach!

    Rabbi Katy Z. Allen, Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope


    Sunday, April 6, 2014

    A Transformation from Environmental Grief to Environmental Action

    Last month, Robyn Purchia of Eden Keeper hosted a webinar with Rabbi Katy Allen on how to deal with grief about the environment. We invite you to click here to watch the video.