Thursday, June 17, 2021

A Particular Verse of Torah

This speech was given by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen on June 17, 2021, upon being named Alumna of the Year by the Association of Rabbis and Cantors, the professional association of the Academy for Jewish Religion.

Erev tov - good evening.

You know how the verse begins: 

G!d spoke to Moses saying, Speak to the Israelites and say to them. 

This particular verse continues: “You shall put solar panels on your homes, and live and advocate for a sustainable lifestyle for all, for I, your G!d am holy.”

You don't recognize that verse? Really?

Actually, neither do I. 

And yet, I do. 

I do, because I see such messages in nearly every verse.

I see them as the subtext of: In the beginning G!d created the heavens and the Earth” and of, “Take off your shoes for you are standing on holy ground.”

I see them in the injunctions to care for the poor, welcome the stranger, pay attention to what we eat, and pursue justice.

Why do I see them?

Because everything is connected. Because everything and everyone is sacred. Everything. The air we breathe out enters the tree beside us and we breathe in the oxygen it produces. The Holy One of Blessing touches every single cell and fiber of our being and every single aspect of life and non-life, and all that is or was or ever will be. Connections are everywhere.

So when you next open the Torah, I beseech you to see and hear that G!d is saying, “Speak to the Israelites - to everyone, and tell them to understand the impact of fossil fuel consumption on vulnerable communities. 

“Tell them that as long as making the air unbreathable is acceptable, as long as spewing toxic chemicals into the water is not abhorred by all, as long as living comfortably without recognizing the consequences is our default way of being, as long any lives and any part of Creation are considered by anyone to be disposable, the Messiah will not arrive, there will be no peace among us, and everything and everyone we hold dear is in danger.

“Tell them to act while it still matters.”

I am grateful to the Association of Rabbis and Cantors for the honor of being chosen as alumna of the year, and for the recognition this honor gives to the Jewish Climate Action Network. I will be even more grateful if you will go home and speak from the deepest places of your hearts to your families, your communities, and your G!d, and together make a decision to act in new and impactful ways to preserve this precious planet and all of its inhabitants.

Todah rabbah. Thank you so very, very much.

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