Like Noah, we must help preserve the Earth

BY RABBI RANDY FLEISHER

The dramatic tale of Noah and the Great Flood is among our most well known stories. Because of horrible corruption and violence, God plans to destroy creation and start over. One righteous man and his family are selected to survive and preserve one set of each non-human animal for the new world.

Among the legends of our people is one that says that God actually created and destroyed many worlds before promising to all of creation that this world will be spared another abrupt end so long as we humans, the midabrim (talking beings) live up to our responsibility of having all the other parts of creation “in our hands.” The covenant in the story of Noah that God made with all creation inspired the Baal Shem Tov to teach that people are far from the only entities in the natural world that has a soul that is touched by the Divine. The Besht listed the others: the dowmim (“still being” such as stones, mountains and bodies of water), tsowmachim (“sprouting beings” such as grasses, plants and trees), and chayim (“wild beings” which includes all of animal life).

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Are we living up to our side of the covenant? There are positive signs. We have protected many species of animals that had once been endangered. The Clean Water Act has brought back to life some of the most formerly polluted waters in our land.

And yet, we know all too well that largely because of our over-consumption and noxious behaviors, we are once again trembling on the verge of global destruction. We continue to pump poison into the air, causing the ice to melt and the seas to rise (portending another Great Flood?). The life-giving cycle of rain, rivers, trees, and humans is disrupted at every point. We need righteous ones, many “Noahs” (and “Noas”) to step forward now, this time before it is too late, and preserve all life, not just a sampling.

This week, as our community reads Noah from the sacred scroll, the local Jewish Environmental Initiative has planned a variety of programs that we hope will raise awareness of the need to preserve biodiversity; teach the multitude of concrete ways that we can better live in harmony with the Earth and her creatures; and guide us all into going outside into the natural world of which there is no better medicine and inspiration towards conservation. In this way, perhaps we will all pay heightened attention this week to the dangers facing all of the varied and intricate souls that make up this creation, the one ‘version’ of the world we hope will last for all time.

“Look at My works,” our tradition imagines God to say, “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.”

Rabbi Randy Fleisher of Central Reform Congregation prepared this week’s Torah Portion.

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