With the People’s Climate Shabbat and March happening across the country this weekend, I wanted to address the issue of being “resilient” in the face of climate change. We’ve surpassed the targeted goal of 350 ppm, the “safe” level of carbon dioxide emissions. How will the Earth (people-including entire nations, animals, plants, trees, etc) respond (and what/who will survive)? What about farmers and our food supplies?! As the Jewish Climate Initiative asks, will we chose to respond passively, like Noah, or actively, like Abraham to this environmental and humanitarian crisis? “The response of Noah’s generation during the hundred and twenty year construction period was to scoff, deny the threat and refuse to change. The flood came, Noah and his family was saved, the rest of humankind perished.”
The title of this week’s parsha, Chayei Sarah (the life of Sarah), is a bit misleading at it is book-ended by the deaths of Sarah and Avraham. But, it is also filled with a celebration of life. Avraham dies in old age, but only after ensuring his progeny through the marriage of his son, Isaac, to Rebecca. It is a story of the spiraling cycles of our lives and the continuation of our legacies through the generations of our families.
We continue our lives even when are family and friends pass. And, upon death, we each return to the soil that initially gave us life. The simplest matter that we become upon death–dirt and dust–also brings us forth to the beauty, complexities and interconnectedness of life on Earth. Deep in the ground is the source of our nourishment and life for all: water, and soil.
In the parsha we learn that at Avraham’s request, his servant journeyed to find a wife for Isaac, bringing ten camels with him. The camels were brought to a well where the women of the town collected water each evening. As Rabbi Shai Held notes, Rebecca offered the camels water without the servants prompting. “She is so kind that she does more than she is asked, and beyond her concern for people, she cares also for the needs of animals.” Continue reading