Today leaders of most of the world’s countries are gathering in Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 Climate Change Summit. The majority of climate scientists in the world agree that in order to keep the rise in the average global temperature to only 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world needs to halve its emission of greenhouse gases in the next eight years and reach net zero emissions by 2050.
In an interesting development, a group of 21 prominent Israeli rabbis sent a declaration to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett calling on Israel to demonstrate that Israel is a full partner in global efforts to stem climate change, saying that the crisis is already here and action is imperative on the basis of pikuach nefesh, the Jewish law that puts preserving life above most other religious rules.
The climate crisis, wrote the rabbis, “is about a dramatic influence on the lives of humanity in ways that are much greater than appear: starvation, thirst, the human and security significance of migration, the huge implications for quality of life and our very existence.”
“We are no longer talking about an issue in the future, it is already present now. . . All of this is being revealed in a world where many species are going extinct, opening a window through which we can peek at the reality towards which we might be approaching.”
The significance of this statement might be lost on most American Jews who are unfamiliar with the Israeli reality. But in Israel, Orthodox rabbis are mostly concerned about ritual matters: kashrut, Shabbat observance, and making sure that marriage, divorce, and conversion remain in the hands of the Orthodox rabbinate and follow the most stringent Orthodox standards.
Israeli Orthodox rabbis are rarely involved in broader, non-ritual issues. For example, there are no military chaplains in Israel. There are rabbanim tz’va’im, military rabbis, but their role is to make sure the food served in the army is kosher and that Shabbat is observed (albeit consistent with the need to continue defending the country on Shabbat.) The concept of a hospital chaplain (again as opposed to a rabbi who is in charge of Shabbat and kashrut) was introduced to Israel within the last decade by a few American Conservative rabbis who made aliyah. So this declaration is a welcome departure from that norm.
This Shabbat, November 6, Jacob Sheib, son of Amy and Michael Sheib, will be called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah. Jacob and his family will be joined by many of his classmates from Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS). Because CESJDS has its own mask mandate which is stricter than County regulations, masks will be required for all in attendance on November 6 whether or not there is a County mask mandate in effect (which is unclear at this writing). Please make a note of this and prepare accordingly. (Please also note that for those who plan to attend via Zoom, a different Zoom link will be used that morning which is in our weekly announcements.)
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian