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Thursday, 13 March 2014

Is climate change man-made?

Sukkah 38

Melting glaciers.  Rising ocean levels.  Hurricanes.  Tsunamis. 

Anyone who has followed the news over the last few years would admit that we are undergoing serious climate change.  Most scientists agree that these are permanent changes that appear to be taking place in the form of global warming.

The debate centres on the question of whether or not man plays a role in climate change.  Perhaps climate change is cyclical and beyond our control.  Or do our actions play a part in the colossal changes beginning to strike our planet?

We make the blessing over the lulav and wave it in every direction to show that the entire universe – Heaven and earth and all four directions – belongs to G-d, says Rava in the name of Rabbi Yochanan.  Strictly speaking, as soon as one has raised the lulav and etrog, one has fulfilled the mitzvah.  The waving is merely a bonus that adds to the mitzvah.

What does the waving achieve?  Rabbi Chama bar Ukva teaches in the name of Rabbi Yossi the son of Rabbi Chanina that the waving in each direction thwarts tornadoes; and the waving up and down thwarts frost that would spoil the crops.

Rabbi Yossi bar Avin/Zevila exclaims, “[Even] mitzvah accessories can avert the Divine decree!”

What an incredibly empowering idea!  Waving the lulav is not an essential part of the mitzvah and yet it can affect the weather.  Think about the impact that actual mitzvos have on both the spiritual and physical worlds! 

Every mitzvah we perform – nay, every ancillary custom we practice – has a tremendously powerful effect on the world around us.  We don’t always perceive it, but it’s almost like the butterfly effect – one little flap of a wing has the incredible power to change the world!

Now, let’s be clear about we’re suggesting here.  There are religious extremists who look at extraordinary natural phenomena and have the hubris to suggest that they know why G-d brings tragedy upon His creatures.  That is not only arrogant, it is evil.  Such attitudes do not bring people closer to G-d and who are you to say why some event has occurred?  We cannot comprehend the ways of the Almighty.

Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon us to know that we can change the world with our actions, positive or negative.  We will probably never perceive the outcome of our mitzvah performance, for we are not angels.  But we perform mitzvos with the faith that G-d cares and that the world is impacted in powerful ways.

The generation of the Tower of Babel remembered the Great Flood and believed that climate change was cyclical.  Expecting a new tsunami, they thought they could build a massive tower to protect themselves.  Sadly, they missed the point.  By mending their wicked ways, they could indeed have saved themselves.  Climate change is not cyclical, it’s in our hands.

You can change the world, for better or for worse!  Do a mitzvah today and the world will be a better place spiritually and physically!  Perform a custom today and you can change the world forever!

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