The Baal Shem Tov, or Besht —  the founder of Chasidism — 
met the soul of the Messiah during an ascent to heaven. 
The Besht asked him, "When will the Master come?" 
The Messiah answered, "When your wellsprings break forth to the outside!" 
(from a letter written by the Besht to his brother-in-law about one of his soul ascents) 


Addressing global climate change by changing our lives

Make change a spiritual habit. Do at least one new thing every six months to reduce your personal impact on global warming.

What it's about:

The time of debate about climate change is over and the time of action is now. (See more about this: "Reflections on the IPCC report".) Every level and aspect of our society will need to change, adapt, and evolve in order to live sustainably on this earth.

But what should each of us do now, in this society that we live in? We all know that the things we can do as individuals have just the tiniest of impacts on global climate change, really global climate disruption.

Even more challenging, the recent IPCC report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is saying that if humanity stopped adding CO2 to the atmosphere today, completely, global climate disruption would continue for maybe a hundred, maybe hundreds, of years. As many as half of the species we know about could become extinct even if we fixed all our technology, drove zero emission cars, lived off the grid, etc.

We still need to act, and not only because the small changes we make might somehow add up to lessen the worst effects of climate change.

We also need to act also because when we take action, even on the smallest level, we make a commitment to something bigger: a commitment to becoming responsible as human beings for our impact on the planet, a commitment to devoting our resources, to the best of our limited ability, to helping all species survive what changes will transpire, and maybe a commitment to confront the changes we cannot prevent and grieve for the losses.

This kind of action is what we call ritual, in the best sense. Beyond political and social transformation, it means creating the personal habit of transformation. Imagining and facilitating a new world is less scary when we can make it a part of our daily meditation and work, when we make change into a habit. We need a spiritual practice for changing how we live.

What would this look like?

StoptheFlood! asks you to make change into a religious act. Change one habit or do one new thing that will reduce your personal impact on climate change. Keep adding one new thing every six months. Make it something you know you can accomplish in the following six-month period. Find a partner with whom you can share your commitment, and help each other stay on track. Let other people know what you are doing through this website and through forums in your community.

The dates recorded in Genesis for the beginning and end of the flood are exactly six months apart. These dates are the 17th of Cheshvan, when Noah's ark rested on Mt. Ararat, which was the end the Biblical flood, the 17th of Iyar when the flood rains began – roughly speaking, November and May. StoptheFlood! uses this timing to set up benchmarks for changing how we personally impact the earth's atmosphere.

We don't know whether our actions will make a dfference now. That puts our efforts in the realm of ritual, where the invisible consequence of what we do is often more important or more recognizable than the visible or physical element.

The only other date in the book of Genesis is the 27th of Iyar, when the animals, along with Noah's family, left the ark, and the rainbow appeared. The rainbow signified a new covenant between God and the land. StoptheFlood! imagines a new covenant between humanity and the land, one that we live by more and more through steady change in our lifestyles and habits.

Stop the Flood! exists as a forum to help inspire people to take personal action, to share whatever action or change they're doing, and to help people partner to help each other. Our fundamental principle is that we can't wait for politicians to act, and we can't blame others for this crisis, though we need everyone to solve it. As this project grows, we can start to see what people are doing across the country, and develop networks for spreading change in communities, synagogues and churches.

Record your commitment, your location, and your community using the form below. Your contribution will help inspire others to "become the change we seek".

The Spirit Behind Getting Involved
According to the story about the Neshkizer rebbe, which you can read here, compassion means loving someone else so much that you wouldn't want to live in a world where they suffer. What compassion is called forth by the species and whole ecosystems in danger of disappearing? What kind of compassion is called forth when the object of your love is the world itself? If you feel like us — that a world without polar bears or glass frogs isn't the world you are willing to live in, like you love this world for everything that gives it diversity and wonder — then how should you act? None of our individual actions can turn climate change around. But on the level of Spirit, we need to keep doing something, however small, to take care of the lives and species on this planet. Each action is not just a physical way to lessen CO2 in the atmosphere, it's also a prayer and commitment to the greater social transformation we need to be part of.

The Holiness and Beauty of Life
    Global climate disruption it is not first a matter of concern for human survival. Of course global warming is scary, and in its greatest potential impact it could destroy countless human lives. But there are deeper reasons to take responsibility than fear for our own survival. Responding also means showing love to God's creation, affirming this diversity of life that exuberantly shouts "Yes!" It means choosing life - not our lives but all life - which is what the Biblical commandment bacharta bachayim means.

Note: NeoHasid is experimenting with adding commments to some of our pages. Our primary purpose is to allow signups on the StoptheFlood! page. However (due to our still-limited html literacy), comment submission forms will temporarily appear on all entry pages. For the time being, feel free to add your shnei p'rutim to any page, and we will try to incorporate it. Thanks for your patience as we figure this out!


I'm buying a drying rack that can sit over our floor heater to use in place of our gas-heated clothes dryer.

Six months ago, after my car was in an accident, I replaced it with a biodiesel.

Posted by: David Seidenberg at December 22, 2006 02:06 AM

carpool twice a month.

Posted by: avi hoffer at December 22, 2006 03:42 PM

I have decided that I will no longer use the dryer to dry my clothes but instead I will dry my clothes through line drying.

I have also decided that within the next six months, I will have become really good at riding my bike and be able to do city riding. My eventual goal with bike riding is to be able ride it around town and use it more for transportation and use my car less for transportation.

Posted by: Rachel Coleman at December 31, 2006 09:46 PM

Within the next six months, I am committing myself to use energy efficient lightbulbs instead of the incandescent lightbulbs. I will no longer buy incandescent/energy wasting lightbulbs.

Also, my plan is to buy a drying rack within the next six months and use the drying rack to dry my clothes rather than the dryer.

Posted by: Tina Coleman at December 31, 2006 09:58 PM

Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006