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) 

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confronting global climate change by changing the way we live

Make change a spiritual habit. Do at least one new thing every six months or every season to reduce your personal impact on global warming. Find a chevruta partner and share with them what you're doing.

What it's about:

The time of debate about climate change is over. We know that every level and aspect of our society will need to adapt and evolve in order for humanity to live sustainably on this earth. That's challenge enough.

What's more challenging, though, is that the recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (see "Reflections on the IPCC report") forecast that if humanity stopped adding CO2 to the atmosphere today, completely, global climate disruption would continue for a hundred, maybe hundreds, of years.

If that's true, what should each of us do now, when the society that we live in that is still increasing its CO2 output? Even under Kyoto, the proposed measures would only roll back the output of CO2 to a few years back, without doing anything to change the imbalance that's already been created.

The things that we can do as individuals have just the tiniest of impacts on global climate, impacts that are negated by the general course of society (more so for Americans than almost every other nation but China) – and most people know that. If indeed we need to act, it needs to make sense on a different level. (See Shabbos!)

One explanation for changing is that the small action we take now might somehow add up to lessen the worst effects of climate change. But we also need to act because by acting, even on the smallest level, we make a bigger commitment: a commitment to take responsibility for our impact on the planet, to devote our resources to the survival of each species where we can help, and to acknowledge and grieve for the losses we cannot prevent. Above all, we commit to the possibility of a different future.

This kind of action is what we call ritual, in the highest sense. Any other kind of action (i.e. just to feel better about oneself) does more harm than good.

Beyond political and social transformation, our small actions create the personal habit of transformation. Imagining and facilitating a new world is less scary when we make it a part of our daily meditation and work, when we make change into a habit. We don't know whether our actions will make a dfference to what happens. That puts our efforts in the realm of Spirit, where the invisible consequence of what we do is often more important or more impactful than the visible or physical element. StoptheFlood! asks you to make change into a religious act.

 The Holiness and Beauty of Creation
Global climate disruption could destroy many human lives and communities. But there are deeper reasons to take responsibility than fear for our own survival. Responding also means feeling love for this creation, affirming the diversity and exuberance of life. It means choosing life - not just our lives but all life – this is what the Biblical commandment means: Uvacharta bachayim l'ma'an tichyu—Choose life that you may live!

The Spirit Behind Getting Involved
According to a story about the Neshkizer rebbe, compassion means loving someone so much that you won't live in a world where they suffer. What compassion do you feel for the species and ecosystems in danger of disappearing? What compassion is called forth when you think about places where you have experienced mystery and grandeur? If you feel like a world without polar bears or glass frogs isn't the world you want to live in, if you love this world full of diversity and wonder, then how would you act? Click on the links below:

Meditations and exercises you can use to open up these questions.

Reflections on the Biblical flood and the practice of change.

What do you commit to changing this season?

Add these prayers for the earth to your liturgy, Torah service, or meditation. Start celebrating the 27th of Iyar, rainbow day, as an End Global Warming day.



Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006