The following article appeared in the October 2009 issue of the Aitz Chaim bulletin:
I was sitting in my Sukkah last week, enjoying the sun shining through the schach in the roof and my book, when the sky began to darken. My midwestern instinct immediately informed me that it was about to rain. I took everything inside just as the first few drops began to fall. Rather than be upset that my beautiful day was ruined, I paused to think about how great it is that we have so much freshwater in the Northeast, while many parts of the world are becoming ever dehydrated.
I would not have experienced the same problem had I been living in Jerusalem or Los Angeles, as it only rains in the winter. In fact, Sukkot is timed to be just before the rain begins to fall in Israel, and it isn’t until we have taken down our sukkot at the end of the festival that we begin to recite the request for rain in our daily Amida prayer. The use of rain as a reward or of drought as a punishment is a major theme running throughout Judaism. Do good and you will have abundant rainfall, but go astray and your land will dry up and no crops will grow. (Deut. 11:13-21)
Sukkot is often a time that environmentalists use to forward their agenda of saving our planet by reducing the human affect. During the Yamim Nora’im (the days of awe) I was camping in Glacier park. A sign at the entrance to the Grenell Glacier hike declared that human actions are causing the glacier to erode at rates far faster than predicted and showed the photographs of the glacier over the last century and how much the glacier declined in the last two decades. As I descended from the mountain I realized how profound the impact the sign had made. I had just witnessed a glacier that is millions of years old that, with every passing second, is spewing forth water that has not been in it’s current state of matter since the ice age. Chances are that my grandchildren will not be afforded the same opportunity. And that’s why I speak up and advocate for the need to dramatically reduce our impact on our environment and our health.
We are currently dealing with many hot topics these days – some are political, while others are very personal. Fortunately, there are people who are passionate about all of these issues enough to stand up and decide to not only take a stand but also try to encourage others to join them. Judaism has a long history of standing up for the issues in which we believe. Whatever makes you passionate, I hope that you find something that you are passionate about in this new yeah, learn about the issue, and share with others why it is so important to you. Ani V’atah, n’shaneh et haolam – Together we will change the world.