Parshat Noach: Genesis 6:9-11:32; Isaiah 54:1-55:5.
In Noach, God promised to never destroy the Earth again (Genesis 8.21). But that says nothing of our precarious power as humans to jeopardize our own future.
What could Noah have been thinking, we wonder, as he built his ark, watching the people go by, knowing God’s intent to wipe out land and flesh alike and yet never reaching out to his neighbors or peers? There was no warning of what God has told him. No encouraging them to build their own arks or work together. No impetus to petition God.
Here in Michigan this past spring, we experienced a sort of a deluge of our own. With rain on 23 of May’s 30 days, farmers weren’t able to plant their fields until much later in the season. Some seeds rotted as they waited to be planted, and the ones that made it couldn’t get in the soil until drier conditions prevailed. Now we have historic shortages across the state of economic staple crops like corn and soybeans to show for it.
When we consider our legacy and our reputation, when we consider how we will be viewed when people look back at our lives, how will we be judged?
As Hazon’s president and CEO Nigel Savage recently wrote, “This is a moment in which we all need to raise our game. This is the year the pieces have to start to come together more deeply. This is the year in which we have to challenge the Jewish community to engage in serious ‘environmental teshuvah.’”
Thankfully, in the words of author Jonathan Safran Foer, in his new book We Are the Weather: “We are the flood, and we are the ark.”
We got ourselves into this mess. We abdicated our responsibilities to serve and steward this home we have. Thus, it is entirely possible, and even a sacred obligation, for us as Jewish practitioners and people of faith, to return to the kind of reverence and gratitude for Earth that it and we deserve. This is the year we make a deep and true and vulnerable teshuvah (return) as we commit to doing our part to shift actions, consciousness and history itself.
You might urge your community to join Hazon’s Seal of Sustainability program or deepen your engagement with the pre-existing Green Team at your Seal-certified site. You might sign up for the Hazon Detroit newsletter and/or like us on Facebook so you can show up at one of our programs and get more involved. You might choose to support our work financially.
Whatever action steps you take, trust that they are needed. When future generations look back on 5780, they will care most that this was the year we stopped being the flood and started being and building the ark together.
Rabbi Nate Degroot is associate director and spiritual and program director at Hazon Detroit.