Friday, October 28, 2022

Spiritual Effect on Climate Change

Mathew. Irma. Florence. Michael. Ian. These sound like an innocent group of friends that might have gone into a bar for a drink. Those of us living in Florida recognize these names as menacing deadly storms that have torn through our region causing much loss of life and staggering property damage that has cost several hundred billion dollars in the last few years. I noted before Yom Kippur that Mathew, Florence and Ian unleashed its wrath during the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Michael made landfall during this week, the Parsha of Noach in 2018. It is with sad irony that we read about the flood that destroyed the entire civilization as Hurricane Michael was destroying parts of our state. It would be a mistake just to dismiss this as a random coincidence. Obviously, there are factors from the perspective of science about the uptick in these devastating storms. This space is not the area to address that aspect of the conversation. From a spiritual perspective, I would like to share an insight from Maimonides. He writes that when tragic and unnatural events occur that cause misfortune in this world, it should give us pause and encourage us to reflect on the situation. Nothing happens in a vacuum and this should behoove us for some soul-searching.  In this week's Parsha of Noach, G-d communicates that because of the wayward actions of Man, there will be a flood to destroy civilization. Following the flood, G-d made an eternal covenant with Man that He would never destroy the entire world because of Man’s actions. G-d showed Noach a rainbow and made the covenant with him that the world's seasons would not be interrupted. Our Rabbis have pointed out that the covenant does not guarantee that a particular region will not suffer the same fate because of Man’s action. In that sense, I believe what we have been witnessing should cause us to think about what we can do to bring positive change both in our relationship with G-d and with our fellow Man. One of the primary lessons of Noah and the flood is that there is a symbiotic relationship between the actions of Man and the state and existence of this planet. It is not just a question of carbon emissions and warming the planet. That is a conversation for a different forum. (A Rabbi once opined if every member of the planet would not use an automobile or plane one day a week, the planet would have much fewer carbon emissions). Parshas Noach teaches us the real-time effect our moral choices and errors can have on our planet and civilization. The question we should ask ourselves is, what positive actions are we going to engage in that can improve that symbiotic relationship? Have a peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

Friday, October 21, 2022

It Never Gets Old

What more can we learn that we have not known already? Who does not know that Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit? Or that Cain and Abel had the first sibling rivalry in history? Or that Noah had to build an ark to protect himself from a catastrophic flood that would destroy civilization? These are fair questions as we once again begin the Torah reading cycle anew with Sefer Bereishis. How many times do we have to hear the same Parsha and pretend not to get bored? At least with the rest of the Torah, there are the various laws and Mitzvahs recorded, which is essential to review. However, Bereishis/ Genesis is devoted primarily to the Jewish People's story and how it came into being with our Patriarchs and Matriarchs. How many times do we have to hear the same stories?  No less a formidable Biblical Commentator than Rashi poses the following question. I would like to paraphrase his answer with a story that occurred in London just over a hundred years ago. Chaim Weizman (who later became the first president of modern Israel) met with Lord Balfour in England and lobbied for the British Government to recognize a Jewish Homeland he was met with much resistance. It is well known that the British attempted to offer Uganda to the Jews as an alternative relocation site. Weizman dismissed this offer and insisted there was no alternative to the Jewish Homeland but Eretz Yisroel. Balfour upbraided Weizmann for rejecting the Uganda offer. Weizmann responded, "Mr. Balfour, suppose I were to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?" But, Dr. Weizmann, "we already have London," replied the British Lord. "That is true, but we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh," concluded Dr. Weizmann. Balfour was moved to tears and later wrote that the road followed by a great and suffering nation had been illuminated for him".  Rashi writes that it is essential for us to constantly review the Book of Berieshes/Genesis, as the nations of the world will accuse the Jews of improperly occupying the Land. If there is one cause that seems to unite different religions, faiths, and varied political stripes, it is that Israel is a nation of colonialists and occupiers. In the current 76th session of the UN General Assembly (2021-2022), EU member states are likely to vote for one resolution each on the human rights situations in Iran, Syria, North Korea, Myanmar, and Crimea. By contrast, EU states will likely vote in favor of nearly all 14 resolutions singling out Israel. These same EU states have failed to introduce a single UNGA resolution this year on the human rights situation in China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Turkey, Pakistan, Vietnam, Algeria, and 175 other countries. The ongoing demonization has had a corrosive effect on the Jewish community as there are now multiple progressive Jewish organizations that openly challenge Israel's natural right to its ancient homeland. For this reason, Rashi teaches us we must review the story of our people and our Land on an annual basis. It never gets old. Have a peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

Most Destructive Word in the English Language

I have always been intrigued by the “word of the year.” This last year of 2023, Merriam Webster designated “authentic” as the WOTY (word of ...