Torah For TodayWhat the Torah says about…climate change

By Rabbi Ariel Abel

The climate panel of the United Nations recently said climatic changes are so overwhelming that our health, homes, food and safety are all likely to be threatened. Rising temperatures and the resulting melting of ice caps and glaciers is contributing to the phenomenon.
What does the Torah say about this?
The two floods from Biblical times are that of Noah, which devastated the world, and that of Enosh, which accounts for the flooding of the Tethys Sea, known as the Mediterranean. The former destroyed the world’s population while the latter decimated it by one third. The Torah mentions the balance of “rain in its time” read each day by Jews worldwide in the Shema prayer.
On Passover, we switch the prayer for rain to the prayer for dew, and back to the prayer for rain at the end of the Succot festival.
However, in view of current developments it is questionable whether one should pray for rain.  After all, if we believe our prayers are heard and answered, aren’t we damaging the world by praying for rain when too much is falling?
Should we not change this prayer to one of moderate rain?  The story of Honi the Circle-Drawer in the Talmud demonstrates this point.
Once, during a drought in the Holy Land, Honi was asked to pray for rain. He did so, and was answered with light rain. He complained and a deluge fell.
He then said he would not move from the circle he drew around him until the rain fell in good measure – not too much, not too little.
Extreme weather patterns are a serious concern to us all, and are a central focal point of faith in our connection between our Creator and us.
In our times, we need to take urgent action to ensure the world does not die from man-made causes. Anything we can do to reduce carbon footprint is a mitzvah.
We live in an age of EU regulations determining the precise measurements of flowers, fruit and vegetables, and chain conglomerates commanding lucrative deals with local farmers. Local produce is, therefore, often transported by road and air only to be redistributed locally, clocking up hundreds of miles per fruit or vegetables.
Supporting a consumer co-operative is not a woolly utopian idea, but a positive act to help save the world from the madness of modern economies.
• Rabbi Abel is co-ordinator of the Abrahamic Ethical Curriculum, part of the For Life projects