Parashat Miketz

The Song of the Land

A Torah teaching for the Western environmentalist.

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Provided by Canfei Nesharim, providing Torah wisdom about the importance of protecting our environment.

The Environmental movement that has sprung forth from the West bears many imprints of the same paradigms of thought that have led to the environmental crisis itself. There is a tendency to rush towards results and overlook the process required to organically arrive at those results, and part of our work in healing is to redress these internalized ways of thinking to arrive at a truly sustainable way of living. Through the Torah, this lesson of process can be learned.

canfei nesharimAt the beginning of Parashat Miketz we hear of Pharoah's prophetic dream: seven robust cows devoured by seven frail ones. The signs seem clear for all to see: seven good and seven so bad they devour the good that was. It is a vision that perhaps foretells of our human endeavors with technology: a golden age of Enlightenment and invention, industrialization and higher qualities of life, now quivering under the unknown threat of today's environmental crisis.

Why weren't the Egyptians able to understand the dream? Upon hearing Joseph's interpretation, it seems fairly clear. Was it myopia? Was it denial? How do we as environmentalists, aware of the "dreams" (predictions) of our scientists, share the interpretation?

The challenge of "giving over the bad news" is something environmentalists have been struggling with for the last 30 years. With news that nobody wants to hear, how do we spread the message? And as our goal is not to share bad news, but rather to inspire, motivate, and guide necessary changes that society and individuals need to make--how do we achieve this?

Action & Spirit

The environmental movement faces this challenge to catalyze change in two distinct realms: action and spirit. In the realm of action, consumer patterns, industrial pollution, and carbon footprints are the terms of discourse and site of change.

But in a broader perspective those actions are the result of a deeper problem: an imbalance of spirit, or exile. If our lifestyle is out of balance with the ecosystems we inhabit, is it fair to assume that our inner dimensions are also out of balance? And while we are seeing great advances and potential in addressing the action side of our crisis, is enough attention being paid to the inner dimensions of disconnect?

At the end of the day, as green technologies become a greater part of public awareness and economic reality, the actions seem easier to fix, while our personal and intimate awareness of what is around us remains as disconnected as ever. How do we address this experiential exile from our Place? How do we share that the importance of a personal connection to one's habitat--the seasons, the fruits, and the land--and the living experience of connection to a place, is really a connection to a part of our own larger self?

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Rabbi Shaul D Judelman

Rabbi Shaul David Judelman spent six years in the Bat Ayin Yeshiva Rabbinical program and now teaches at Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo while working on several different environmental initiatives in Jerusalem. He is the founder and coordinator of Simchat Shlomo's Eco-Activist Beit Midrash, a program offering holistic in-depth Torah study around issues of ecology.