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A Darkness that Can Be  Felt - Interfaith Dialogue in the Haze

06/07/2023 01:43:02 PM


Rabbi Rudin

Once a month I take part in an interfaith conversation with a group of Christians, Hindus and Muslims. Over the time that our Interfaith Council has met, we have learned to trust each other and become friends. Our discussions are open-hearted. Despite the vast differences in faith and outlook, we are able to really hear each other and share. 

This morning, we looked at each other through the eerie haze that blots out the blue sky and sun. I asked each of them how they interpret the meaning of this environmental catastrophe through the eyes of their faith.

It was remarkable to me to hear that all of them, Christians, Muslim, Hindus and Jews all see the smoke of the burning Canadian forests as a grim warning. Not a divine punishment, but a consequence of human activity-caused climate change which has raised temperatures and caused the ongoing drought in Canada that set the stage for the hundreds of wildfires. People on the West Coast have experienced this for years, said a Pastor. But they are far away - but now, what they experienced has come here.

One of the Hindu teachers spoke about the doctrine of Karma, where actions feed back to create consequences. If you take from the earth without caring for it, without giving something back, then destruction will result. Our Muslim member said that the founder of his faith, Mohammed, taught to use natural resources sparingly and gratefully.

I shared that the Torah teaches that HaShem placed Adam in the Garden l’avda u’l’shamra - to care for and to preserve the earth. Humanity’s role in the stewardship of the earth is a core Jewish value. 

When we break bread, we say a blessing: HaMotzi Lechem min Ha’aretz. We bless G-d who “takes the bread from the earth.”  But baguettes or loaves of sourdough don’t sprout from the fields. Human labor, skill and artistry are needed. In the same way, Judaism teaches that we are all G-d's partners in caring for, preserving and cultivating the world. 

What came through in each faith leader’s teaching was the recognition that the Divine - by whatever name - worked through the human heart, human will, human recognition of each other’s humanity and inner divinity to bring blessing. But if that human heart and will and recognition should close down and fail - then only smoke remains.

When we’d each had a chance to share, we stepped outside and saw the scary sight of the smoke billowing in from the north. We saw fear in each others’ eyes. Yes, we all knew that in a few days the winds will change, the smoke would recede and blue skies, sunlight, stars and fresh air would return. But would these days of hazard and danger help us realize the critical importance of awareness, advocacy and action in environmental preservation, remediation and recovery, each of us in our own way?  

In the Plague of Darkness, a “darkness that can be felt” descended on Egypt. The Egyptians were literally frozen in place for three days, paralyzed by their refusal to free the Israelites. Let us pray that this episode, this experience can produce the opposite effect of paralysis: may this darkness be a darkness that moves us, all of us, to action.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Menorah is lit in the Tabernacle. The Prophet Zechariah reminds us that as candle kindles candle without losing its own light, “not by might, and not by power, but by My spirit, says Adonai Tzva’ot - that light and that spirit will not fail, no matter how deep the darkness. 

Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784