Shabbat Blog: Parshat B'Shalach; The Seasons Change...or Do They?

Friday, January 14, 2022
Posted by: Rabbi Barry Gelman

“I am for climate change. I do not want the climate to be the same all the time.” Judah Friedlander – Comic.

January sixteenth is Tu B’Shvat (the 15th of Shvat). Tu B’Shvat is called the birthday of trees, meaning the fruit of a tree that was formed prior to that date belong to the previous tithe year and cannot be tithed together with fruit that was formed after that date. 

The day has become a day to focus on agriculture and ecology. In Israel it is customary to plant trees on that day. 

The proximity of Tu B’Shvat and our celebration of nature, to Parshat B’Shalach, this week’s Torah reading provides the opportunity to focus on an interesting connection between the Exodus from Egypt and climate change. 

One of the hallmarks of the celebration of the Exodus is that it must take place during the spring.  

הַיּ֖וֹם אַתֶּ֣ם יֹצְאִ֑ים בְּחֹ֖דֶשׁ הָאָבִֽיב׃  

You go free on this day, in the month of Aviv - Spring (Exodus 13:4). Similar statements are found in Ex. 23:15, 34:18see also Deut. 16:1) 

This point makes explicit the connection between celebrating Passover and the seasons of the year. Passover, the holiday celebrating our national renewal, is also a time to focus on nature’s renewal. This is so important that in order to make sure that Passover falls out in the spring an extra month is, from time to time, added to the Jewish year.  

We, of course, hope that the patters of nature, including the seasons, that have come to expect will continue.  

In fact, there is a Divine promise that this will be. 

עֹ֖ד כּל־יְמֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ זֶ֡רַע וְ֠קָצִ֠יר וְקֹ֨ר וָחֹ֜ם וְקַ֧יִץ וָחֹ֛רֶף וְי֥וֹם וָלַ֖יְלָה לֹ֥א יִשְׁבֹּֽתוּ׃  

So long as the earth endures, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Summer and winter, Day and night Shall not cease.” According to Rashi this means that none of the seasons will “cease to take their natural course.” 

On the other hand, we know that snowpack water supplies are diminishing, that threats of extinction are real and that there are longer, more frequent and more intense heat waves.     

It is no longer clear that: “Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Summer and winter, Day and night Shall not cease.” 

So what can we do? 

Click here for to learn about high-impact, cost-effective and evidence-based organizations that are doing great work in this area.  These organizations mostly work on the level of policy work and major projects – not individual actions. Some argue that even the best intentioned individual actions will not be enough to really make a difference.  

On the other hand, this article shows that we should never underestimate how the actions we take can  influence others to take action. Here are two examples from the article.:  

“Utilities, for example, have found that customers reduce their electricity usage significantly when told how their consumption compares with that of neighbors.” 

“Solar-panel adoption, for example, is particularly contagious. After controlling for a variety of other potentially important causal factors, one study found contagion’s power in this domain to be substantial: Each new installation in a neighborhood can, over time, lead to several additional ones. 

As we read about the importance of celebrating Passover in the spring and meditate on the message of renewal of nature that the holiday brings, we must ask ourselves what we can do to reverse the damage to our world and what we can do so stop any further damage from being done . 

Conversation starters: 

  • What do you do in your family in this regard? 
  • What have you thought of doing, but have not done yet in terms of supporting the environment? 

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Gelman 

Houston's MLK Parade is celebrating its 28th anniversary.  Join with Rabbis Lay Leaders and members of the Houston Jewish community to march as a group in the parade! Kids are welcome to join!

This is not only fun for the participants, especially our youth, it generates positive results in relations between the Jewish & African American communities as we march in solidarity. Our participation honors not just MLK, but rabbis like Abraham Heschel and Joachim Prinz who worked closely with Dr. King and the civil rights movement. 

We will carry flags, a banner and signs with relevant messages like "Teach Peace, Not Hate" or similar, and hand out 1500 - 2000 flyers that explain the history of Dr. King and his association with Jewish civil rights advocates. 


Category: ERJCC Blog