I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the only movie I have seen in a theater in recent months is Disney’s “Frozen.” For those who have not seen it, I can confirm that, yes indeed, the protagonist of the movie was orphaned in the first five minutes of the movie as is the custom in all good Disney flicks. Despite this, my children loved the movie.
What I found most interesting in the movie was that the heroine had the ability to alter or even control the environment – an amazing power. Yet, her parents convinced her to hide it completely. She eventually chose to continue hiding this gift even after her parents’ death. It took a crisis in her family and in her hometown to force her to see that she could find balance in her life – enjoying her unusual power without dominating or damaging the world around her.
I don’t think it’s necessarily the message that Disney was trying to send, but I think it’s an important one. We may not have innate superpowers like Elsa in “Frozen,” but technology has given us an incredible ability to manipulate the world around us. We can make it light when it’s dark and cold when it’s warm. We can fly across the globe and send people to the bottom of the sea. It’s amazing when you think about it.
With such power, though, comes a responsibility. This is something that our tradition has always understood, and it was certainly on my mind as we observed Earth Day this past Tuesday.
In this week’s Torah portion, for example, God gives us a veritable catalog of ways in which we can infuse our lives – and the world – with holiness. Included in this rather lengthy list is the following teaching:
“When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubilation before the Lord; and only in the fifth year may you use its fruit — that its yield to you may be increased: I the Lord am your God (Leviticus 19:23-25).”
In other words, we may think that our control over the land is so complete that we can make our own rules and we can take all the credit. God reminds us that there are limits to our power and that we ought to remember the true source of that power. As we read elsewhere in the Bible, “The earth is Adonai’s and the fullness thereof (Psalm 24:1).”
It is with this idea in mind that our congregation has reached out to an organization called GreenFaith to be a part of their Certification Program. Through this program, we hope to minimize our impact on the Earth so that we can be responsible stewards of God’s great gift to us.
Under the leadership of Marjorie Fox, we have already started putting together an incredible team of volunteers to help us with this undertaking. But, there’s always room for more! If you are interested in what Judaism has to say about environmentalism and how we as a congregation can be environmental leaders, then please be in touch with either Marjorie or me.