(photo credit: Courtesy)
The climate is changing again, along with the season – after all, it is that time of year. The season of Hanukka and Christmas is upon us, and as the seasons change, so too does the climate. Inevitably, inter-seasonal questions continue to percolate in the atmosphere about how we can affect climate change – marches, protests, government programs, international symposia and agreements abound.
Even religious groups join the fray. Indeed, a religious perspective has much to offer on the subject of “manmade climate change.” But I’m not referring to the weather – I leave that to God and the overwhelmingly powerful nature He created.
I refer, rather, to the climate that people can and do change every day – at home, in the workplace, school, church and synagogue, with family, friends, colleagues and others. I refer to the moral climate we create and change every moment of every day by virtue of our words and actions. We are very powerful – we can bring civility, positivity, joy, creativity, love and meaning to almost any place, setting, or group in which we find ourselves. Or we can choose to bring the opposite.
Do we choose to be forces of discord, unpleasantness and negativity, imposing all this on others, thus bearing responsibility for a dreadful climate? Or, preferably, do we – in keeping with the holidays of Hanukka and Christmas – choose to be forces of light, bringing illumination, grace, blessing and optimism to our environs, thus being responsible for a most uplifting and beneficial change to the climate around us? It is worth noting that while Christmas and Hanukka have their own unique history and religious messages, they do have in common the notion of light.
Hanukka’s other name is Chag Ha-Urim, the Festival of Lights, a holiday whose major ritual is the lighting of candles on each of its eight nights; and the “Light of Christmas” is integrally associated with what Christmas actually celebrates, and Christmas lights are certainly a prominent feature of the celebration.
The lights of these holidays are beautiful and inspiring to many.
With the aura of this illumination to spur us on, we should seize the power we have to change the moral climate when and where it is necessary and feasible, knowing all the while that our mission to effect these changes for the better is sacred. Amid the all-too-familiar “climate change” questions and proposed solutions that have saturated our discussions on the topic, I offer here two new ones: Are you disturbed by global warming? If so, then work hard to douse the flames of baseless hatred, to cool the incendiary rhetoric, to extinguish the fires of immorality and evil. Are you concerned with global cooling? Then work towards intensifying global – and communal – warming: warm the hearts of family and friends, stoke the embers of lovingkindness, feed the passionate fire of sacred meaning in your life.
I’ll leave it to others to determine whether or not we can control the weather originating in the heavens.
What we cannot leave to others is the control of our moral climate here on earth. Perhaps this is what the Psalmist meant when he said: “The heavens are God’s heavens, but the earth He has given to mankind.” This thought should render us climate change enthusiasts, inspiring each of us to commit to improving the moral climate around us – that is, as the holidays now upon us remind us, to speak and act as forces of light.
This is the man-made climate that certainly each of us can directly affect immediately, inexpensively, and consequentially. This is the climate change worthy of our precious time and energy, and it is the climate change worthy of our striving and living for.
The author is rabbi of the Astoria Center of Israel, an historic and revitalizing synagogue in Queens, New York. He is creating a new endeavor called the Wholly Living Project.