April 22, 2022
Happy Earth Day!
Have you ever wondered what it means to celebrate Earth Day? Maybe you’ve been curious why April 22nd was the selected date to recognize this now an international day? What is it about the history of Earth Day, or more specifically, what direct connection to Judaism does Earth Day even have?
Let’s start with Earth Day’s origins. Earth Day officially began on April 22, 1970. The day was selected because the founders wanted it to be a mid-week event (it was a Wednesday). They also wanted the day to fall between Spring Break and Final Exams so that as many college students as possible would engage and help turn this day into a Global Day of Awareness highlighting humanity’s impact on our environment.
And what is Jewish about this day of recognition? Obviously, we have the classic Jewish values associated with environmentalism and global awareness, values like Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World), Bal Tashchit (Conserving Natural Resources), and Shmirat Hateva (Protecting Nature). We even have some ancillary values like L’dor Vador (Generation to Generation) that reinforce the importance of not only passing traditions, values, and customs from one generation to the next but also passing the physical well-being of the earth from one generation to the next.
Jewish tradition has always valued the importance of people’s interactions with nature. Whether it was Adam’s responsibility to farm the land (Genesis 3:17), or thousands of years later, when Ilan Ramon shared his thoughts from space, “The world looks marvelous from up here, so peaceful, so wonderful and so fragile. Everybody, all of us down there, not only in Israel, have to keep it clean and good.” Our relationship with the land is symbiotic. We are both dependent upon one another, and as the Torah also shares, “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:19)
In looking back at the origins of Earth Day, I was fascinated that the founders chose young adults to create the movement. They did not seek the funders, the power brokers, or the lobbyists. They sought the idealism of our youth. They knew that for change to happen it needed to be sustainable, incremental, evolutionary change rather than revolutionary change. As far as they were concerned this same group inspired the anti-war movement and won, so how much easier would this battle be to win?
Unfortunately, 52 years later, we have only seen incremental gains in this struggle. We have seen incredible inventions, innovations, and progress, yet, as a society we are still not where we need to be. I invite the community to join me in logging on to a special virtual presentation on Sunday, May 2, 2022, from 12:00-1:00 pm CT. This unique opportunity is being broadcast from Israel and is titled “Celebrating the Remarkable 2: Climate-Saving Science”.
The Jewish Federation of San Antonio is a proud community partner of this event, and many others that promote our commitment to the Jewish values supporting Earth Day. To paraphrase our great sage Hillel, “[We] are not obliged to complete the work, but neither are [we] free to desist from it.”
I look forward to continuing our community conversation on this topic because we are…