|Jewish Environmental Awareness|
Almost every day in the newspaper I see articles about problems of climate change. In recent years there has been a growing awareness that our human actions have a huge impact on the delicate balance of nature. Thousands of years ago, Jews in the Land of Israel composed prayer-poems expressing sensitivity for the fragility of nature’s cycles and our vulnerability if these cycles are disturbed. The most famous of these is the Mashiv HaRuach prayer that appears in the Gevurot, the second prayer of the Amida. It is a Jewish custom after Simchat Torah/Shmini Azteret) we pray “Mashiv Haruach u’Morid haGashem.” (“Causes the wind to blow, and the rain to fall.”) This is a request that rain should fall at the right time so the fields and trees can be irrigated for their growing season.
Unlike Egypt which is watered year-round by the Nile, the people of Israel are dependent on the rain that falls only in the winter (the six-month rainy-season.) There is no rain in Israel for the six months of summer. If the rain does not come on-time after Simchat Torah, the crops die and famine results. The famine that caused Joseph’s bothers to go down to Egypt was an example of this. Yearly, our people in the Ancient Land of Israel, endured existential anxiety about the arrival of rain. Mashiv HaRuach is a prayer for rain and life.
Our Reform Prayer book, Mishkan Tefila, restored this ancient prayer to the liturgy of our movement (see Mishkan Tefila page 168.) The inclusion of this prayer is meant to sensitize us to environmental ethics and responsibility. It also expresses solidarity with the land of Israel, its seasons and the life of its people.
Tonight, is Shabbat Breshit, the anniversary of the very first Shabbat celebrated by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we will include “Mashiv Haruach” in our Gevurot Prayers. We will do this until Pesach, thus keeping in harmony with general Jewish minhag (custom) in the Reform Movement and the greater Jewish community at large.
Shabbat Breshit Shalom, (May the winds blow and the rains come at the right time!)
Rabbi David Wilfond