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Parashat Vayikra: Witnessing Climate Change

Parashat Vayikra: Witnessing Climate Change

We are all watching climate change happen. Wherever you live, you are experiencing some of the effects of climate disruption. If you’re living in a coastal area, you know that sea levels are rising and your community is more vulnerable to floods than ever before. If you live in the Midwest or California or Israel, you would know that droughts are becoming longer and more severe. And no matter where your community calls home, you are most likely keenly aware of the increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes, storms, typhoons, and other extreme weather events. In these ways alone, you are a witness to our changing climate.

Parashat Vayikra, this week’s Torah portion, is about making things right when we are guilty. The portion reads: “If a person incurs guilt – when one has heard a public imprecation but (although able to testify as having either seen or heard of the matter) has not given information and is thus subject to punishment… – upon realizing guilt in [this] matter, one shall confess having sinned” (Leviticus 5:1-5). Put in plainer English: when you are witness to a crime and do not testify, you are yourself guilty and must confess and work towards righting the wrong committed. Not only is the one who committed the original offense liable, but anyone who chose not to speak out against that offense then, in turn, bears the burden of being a silent witness.

As witnesses to the wrong of climate change caused by global carbon emissions, we each have an obligation to testify and to right the wrong of environmental degradation and human-caused climate disruption. This section of Parashat Vayikra actually gives us two obligations.

First, we must be vocal witnesses, speaking out about climate change in our communities to say that climate change is real and letting our elected officials know that we see what is happening to our earth and we want them to fight against climate change. You can sign this action alert asking your representatives to support the Green Climate Fund and fight climate change here. You can also talk to your family about climate change at the Seder table this Passover with some of the resources here.

Second, we must right the original wrong of climate change by reducing our own carbon footprint. You can talk to your community about doing an energy audit and becoming more energy efficient here.

We do not need to be silent witnesses to the effects of climate change. We can testify and take action, combatting the destruction of our planet.

Published: 3/19/2015

Categories: Social Justice