Earth Etude for 3 Elul
The Earth Is Crying Out in Pain
by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen
“The Earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” (Ps. 24:1)
The Earth is crying out in pain. Yet, its beauty and mystery shine forth, ever ready to calm us, inspire us, strengthen us, and remind us of our smallness in Creation. We walk in the woods and find wonder in the spring wildflowers. Eagerly we bite into the delicious bounty of the late summer harvest. In awe we gain inspiration from the night sky, a sudden and unexpected rainbow, a brilliant sunset.
The Earth is crying out in pain. Yet, we climb in our cars and drive to the mall, spewing noxious chemicals into the air as we go. We buy what we need and what we want, gobbling up the Earth’s limited resources, entering eagerly or reluctantly into our consumer culture that tells us that this object will make us happier. We turn on the heat in the winter and the air conditioning in summer, needing, wanting to be comfortable.
The Earth is crying out in pain. Day after day, images flash across our TV and computer screens of floods and fires and famine and drought and war. We hear catastrophic predictions of the impact of climate change on our planet. Consciously or not, fear grips us. We wish it wouldn’t be so. We feel helpless.
The Rule of Context and its subset the Broken Windows Theory: Our microenvironment – the immediate context in which we find ourselves and the peer group in which we stand – has a profound influence on how we behave. If the subway station is dirty and urine soaked and the windows of nearby abandoned buildings are broken, no matter how upstanding we consider ourselves, we are more inclined to litter, to evade paying our fares, and even to commit a crime.
Bystander Syndrome: If we collapse of a heart attack in a public place we are more likely to get help if just one person is nearby than if there are one hundred. Most will walk by us. After one person has stopped to help, only then are others also likely to stop.
The Earth is crying out in pain.
How can we fix the Earth’s “broken windows” and fill its “abandoned buildings” so that we stop committing crimes against it? How do we find the courage to be the first to stop and help the fallen stranger, our planet?
The Earth is crying out in pain.
As we engage in teshuvah, as we re-turn, as we turn again and again and again toward all that is holy in life, let us hear the Earth’s cry and not be afraid. Let us band together with our neighbors to transition to a more resilient and gentler society. Let us find the courage and the strength to stop rushing and to extend a helping hand to the broken Earth. Let us remember that although we may not be guilty, we are responsible. Let us take heart with the knowledge that every journey begins with the first step. Let us know in our hearts that we are not alone.
“The Earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1)
Rabbi Katy Z. Allen lives in Wayland, MA. She is a chaplain at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA, and the founder and leader of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, a congregation without walls that holds services outdoors all year round. Through the Nature Chaplaincy Program of Ma'yan Tikvah, she leads interfaith programs connecting nature and spirituality.