I am a lifelong Girl Scout. My love of the out-of-doors comes from many years camping, hiking, canoeing at Girl Scout camps throughout the Midwest, New England and, yes, Canada. All summer I have been haunted by an old camp song, known as “Canadian Wilderness” or “The Life of a Voyager.”
One verse sings:
“Call of the lonely loon
coyotes howling at the moon
wind rustling through the trees
that’s a Canadian breeze
smoke rising from the fire
up through the trees in a stately spire
breathe a sigh in the evening glow
sun goes down, those north winds blow.”
It paints a picture of canoeing from town to town and the beauty of the wilderness.
This has been the summer of smoke. Smoke from Canada. Smoke from wildfires. Beautiful sunsets. But those sunsets belie the fact that the smoke is dangerous. Air quality alert days. Hard to breathe. Apocalyptic-looking photos. Must stay inside.
This is not a new problem. Years ago, Canada was not happy with the United States for sending acid rain to Canada. Now we hear some Americans unhappy with Canada for the smoke. The American government has sent aid. Still, it is not enough. Those fires, multiple fires may not even be fully out until after the first snowfall.
It is not Canada’s fault alone. Climate change is real. It is hard to deny it, although some do, in this, the hottest summer ever recorded. Ocean water temperatures in Florida of over 100 degrees. More than 15 days of scorching heat in the desert southwest of more than 115 degrees. Athens at 111 degrees—and Greece has fires too. Drought in Illinois leading to early fall leaves falling off trees in June. Tornados and floods and other storms.
This is a global problem. It demands a global solution. Not years from now. Right now.
It also demands spiritual discipline. One of the first steps in teshuvah, returning, repentance is confessing our sins.
Part of the Yom Kippur liturgy is reciting Al Chet, “For the sin which we have sinned….” Here are few new verses for this emergency:
For the sin which we have sinned by not taking care of the earth.
And for the sin which we have sinned with our haughtiness.
For the sin which we have sinned by not listening to and believing scientists.
And for the sin which we have sinned by denying what is happening.
For the sin which we have sinned by not realizing how interconnected we are.
And for the sin which we have sinned by not recognizing that our individual actions impact others.
For the sin which we have sinned by our reliance on fossil fuels.
And for the sin which we have sinned by not developing and using alternative energy sources.
For the sin which we have sinned by not protecting our waterways.
And for the sin which we have sinned by not providing drinkable water.
For the sin which we have sinned by continuing to purchasing to excess.
And for the sin which we have sinned by using too much packaging.
For the sin which we have sinned by wanting food at any time from anywhere.
And for the sin which we have sinned by not supporting local farms and buying food “in season.”
For the sin which we have sinned by refusing to act.
And for the sin which we have sinned by refusing to protect our inheritance for the next generations.
For all of these sins, O God of Creation, pardon us, forgive us, grant us atonement.
For all of these sins, Ruler of the whole Universe, inspire us, strengthen us and give us the courage to repair Your world.
Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein is the rabbi of Congregation Kneseth Israel in Elgin, IL, where she enjoys hiking and running. She blogs as the Energizer Rabbi at theenergizerrabbi.org and has two books published (“Climbing Towards Yom Kippur” and “Enduring Spirit”). She serves on a number of nonprofit boards, including the Association of Rabbis and Cantors, the Coalition of Elgin Religious Leaders, the Community Leadership Board of St. Jospeh Hospital and volunteers as an Elgin police chaplain.
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