In our religion, we don’t stand around on street corners waving posters that say “Repent! The End is Nigh!”

But, what if the end is actually nigh?

Climate change is real, and it’s only going to get worse. Scientists warned that our greenhouse gas emissions would affect the environment in drastic ways, potentially causing droughts all over the world and catastrophic storms which could wreak havoc on our cities and cost millions of dollars in damages. Now that worldwide crop shortages are being reported, and now that Hurricane Sandy has hit New York, it really seems like we’re in trouble.

So what do we do? Repent? What is the Jewish response?

I’ve been thinking about this for some time now, and while I don’t have any answers, I do have two rabbi stories which have helped to guide my thinking.

Rabbi story 1:

Rabbi Eliezer in the Babylonian Talmud said that one should repent and say Vidui a day before one’s death. His students asked him how they should know when that day would be. He answered that we can’t know when we will die. That is why we should repent every day of our lives. 

(I take this story to mean that we should live ethically every day rather than be obsessed with death. But who knows, I might be interpreting it wrong. )

Rabbi story 2:

Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer lives in Brooklyn. She was born and raised in New Orleans, and during Hurricane Katrina she watched from New York as her beloved city–and her beloved parents–got pummeled by one of the most devastating storms the world has ever known.

Last week she lived through Hurricane Sandy.

She posted hurricane preparedness tips and humorous updates about her activities on facebook throughout the storm, and she watched as the wind howled and the waters rose. After two horrible days, once the storm had finally passed, she looked outside and found a mess. Some people had no power, some had no food, and some had no homes. 

She wanted to help. She went to the store, and because there was no gas and the subway was down, she asked to borrow a SHOPPING CART and started shlepping food and supplies to people who needed it.

She emailed a few friends and asked if they wanted to donate money.

They emailed their friends.

That was yesterday. She’s now up to $4053 from 68 people.

(She ended up using someone’s minivan instead of the shopping cart after the first few trips.)

Rachel is my friend, and she is a beautiful, kind, vulnerable human being. I love her deeply, and I see her shlepping as both a personal healing process and a part of a huge communal healing process that has the potential to heal the entire world. I imagine what it would be like if everybody pushed as hard as they could to help when they saw our planet in need, and for just one second I think I glimpse a healthier world.

If you want to donate to Rachel, you can give her money at RachelGMeyer@gmail.com via paypal. If you don’t have a paypal account, it’s really easy to set up. Just click the little navy blue button, etc. She’s calling this process #Blankets4Brooklyn. I’m calling it Olam Ha Ba.

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