Sign In Forgot Password

Parshas Vayakhel - Global Warming                  23 Adar I 5782

02/24/2022 01:30:50 PM


Have you ever asked yourself when global warming began? Global warming is another raging debate not only in this country but all around the world. Issues regarding global warning, along with so many other issues, tend to be driven by a mix of science and politics.  With this said, I believe an important component of the discussion centers around the history of global warming itself. Therefore, before we discuss actual concerns regarding global warming, we need to look at some of the timelines of weather in general.

Dating of our atmosphere began about five thousand years ago with different civilizations tracking different components of the earth’s weather and climate conditions surrounding their specific regions of the world.. In approximately 350 BCE, the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote Meteorologica, an impressive in-depth discussion which represented the sum of knowledge of the time about the earth sciences, including weather and climate. Today, Aristotle’s ‘Meteorologica’  is the oldest-known scholarly discussion of  what slowly grew to become the modern field of meteorology. From the Greek ‘meteoros’, meaning high in the sky, we have the modern term meteorology, the study of clouds and weather

Jumping to more recent history, Thomas Jefferson was considered to be a ‘weather expert’, and Ben Franklin, long fascinated by weather, argued that weather actually moves from place to place, but it was not until the early 1800s when Luke Howard, 1762 - 1864, an Englishman, named and recorded detailed explanations of cloud types used today: cumulus, cirrus, stratus, and nimbus.  Howard wrote numerous accounts of his observations of weather throughout the area around London and gave a series of lectures about meteorology.  Luke Howard is commonly considered to be the father of modern meteorology.  The New York Meteorological Observatory opened in 1869 and began to record wind, precipitation, and temperature data. With the establishment of the U.S. Weather Bureau in 1870, data began to be recorded throughout major areas of the country.  At that time weather forecasting was slowly introduced in the Midwestern cities, beginning with Chicago in 1870, and extending throughout the country by the early 1890s.

 It is my belief that there is general agreement that the world is at least 5782 years old, yet we only have recorded weather data from the last 170 years -  hardly enough time to determine the impact on the world of climate change. True, climate may be changing over time; glaciers are melting and weather patterns are changing, but that does not mean it will bring an end to the world. It is possible that certain regions of the world which today are colder, may at some distant time been very hot, and vice versa. Is the United States warming up so quickly? Only two days ago USA Today reported “Winter not over: Arctic cold front to bring bitter temperatures, heavy snow to parts of US”. All of us agree that, like so many things, we are only able to see small pieces of the puzzle of the complexities of our planet.  

The Torah does have commandments to ensure the ongoing beauty and character of the world.

The Mitzva of Ba’al Tashchis (wanton destruction) applies to every aspect of life including the earth. Therefore, we should all take care to implement ways to conserve and continue earth’s existence, even though Hashem will never let it falter. And so, with all that said, where in the Torah do we find the very  beginning of global warming?

In this week’s Parsha Vayakhel the Torah states in Shmos 35:3 states "לא תבערו אש בכל משבתיכם ביום השבת"  “You shall not light fire in any of your dwellings on the Shabbos day”.  The parsha opens and briefly discusses the forbidden Melacha of creating a fire on Shabbos. Interestingly enough, the written law only mentions one of the thirty-nine melachos of Shabbos. Rabbeinu Bachya explains that in general all the melachos - the thirty-nine prohibited laws of Shabbos - are all connected to the prohibition of fire. Many of the Shabbos laws are related to and dependent upon fire. Rabbeinu Bachya explains that fire is the source and the reason for all other melachos of Shabbos. Therefore, the Rabbis established the mitzvah of havdala on Motzai Shabbos (exiting of Shabbos) on Saturday night,  the beginning time of the week when ‘fire’ became permissible along with all other melachos. Starting something new calls for the making of a blessing, and this became part of the Havdala service. The bracha of בורא מאורי האש   - Borei M’Orei HaAish - is selected because it was the very first work-related service following the creation of the world. This is the time that we humans can start creating our kinds of creation. All of this is connected to what is stated in the beginning of Breishis: "ויהי אור" - “and let there be light”. Following this, Rabbeinu Bachya adds that the other three brachos of Havdala are all sourced from the beginning of creation. The bracha on wine “Borei Pri HaGafen” is hinted to in the word “HaAretz”, the land, referring to the “gefen or vine” in the “Gan”, these are the wines that were preserved in the grapes from the six days of creation. The bracha on the Besamim/spices is hinted in the wordsורוח אלוקים  / the spirit of Elokim. It is the smell that fills the spirit of man as he takes a breath through his nostrils, filling his soul. This is further discussed when the spirits - or the winds - at times hold back the sweet smells and therefore make a blessing for the ability to smell the sweetness of the spices. Lastly, the bracha of המבדיל בין קודש לחול  - the separation between the holy and the mundane - is hinted to in Bereishis 1:4 when the Torah states "ויבדל אלוקים בין האור והחושך"  - “And God separated between the light and the dark”.

Global warming has more than one new definition that we hear about today. The world of warming is beyond the physical temperature of the atmosphere. Hashem created fire as the, prime part of creation in order to create other things. The fire and the heat it produces does, indeed, contribute to global warming in both the physical and spiritual arenas. Chaza”l describe the little fire that exists in every single Jew, known as the “Pintele Yid”, is the spark lying within every Jew. During the decades of teaching Jews from all backgrounds, I can feel, see,  recognize that beautiful, tiny spark that wants to ignite and warm and nourish the soul. Fire has the ability to give off from itself two things: light and heat. This is the spiritual global warming that we vie for, that we yearn to share with all Klal Yisroel. May the absence of creating “fire” on Shabbos, and the kindling of the havdala “fire” combine to light up our souls and let this spark bring warmth and light to our fellow Jews.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Tue, August 16 2022 19 Av 5782