An Q&A with Rabbi Kalman Topp, Senior Rabbi of Beth Jacob
The Jewish Home: From a Jewish perspective, what should be our response to the drought? Rabbi Topp: Judaism teaches us to feel responsible for our surroundings and we should be deeply concerned about the current drought. The simple fact is that California is running out of water. With regards to our response, throughout life and certainly during times of crisis, the Torah teaches us to take a dual approach. Firstly, there is the important element of human initiative where we are each required to take pragmatic steps to improve a challenging situation. These steps require
a combination of hard work, wisdom, creativity and, as necessary, seeking out the advice from those with specialized expertise. Secondly, we believe in the power and effectiveness of prayer. Sometimes the answer is no, but we need to remember to turn to G-d in times of crisis and sincerely request for his assistance. Regarding the California drought we should employ this dual approach. Every person needs to do his or her part. Our elected officials should continue to address the crisis by taking necessary steps, including, as appropriate, water conservation, water re-use, drip irrigation and even seawater desalination. There is much that we can learn from Israel in this regard. Then, the other element that we must remember, as religious people, is that we should turn to G-d and sincerely pray for rain. TJH: Is the lack of rain a consequence from G-d for the behavior of man? RT: This is hard to say. We don’t fully understand the way G-d runs the world and His system of reward and punishment. What we do know is the more we take action, and the more we pray and connect with Hashem, the better off we’ll be. TJH: What kinds of prayers should we be saying for rain? RT: From the last day of Sukkot until Pesach we praise G-d by saying that He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.
From December 4 until Pesach, we go further and request rain by adding the words “v’ten tal umattar livracha”- please give us dew and rains of blessing. Traditionally these prayers for rain are not expressed during the summer months. However, with the current situation, I think it is appropriate and a good idea to include the prayer of “v’ten tal umattar livracha” in the concluding elokai netzor paragraph of the Amidah. We can and should also say Psalms. This morning at the Beth Jacob minyan, I brought these suggestions to people’s attention and we said a chapter of Psalms together as a plea to G-d to provide for us and the State of California. TJH: Are there any other lessons one can learn from the drought? One might suggest that the silver lining is that the lack of water is bringing a sensitivity to our communities about this precious natural resource and reminds us to not take water for granted. Before we drink a glass of water, we recite the bracha of shehakol—that everything
was created through the word of G-d. Why do we thank G-d for everything? Rabbi Yisroel Salanter suggested that when we take a sip of water, we thank Him not just for the water. We are inspired to take a moment to also express our gratitude for the oceans, streams, the mountains and the
ambience of creation—for Shehakol- for all parts of creation. Let us remember to thank G-d for all we have and may G-d bless the State of California, the U.S, Israel and the world with rain and prosperity.
JULY 2, 2015
THE JEWISH HOME
The Jewish Response to the Californian Drought
Jewish Home LA - 7-2-15