Warm orange sunset behind the skyline of Los Angeles. Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

Weekly Dvar Torah: Climate Change

This week in the Hayom Yom we learn about air quality. The Rebbe teaches us how to purify the air and create a healthy environment to live in.

The Frierdiker Rebbe was lamenting the fact that American Jewry wasn’t receptive to Torah and Yiddishkeit, and he attributed the problem to the fact that they were living in spiritually polluted air.

How do we purify the air? By reciting the words of Torah like Chumash, Tehilim, Mishnayos or Tanya by heart.

In an extensive responsa our Rebbe explains the why and the how, the words of Torah will help purify the air.

There are two essential elements that a person must have in order to survive; food and air. Food we must eat from time to time, like every few hours, but air we cannot live without for even one minute.

When we eat we must choose our foods to be the right foods and healthy foods and certainly not poisonous or harmful foods. There is a spiritual connection between what we eat and our behavior, as Chazal explain that one of the reasons that we must not eat certain foods, like meat from aggressive animals, is because eating them will affect our natural disposition and influence/cause aggressive behavior.

We also find this about Elisha, who was called Acher. He was one of the greatest Chachamim, but because his mother ate from foods that were offered as sacrifices to Avoda Zara while she was pregnant, he strayed from the Torah way of life.

Obviously, it is more significant that the air that we breathe constantly must be pure and clean. We should never have to breathe polluted air. We also find in the Gemara, that the air of Eretz Yisroel makes one wise. And the Gemara also teaches that the air of the tower of Babel caused forgetfulness.

In addition, words create an environment, in a Shul speech is respectful and refined, whereas in the street, there can be ‘street language,’ which is coarse and vulgar. This vulgarity must be countered. And the way to combat it is by uttering words of Torah while walking in the streets. Whereas in a shul we have access to holy books, in the streets we have to rely on what we learn off by heart so that we are able to learn while in the street, or in any other place.

When learning Torah there are parts that we have to study in order to grasp their concepts, but there are also parts of the Torah that just reciting the words is considered learning, such as saying Chumash or Mishnayos, or reciting the words of Tehilim or Tanya.

The Rebbe concludes by quoting the Midrash that says that the exiles will be gathered in the merit of the Mishnayos. Now that we are in the times of the footsteps of Moshiach, we should say as much Mishnayos to help usher in the coming of Moshiach.

Here we learn the importance of breathing clean air, also in a spiritual sense, and how by uttering the wrong words we can pollute the air, and how by saying the right words, we purify the air.

There is another lesson that the Rebbe taught us. When we memorize Torah and our mind is filled with Torah thoughts, we are able to overcome many confusing and disturbing thoughts that may enter our minds, which at times can bring us down to the point of depression. The Rebbe explains that when the mind is occupied with Torah, depressing thoughts have no space. It lifts a person up from any potential downer.

Another benefit the Rebbe teaches us is how everything that we do even in the realm of thought, has not only an effect on ourselves but also on the environment around us.

When the world is occupied with getting us to change our behavior because of climate change, we should remember that Chassidus already addressed this many decades ago, and showed us how even a single individual can affect the world just by uttering the right words.

And the Rambam already taught us centuries ago, that every person should always judge himself as being equally balanced between the positive and the negative and by doing just one positive act he can tilt the scale for the good and will bring salvation and redemption for the whole world.

Keep your mind properly loaded, and you will not only help yourself, but you will change the environment for everyone for the good, and forever.

Have a thought-filled Shabbos,
Gut Shabbos
Rabbi Yosef Katzman


  • Jan Freed

    The consequences of dirty air:

    More than 8 million people died in 2018 from fossil fuel pollution, significantly higher than previous research suggested. We are obligated to eliminate the need for fossil fuels. The surest way is to go all electric.

    • AH

      You might want to look up where electricity comes from. Hint: not just out of a socket in the wall.

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