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Published on April 30th, 2017 | by Organic Torah




By Rabbi Natan Margalit

From the recent teach-in at the People’s Climate March in Boston outlining “Three Bridges from Ancient Wisdom to Climate Action.”

Life itself is an example of minyan/emergence: Something new emerges that is more than the chemicals, molecules, that make up the component parts.

1: Minyan/Emergence: The Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts

  • Minyan is the Jewish term for a group of ten (traditionally men, now men and women in most U.S. synagogues) that comes together to form a spiritual community. It stands for the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Life itself is an example of minyan/emergence: Something new emerges that is more than the chemicals, molecules, that make up the component parts.
  • Climate Change is emergent: its multiple effects feedback on one another to create what Bill McKibben calls “Eaarth” a new, tougher, planet.
  • Negative: Take care not to serve other gods and bow to them. For the Lord’s anger will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that the Lord has given you. Deuteronomy 11:16-17
  • Positive: In that day, I will respond – declares the Lord- I will respond to the sky, and it shall to the earth; and the earth shall respond with new grain and wine and oil, and they shall respond to Jezreel. I will sow her in the land as My own; And take Lo-ruhamah back in favor; and I will say to Lo-ruhamah, “You are my people.” And he will respond, “You are my God.” Hosea 223 – 25

2: Mikdash/Nestedness: Beyond Either/Or

  • Mikdash (Sanctuary) the Holy of Holies was nested within the Temple, within the courtyard, within the walls, within the city, and so, on.
  • All living systems are interconnected by nested patterns – as in cells, organs, bodies, communities, and so on, sharing energy, information across permeable membranes.
  • So we all have multiple identities and have multiple connections. We don’t need to choose in an either/or dilemma between our small communities and the larger humanity (as in each nation protecting its own economy and hoping others will take the burden) and we don’t have to choose between human needs and nature.  We are all nested in expanding circles

3: Mitzvah/Tipping Points: A Small Action Can Have a HUGE effect

  • Judaism’s basic “spiritual technology is the Mitzvah, a small action that you feel you are commanded to do; you must do, not for yourself, but for a higher purpose. You must act whether or not it will make a difference. But it might make all the difference.
  • Climate Change is all about tipping points: the polar ice melting, creating more blue, heat absorbing ocean; the tundra melting, releasing more methane, etc.
  • Our culture can also reach tipping points of awareness. An email, a tweet, a letter to the editor, can “go viral” and shift the direction of our economy and culture.


Organic Torah: Jewish Wisdom for Climate, Environmental and Food Justice – co-sponsored by JCAN (Jewish Climate Action Network), six class series, Open Circle Jewish Learning class, CJP and Hebrew College, 2017

Three Bridges from Ancient Wisdom to Modern Science – sermon at First Parish Church, Beverly, MA 2017

Deep Spiritual Psychology: Finding Our True Selves with the Torah of the Ishbitzer – Online course through, 2016

Food and Faith: Ancient Laws and Traditions, Modern Concerns and Applications – Wildacres Interfaith Institute, Wildacres Retreat Center, Little Switzerland, North Carolina, August, 2016

Why Bother? Climate Change and Jewish Action  – Temple Reyim, Newton, MA, Spring, 2016

Organic Torah: Spirit, Systems and Sustainability — Keenan Lecture, Spalding University, Spring, 2015

Mishnah Ketubbot: Marriage, Money and Gender – semester course through Kevah: Jewish Learning Groups, Cambridge, MA, 2015

Or suggest a topic that will fit your organization’s needs.

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