This week’s Torah portion tells the story of yet another famine in the land of Israel.
A Quick Summary:
Isaac lived in the Gerar area under Avimelech, King of the Philistines. Isaac was blessed by God and prospered. The Philistines were envious of Isaac’s prosperity and filled in his wells. When Isaac’s servants dug new wells, the Philistines said, “the water is ours.” The conflict continued, and each subsequent well that was dug was filled in. Finally, Isaac left Gerar and settled in the area that is today Be’er Sheva in the Negev. There, God blessed him again, and his prosperity grew. Avimelech came with an entourage to Isaac in Be’er Sheva. Isaac was surprised by his visitors and said to them: “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and sent me away from you?” Avimelech replied: “We have plainly seen that the LORD was with you; and we said: ‘Let there now be an oath between us, and let us make a covenant with you; that you will do us no harm, as we have not touched you, and as we have done nothing but good to you, and have sent you away in peace.’ And they rose up in the morning, and swore one to another; and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.” (Gen. 26:27-31)
Clearly, some things never change. Conflict over water took place in ancient times and continues to this day. It has been said that the next great war will not be fought over oil. The next great war will be fought over water. Around the world, there are hundreds of thousands of “Climate Refugees.” People are leaving their homes because “climate change” has made it unbearable for them to live where they were. Yet even in biblical times, Abraham and Isaac were both climate refugees. They left their homes because of famine and drought.
It seems that whenever anyone speaks about climate change today, it’s always in conjunction with fossil fuels and carbon emissions. Yet we forget, or don’t even realize, that the climate is created in the troposphere (70% water in its gaseous form). So, yes, carbon emissions and fossil fuels are huge contributors. Still, if we look at the bigger picture, we’ll see that an aquatic environment (the Ocean, rivers, and lakes of the planet) that is out of balance is the biggest factor for climate change. And that is completely, totally, 100%... caused by humans.
World leaders came together last week at COP27 in Egypt to address climate change. They spoke at length about cutting carbon emissions by 2030. They spoke about solar energy and electric cars, but not a word was spoken about how to protect and increase the whale population, which, in partnership with phytoplankton and krill, is responsible for absorbing most of the carbon and for creating most of the oxygen on Earth. No one spoke about the fact that the blue whale population is a mere 10% of what it was before industrial whaling. No one said that overfishing threatens almost every major fishery on the planet. Some spoke about plastic pollution, but the main sponsor of COP27 was Coca-Cola, which produces 200,000 plastic bottles a minute. That’s about 470 million plastic bottles a year, amounting to approximately 3 million tons of plastic, the vast majority of which ends up in the Ocean. So yes, climate change is real. But if we limit our efforts to reverse it to merely fossil fuel and carbon emissions, we’ll make a dent, but we will not solve the problem.
So, what is the key to solving the problem?
The Torah says: “And it came to pass on that day, (when Isaac and Avimelech made a covenant of peace) that Isaac's servants came and told him about the well they had dug, and they said to him, 'We have found water.'"
וַיְהִ֣י | בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא וַיָּבֹ֨אוּ֙ עַבְדֵ֣י יִצְחָ֔ק וַיַּגִּ֣דוּ ל֔וֹ עַל־אֹד֥וֹת הַבְּאֵ֖ר אֲשֶׁ֣ר חָפָ֑רוּ וַיֹּ֥אמְרוּ
ל֖וֹ מָצָ֥אנוּ מָֽיִם
What does it mean to make peace and find water?
It means making peace with nature.
It means cutting back or eliminating your consumption of meat. The livestock industry around the world produces more methane and greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, buses, planes, trains, and ships in the world combined. In addition, the manure, urine, and waste from hundreds of billions of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, geese, and goats are polluting rivers, lakes, and streams.
It means shopping locally as much as possible to reduce the millions of ships that ply the Ocean every day. Ships create so much noise in the marine environment, making it nearly impossible for whales to find food or a mate, and strike hundreds if not thousands of whales a year.
It means reducing or eliminating as many single-use plastic products as possible to keep toxic chemicals out of the water.
It means making peace among people.
It means working to end war, violence, and hatred. It means recognizing that every human being, every animal, and every plant is made up mostly of water. Water is what unifies all creation.
When we do all of this and recognize all of this, we will find water.
Pure, Clean, Life-Sustaining, Life-Giving… Water.