Friday, September 6, 2019
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Sydney Marks on Shoftim
My portion of Shoftim revolves around the theme of justice – it includes the famous phrase, “Tzedek Tzedek tirdof,” “Pursue Justice!” – and it talks about how we should work to make this a better world.
It’s a perfect portion for me – because I have a very strong sense of right and wrong….I’m right and you’re wrong 😊
Seriously, I’ve always been concerned about justice - I watch the news more than many other teens and I’ve been troubled by how kids are being treated at the border and about racism and discrimination everywhere.
But I have a special concern for environmental justice. We are living in a world where my generation has reason to worry about the impact of climate change on our own lives, not just on those generations who will come after us.
When I was in 5th grade I was researching how kids in India and other parts of Asia have to wear masks all the time because their air is so polluted. And I can recall some of the big storms we’ve had here, that have been made worse by climate change.
My clearest memory of Hurricane Sandy was that when we heard how bad it was going to be, my brother and I moved all our stuffed animals to the living room and built a fort around them to protect them. As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realize that stacking blankets and pillows with stuffed animals won’t protect us for long. We’ve got to change our world and we can begin in small ways, by recycling.
It so happens that the basis for the Jewish approach to the environment is found in my portion. In chapter 20 of Deuteronomy, verse 19, it says, “Don’t cut down trees when besieging a city.” לֹא-תַשְׁחִית אֶת-עֵצָה
כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה, לָבֹא מִפָּנֶיךָ בַּמָּצוֹר
The Talmudic sage Rabbi Ishmael taught: if the Torah warns us not to destroy fruit trees, then we should be even more careful about not destroying the fruit itself. This applies to all food that is fit to be eaten, and not only the fruit of trees.
According to a 2011 study commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted.” In the United States, less than three percent of this waste is recovered and recycled. We need to do better.
4ocean is a global movement actively removing trash from the ocean and coastlines while inspiring individuals to work together for a cleaner ocean, one pound at a time.