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Judi's Journal

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God’s prayer to humankind; a religious response to the oil spill disaster in the Gulf

By Judi Siegal

The news is frightening and the daily reports only seem to get worse. Each day we hear how close the oil spill disaster is to our Floridian shores and if this were not really happening, it would sound like one of those apocalyptic horror films predicting the end of the world. We almost are waiting for some charismatic leader to step forward and solve this whole problem in an instant so that the movie could end and we could all go home happy and relieved that we have been saved again. Only it is not happening. Which begs the question: what do our religious traditions have to say about all this?

The Jewish tradition has a lot to say about this matter. Preserving the environment, protecting the earth and its creatures and conserving our natural resources have been concerns for thousands of years. We have a whole holy day that we set aside each week just to honor God’s creation. It is, of course, called Shabbat, the Sabbath and the day is consecrated to the idea of rest and appreciation of our world. It is a beautiful expression of how Jews make holy a certain space of time and how they look at the role of humans as partners with God in creation. Through prayer and song, Jews are reminded of the beauty of creation and how we need to protect it.

In ancient times, it was the role of the Hebrew prophets to rail against the injustices and social evils of their day. Through their words, the people learned about how to live a just and moral life. They were also given prophetic visions of the future and depending on their behavior and repentance, the outcome could be favorable or unfavorable. The people were often admonished against doing evil and that if they would return to God they would be forgiven.

While prophets like Isaiah no longer preach in the market place, there are many who hear the still small voice in their hearts and their consciences are stirred by the disaster in the Gulf. I believe if any of these prophets were alive today, their words might sound something like what I have called “A Prayer from God to Humankind.”

My dear children,

I am very disappointed with you. The saddest thing reached my ears the other day. It was the cry of a brown pelican who could not fly because her feathers were all covered with goopy oil. The voice of the sea turtle also wailed out to me because his habitat, the ocean was slowly being poisoned by oil slicks. Did you not think I would hear their cries? All of creation calls out to me, the Psalmist wrote about that eons ago. Now, children, I know I gave you free will. This was a most wondrous gift but it could also be the most dangerous. I gave you the intelligence to know right from wrong and I gave you a guide, the Torah, to set you on the right path. You have been warned many times about the evil of greed and the harm it can do. Instead, you have ignored my warnings and now have brought disaster upon yourselves. Now you will have to solve this problem before you cause more damage.

When I gave you dominion over the animals, I never intended for you to harm them. You are supposed to be caretakers of the earth and work with me in creation. You have no right to destroy what I have created. I have given you abundant resources for you to use so you need not be dependent on one source of fuel.

Think of your children and grandchildren. Do you want them to grow up in a world without my beautiful beaches and sea creatures? Will the whale’s song and the dolphin’s dance vanish from my earth? It is up to you, my children, to set things right and never let greed influence you from doing the right thing. You have unleashed great harm and the world will suffer greatly for your actions. Learn from this tragic accident and never do these things again. I pray to myself, that you will listen to my words and cease from exploiting what has been given to you. This is my will. Amen.