The Book of Eicha (Lamentations) offers many grim images as it recounts the destruction of Jerusalem, and the slaughter and exiling of its population. Surely one of the most gruesome is that of parents so racked with hunger that they resort to cooking their own children. It’s an unfathomable idea, one so depraved that we struggle to imagine it.
And yet. And yet it’s becoming clearer and clearer that we are all cooking our children. If not our children, then our grandchildren. Or perhaps it will be our great-grandchildren. But the time seems to be coming closer and closer when the temperature on this earth which God created for us will be too high for life as we know it to continue. We are, slowly, cooking our children.
According to Halacha, we must not wait until we are absolutely certain that someone’s life is in danger before we intervene. In the presence of even the possibility that life is in danger, we are mandated to violate Shabbat, Yom Kippur, or virtually any of the commandments, in order to preserve and maintain life. This is because life is the central value, and we are prohibited to stand idly by when it is endangered. And we are our bothers’ keepers. And our children’s and grandchildren’s keepers.
I think we need to start being scared. And to think about the world our loved ones, the fruit of our loins and of our wombs, the children whom we hug and the grandchildren whom we kiss, will inhabit. And even as we always place our faith in the compassionate and beneficent God, we simultaneously need to remember what God said to Adam and Eve when He placed them in the garden (Kohellet Rabah, 7) “Be mindful then to not ruin and destroy My world, for if you ruin it, there is no one after you to repair it.”
I ride my bike a lot, and my wife and I are installing solar panels on our roof. But this won’t save anyone’s children. Only unprecedented cooperation among God’s nations will. Only the broad willingness to endure hardship today so that our children may live tomorrow will. Only heroic and noble leadership on the part of this, the most powerful and blessed nation in the world will.
Along with the faith that we are not cooked yet.