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You can stop global warming! November 17, 2010

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Religion, Superstition.

Here’s what to do:

Israel’s chief rabbis are calling on the public to pray for rain, and declared this Thursday a special day of fasting and prayer to atone for the sins that are likely preventing the direly missing rainfall.

“The summer is gone as is most of the winter, and we are yet to be redeemed by the downfall of rains of blessing, and the state of the waters in the Land of Israel is under duress and great distress, especially since this is not the first year of drought, and the land is dry due to our many sins, and this is a troubling matter,” Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar wrote in a letter sent out last Thursday. . . .

The rabbis set out the protocol for the upcoming day of fasting, for those who can take it upon themselves, including the order of prayers, and encouraged people to fast as much as they could.

Perhaps we should sacrifice a goat as well, just to be on the safe side.

Chief Rabbi

Of course, the beauty of this scheme is that it’s unfalsifiable. If it eventually rains, that shows the praying and fasting worked; and if not, that’s because our sins are too great, or because God is testing us, or because he works in mysterious ways and who are we to question God anyway. No evidence would ever cause the rabbis to consider the possibility that drought has nothing to do with sin and that prayer and fasting have absolutely no effect on the weather.

I’m constantly amazed by the arrogance and self-importance of those who believe that everything that happens in the universe is about us. And do the rabbis not realize the obscene consequences of ascribing natural phenomena to divine punishment? Which sins exactly cause millions of little children to be tortured by cancer and drowned in tsunamis and buried alive in earthquakes every year? And what kind of God would do such things?

Instead of wasting our time and energy on superstition, perhaps we should dedicate our resources to more scientific study of the climate, and find out whether we can change our behavior in ways that might actually make a difference. In any case, there’s no need to feel guilty about things that are not our fault and are beyond our control. But then guilt is such an important part of religion, isn’t it.

It’s a disgrace that Israeli taxpayers are funding the salaries of witch doctors.


1. Aharon - November 18, 2010

Hey Ezra – I’ll Bite. I am a skeptical modern orthodox jew in israel. I am fasting today (so far) because I think it is an appropriate way to raise conciousness of the dire rain situation Israel is in. Belief and religiousness aside. As I decided to live my life here and throw my lot in with everyone else, I feel it is important to show solidarity on those matters that affect us all – even if I see hardly anyone else – even religious colleagues fasting. To me to not be “Poraish MiHatzibbur” is a powerful idea (as antisocial as i am) that I will probably carry with me no matter what my religious future may bring.


Ezra Resnick - November 18, 2010


If your intention is to encourage people to conserve water and be more environmentally conscious, that’s great. But that is not what the chief rabbis are talking about: they believe that the drought is caused by our sins, and that praying and fasting can themselves help bring rain. These claims are ridiculous, and they lead to wasted time and energy, misplaced guilt, and the promotion of superstition in place of scientific thinking.

Aharon - November 18, 2010

yes. i started out resenting the rabbis but i think you can “repurpose” customs (and these rabbis are just continuing a custom that goes back at least 2000 years) especially if the central idea contains rational elements. and this custom, at heart is a coming together of a community for a cause that is shared by all. in fact i think fasting is a healthy way (if only a couple of times a year) of raising our own conciousness about our materialism and self-centerdness. i am not under the illusion that my motivation is 100% alligned with the original intentions but that does not matter to me. another example for me is the custom to keep a part of the interior walls of the house unfinished as a reminder of the mourning over the temples destruction. that original reason speaks less to me now than a reminder to keep humble and focused on what really matters.

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