Dear President Trump,
As the Jewish festival of Shavuot came to a close, you announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. While you have spoken of your intention to withdraw since you entered the campaign for president, the timing of your announcement highlights how the decision is at odds with the values that many of us hold dear, values highlighted by the ancient Jewish festival that just concluded. Shavuot celebrates the earth’s bounty and the giving of Torah, our source of truth. The withdrawal from the accords takes the earth for granted and ignores Truth in the most egregious ways, ways that will harm us and future generations.
In ancient times, Jews relied on the land. Three times a year we would celebrate our connection to the earth during harvest festivals. These festivals recognized that we merely serve as stewards of God’s earth, duty-bound to protect it and work it in the most sustainable and responsible ways possible. Evidence of the commitment to sustainability included allowing the land to lie fallow and rest every seventh year, giving up production for the good of the earth. Social responsibility came in commandments to leave the corners of the fields for benefit of the poor, the orphan, and the widow rather than for the land owner. The harvest festivals, including Shavuot, highlight these values.
The Paris Climate Accord embraces those values as well. They call on nations to let some natural resources, like coal, “lie fallow” in the ground for the sustainability of our earth. They also call on wealthier nations to give up burning fossil fuels to protect the poorest people of the earth who are - and will be - most severely impacted by climate change. Leaving the Accords spurns the values of environmental stewardship and social responsibility that Jews just celebrated.
The ancient rabbis taught that God gave the Torah to the ancient Israelites on Shavuot, seven weeks after leaving slavery in Egypt. The study of Torah throughout the succeeding generations has been about the search for Truth, the embrace of Truth wherever we may find it. That commitment to finding Truth echoes not only in the great Torah scholars of our day, but also in the many Jews who contribute to the scientific, medical, literary and philosophical realms of inquiry. On Shavuot we affirmed that search for Truth and celebrated our commitment to Truth - whatever its source.
The Paris Climate Accords recognize the scientific truth of global warming. The scientific community reached consensus on that truth and the politicians of the world acted to address it. In nearly every other nation, the fight against global warming cuts across party lines and its truth transcends ideology. By pulling us out of the Accords you thumb your nose not only at the scientific truth of global warming, but also at the devastating consequences that we will all truly suffer as a result. In repudiating the Accords, you spurn the value of Truth that Jews just celebrated on Shavuot.
Questions of religion do not always align so clearly with the questions faced by political leaders. The overlap in this case clearly demonstrates the immorality of your decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords. Luckily, with the Torah came not only the laws that we follow, but also the mechanisms to repent and change our ways when we realize that we’ve strayed from the Truth.
President Trump, I pray that you will recognize the benefits the Accords will have for our planet and the truth of the science that underlies them. I pray that you then change course and bring our nation back in line with the values that the Jewish People just celebrated on our sacred festival of Shavuot.
L’Shalom (With Peace),
Rabbi Howard Goldsmith