I often speak of the spirit of the farm or the magic of the farm. This is not hyperbole. To me, nature is magical and the land, water, trees, flowers, vegetables, etc. are as spiritual as it gets. The existence of the Surprise Lake Camp Farm is a gift, a treasure, a holy thing, as is our vibrant planet and all that inhabit it, be they people, bugs, fungi, swamps, or weeds. We are, all of us, neighbors, and we need to treat each other in a neighborly way.
Some say Farmer Alan is an environmental activist, perhaps too political and altogether preachy with his incessant talk of pollution, climate change, corporate wrongdoing, government misdeeds, and other radical notions. There are those who have opined that there’s no place for that in a Jewish summer camp. They are, quite simply, WRONG! The Jewish people are, and always have been, environmental activists and teaching good stewardship of our planet and all its inhabitants is spoken of many times in the Torah and Talmud.
As Rabbi Lawrence Troster explains, “God created the universe. This is the most fundamental concept of Judaism. Its implications are that only God has absolute ownership over Creation. Thus Judaism’s worldview is theocentric not anthropocentric. The environmental implications are that humans must realize that they do not have unrestricted freedom to misuse Creation, as it does not belong to them.” The Rabbi goes on to point out that, “God’s Creation is good. In Genesis 1: 31 when God found all of Creation as “very good” it means several things. First of all it means that Creation is sufficient, structured and ordered (the rabbis called it Seder Bereishit, the Order of Creation). It is also harmonious. It exists to serve God. This order reflects God’s wisdom, which is beyond human understanding. All of God’s creations are consequently part of the Order of Creation and all are subject to its nature.”
Evonne Marzouk is Founder and Executive Director of Canfei Nesharim, an organization that provides Torah-based resources about the importance of protecting the environment. As she so correctly writes, “Our environment is severely threatened today. We face the breakdown of major systems on our planet; systems that all human beings rely on for basic elements such as food, clean air, and clean water. More than half of the world’s major rivers are seriously depleted and polluted. Nearly 1.8 million people die worldwide each year due to urban pollution. Thirteen thousand species are listed as threatened or endangered with extinction or as species of concern under the Endangered Species Act, more than 100 times what we understand to be normal rates of species extinction.”
To not speak of these things at camp would be a failure of our educational mission. (And so I preach.)
But there is another, more important reason why we speak of these things on the farm. In camp we are in the business of creating future leaders.
Native American oral histories, speak of the young people who will one day rise up to save the planet from the devastation wrought on the environment by greedy people. The Cree, Hopi and Sioux Indians speak about mighty Rainbow Warriors that will inhabit our planet in the future and they will come in time of the great awakening. According to the Manataka American Indian council, the “Warriors of the Rainbow” will spread these messages and teach all peoples of the Earth how to live the “Way of the Great Spirit.”
Personally, I expect them to be wearing SLC tee-shirts.
Until next week, Stay Dirty.