This week’s Torah portion, Naso, describes how the Tabernacle, the ancient desert sanctuary, was taken apart and carried by the Levites as the Israelites journeyed to the land of Israel. Given the fact that the Tabernacle represented God’s earthly abode, the Levites had an extremely important job. This is captured later on in the Torah when it is explained that the Levites were responsible for carrying the holy ark – which contained the Ten Commandments. Essentially, the Levites were entrusted with protecting and safeguarding the communal items and objects most closely linked to God. This was no small task. However, they were ultimately successful.
Where are the Levites today? Where are the people responsible for protecting and safeguarding the things in our lives most closely linked to God? I find myself asking these questions as I read the Torah and hear the news reports that the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico might very well impact our own South Florida coastline. Over the centuries, Judaism has evolved and now teaches us that the protection of sacred objects is not limited to a select few – but to all of us.
Is there anything more sacred than our planet? It allows us to exist. It is, without question, a divine gift. If our coastlines become contaminated with oil, this will have catastrophic effects upon us all. Life will be thrown off balance. Do we just stand idly by and let this happen? Our Judaism teaches us that we can’t do this. When it comes to our coastline, we are the modern day Levites. It is up to us to insure that they remain safe. If we don’t, who will?
Sadly, BP has been given free reign to try to “resolve” the oil leak. They have failed and the oil keeps coming. There seems to be one solution out there that, according to experts, has an 80% chance of being successful: using explosives to demolish the oil well, causing the rocks to collapse inwards and seal the leak. The former Soviet Union, a major oil producer, used this technique successfully in the past. Clearly, one of the major reasons explosives are not being used is because it would destroy the well completely and BP has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into this project. If they were able to stop the leak without destroying the mine, they could repair the well and guarantee future usage and future profits. But this leak is much bigger than BP and oil profits. It is about the sacred balance of nature that is being thrown off kilter by oil gushing into our water.
We worry, rightfully so, about illegal immigrants breaching our national security by secretly crossing our borders. Right now, as you read this, toxic oil is being washed ashore in Louisiana destroying the marshes and wetlands and all the living things that call the water home. Those who rely upon the water for their livelihood are now stripped of an income. And this nightmare is getting closer to us. And, unlike the illegal immigrants who enter secretly – we all know the oil is coming. It is no secret.
Each of us has a responsibility to protect what is holy. This is a no brainer. It is time for each of us to act. This should not be left solely in the hands of BP. Do your homework. Share your opinions with our local and national leaders. Speak up. If you can give a cash donation, there are several different non-profits working on relief efforts. I am not endorsing any of organization, however, I have learned that the following organizations are actively involved on the ground now:
Mobile Bay Keeper is looking for funds to help with cleanup of the Mobile Bay Watershed.
Sea Bird Sanctuary is gearing up for cleanup when the oil reaches the Florida panhandle’s beaches.
The Greater New Orleans Foundation started a fund to assist communities in the area that will be affected by the spill.
I’ve also learned that Mote Marine Laboratory and Save Our Seabirds in Sarasota have put out calls for volunteers. The National Audubon Society is also looking for volunteers to help out. In Mississippi, volunteers can train this week and help clean up the beaches before the oil makes landfall. Clearing debris from the beaches in advance will help make the eventual oil cleanup easier. Hopefully, the oil will stay away from us – but we should keep the cleanup idea in mind……
Go be a Levite. Protect what is sacred.