Rabbinical School of Hebrew College Issues Environmental Call To Action
In the fight to secure the planet’s future, the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College is beckoning the past for inspiration.
And it’s urging others to do the same.
Leaders of the school have issued a call to Jews around the world to revive an ancient prayer ritual that affirms the story of divine creation and, in doing so, makes an unambiguous commitment to preserving the environment. The ritual, dating back some 2,000 years, consists of reciting a short biblical verse from the Genesis narrative, or “ma’amad,” as part of each day’s prayer practice.
“We choose this venerable Jewish form as a way of saying that protecting the environment is indeed a Jewish issue — one that stands at the very heart of our universal faith,” the school said in its call to action. “We call upon Jews, whatever their denomination or style of prayer, to join with us in this chorus of affirmation.”
The ma’amad ritual stems from the time of the Second Temple, roughly defined as 530 BCE to
70 CE, when Jewish priests offered sacrifices they believed sustained the cosmos. Townspeople would add their voice by chanting the biblical account of each day of creation. The practice became widespread for hundreds of years, but eventually fell out of use.
Rabbi Arthur Green, rector of the Rabbinical School and the lead author of the call to action, said he hopes the practice of ma’amadot serves as a daily reminder of one’s sacred duty to protect the environment, and inspires people to meaningful action.
“Even though we may understand the story of creation differently from our ancestors, like them we recognize the need to care for God’s holy works with care and diligence,” Green said.
President Daniel Lehmann said the call to action represents Hebrew College’s leadership in shaping Judaism for the 21st century.
“If Judaism is to remain a vibrant and relevant religious force, we must creatively address the great moral and spiritual challenges facing the world,” Lehmann said. “I’m proud that our Rabbinical School is leading this important and timely initiative.”
Visit hebrewcollege.edu/maamadot for more information about the practice of ma’amadot and to download the daily ritual prayers.