An Outrageous Proposal for Passover 2018
What is our Chametz?
According to scientists between 5 and 13 million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean each year.(1) It is a bleak scenario for the seas and the sea’s creatures. For faith-based communities this is a real blemish. For if we believe the seas and the seas’ creatures were created by God, likely we also believe the earth is not ours to pollute beyond recognition. Yet that is exactly what is happening. What can we do about it? While there is no panacea, we can take steps towards awareness of the problem and adjust our actions to be part of the solution.
This year (2018), as part of their national environmental campaign, the Anglican Church has taken the extraordinary step of recommending to its members that they give up plastic for Lent.(2) To that end, they have created a calendar of unique plastic-less challenges for each day of Lent. Giving up plastic, it turns out, is a way for people to think about how they fit into this world in a healthy and conscientious way.
We Jews have a tradition of learning from non-Jews. Moses “learns” a system of courts from his father-in-law, Jethro (Yitro, Exodus 18:19-24). Balaam, a non-Jewish priest/shaman, gives us an extraordinary blessing that we still recite daily, the Ma Tovu (Numbers 24:5-25). We are not immune from outside learning.
Pope Francis wrote, “We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behavior...Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence … We have no such right." “The resolve to live differently should affect our various contributions to shaping the culture and society in which we live.” This is one of the proof texts the Anglican Church has used to issue to decry to give up plastic for lent.(3)
Most of us know the dangers of plastic. The majority of us recycle, and therefore feel “we are doing our part.” But the truth is, we also casually bring into our homes, and then discard into the trash, numerous pieces of plastic each day, much of which is not recyclable. Are we having conversations with ourselves, our children, our parents, on the harmfulness of this trash?
This Passover we will give up Chametz, traditionally used to describe bread and all leavening agents used in the creation of bread and fermented products. Metaphorically, Pesach is a time we try to rid our lives of impure influences that weight us down. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could take a page from the Anglican Church, and include plastics in our purge of Chametz from our lives on Pesach? Could we honor God on Passover by not only removing Chametz from our shopping lists and households, but by removing plastic, an item that despoils Creation and causes the ruination of God’s Creation?
This year we live in a world that is dying under the weight of the plastic we put into the ocean and environment. Next year may we be free to understand and mitigate our addiction to plastics and how they destroy God’s Creation.