Continuity with the Future

Joelle Novey

 “In every generation one must look upon herself as if she personally came out of Egypt.”

 On Pesach, we are told to feel as if we personally went free from Mitzrayim, and the rituals of the seder help us cultivate that “memory” in many ways: we eat not only the unleavened bread that the Israelites ate in their haste, but also foods symbolic of their experience: bitter herbs, salt water “tears”, and haroset “mortar.” We tell the story of the Exodus aloud, engaging the youngest and oldest at the table. At some seders, the participants “lash” each other with scallions, reenacting slavery, and come to the table with bags packed for a journey.

Jewish tradition has developed a suite of experiential rituals for ensuring that we personally experience the Exodus in every generation.

Our generation of Jews, free from slavery, now faces a new burden along with the entire human family. 97% of scientists have concluded that our burning fossil fuels is pouring heat-trapping climate pollution into the atmosphere, causing our Earth to warm.

One reason people have been slow in responding is that we’re wired to focus on more immediate threats. The human brain is “a beautifully engineered get-out-of-the-way machine … for things out of whose way it should right now get,” writes Daniel Gilbert in the Los Angeles Times. “… then, just a few million years ago, the mammalian brain learned a new trick: to predict the timing and location of dangers before they actually happened … But this innovation is in the early stages of development …”

Tragically, writes Gilbert, human beings “haven’t quite gotten the knack of treating the future like the present it will soon become.” 

Perhaps the Jewish knack for connecting with the past can help us. The Haggadah insists that we experience continuity with generations that experienced the Exodus in the past. The climate crisis asks us to feel a sense of personal continuity with generations in the future.

What if we used the seder not only to feel as if we personally were present in the Passover story, but also to experience ourselves in the world our grandchildren will live in, in the climate we are damaging now?

 If, in this generation, we looked upon ourselves as sitting side-by-side with those who’ll gather around our families’ seder table in two or three generations … what would we be doing about climate change now?

Author bio: 

Joelle Novey is the director of Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVA), which works with hundreds of congregations of many traditions across Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia to save energy, go green, and respond to climate change. She davens at Tikkun Leil Shabbat and Minyan Segulah.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Previous Posts

Article Title Author Post date
Dayenu/More Than Enough Kohenet Holy Taya Shere 4/2/15
K'afra D'ar'a: Like the Dirt of the Earth Rabbi David Seidenberg 4/2/15
Z'roah (shankbone), or Not: a Low on the Food-Chain Pesach Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb 3/31/15
Where Slavery Ends and Freedom Starts Rabbi Jill Jacobs 3/30/15
On The Doorposts of Heaven Lawrence Bush 3/29/15
Miriam's Cup Letty Cottin Pogrebin 3/27/15
What Does This Ritual Mean to You? Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster 3/26/15
Freedom Pushing Through Rabbi Robin Damsky 3/25/15
Continuity with the Future Joelle Novey 3/24/15
Becoming Elijah Rabbi Arthur Waskow 3/23/15
Charoseth: Harshness and Hope Rabba Sara Hurwitz 3/22/15
From Alienation To Reconnection Rabbi Mordechai Liebling 3/20/15
Invitation Judith E Felsen 3/19/15
Ki Li Kol Ha'aretz: The Whole Earth is Mine Natan Margalit 3/18/15
Passover and Wilderness Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan, Ph.D 3/17/15
On Hipazon: The Lessons of Urgency Ruhi Sophia Motzkin Rubenstein 3/16/15
Leaning Left David Eber 3/15/15
Shmita as a Tool to Combat Oppression Nati Passow 3/13/15
Freedom to Transcend "Being Realistic" Rabbi Michael Lerner 3/12/15
Knowing Where You Are Going: A Box Hike Family Activity Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein 3/11/15
What Does It Mean To Be Free Rabbi Katy Allen 3/10/15
Why Is There Charoset on the Seder Plate? Rabbi Arthur Waskow 3/9/15
Why Is This Pesach Different From All Other Pesachs? Ruth Messinger 3/8/15
Shmita and Interconnection Rabbi Rachel Barenblat 3/6/15
Freedom From to Freedom To Nigel Savage 3/5/15
Detox Judith E Felsen 3/4/15
Fasting with Queen Esther for Divine Mercy and Courage Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein 3/3/15